Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Molasses Cookies

At Christmas time I usually do a ton of baking for friends and neighbors. I also usually give most of it away so it isn't sitting here begging me to eat it and not  let it go to waste. Since we traveled this year and didn't get back until late Wednesday night and I had to work Thursday and Friday there was no time for the annual baking!

I had planned to make creme brulee for Christmas dinner for two reasons. The first reason; it is my favorite dessert thanks to my very favorite restaurant in Spokane, Clinkerdaggers, where creme brulee and I first met! The second reason is that you eat this dessert and it is all gone! There is no more of it left to keep nibbling on and tempting me to come back for more.

Then I made a mistake.

I thought to myself that I should whip up some cookies quick to share with the neighbors so they don't think I am mad at them this year or something. Guess what? The neighbors got nothing! I guess I will have to explain to them sometime what happened to their Christmas goodies this year.

Thankfully when I made the molasses cookies I did clean them up slightly. They are still a definite indulgence because they do have quite a bit of sugar in them but I did make them a bit healthier so they come with slightly less guilt. The problem is that I made too many and they don't even have to beg me to eat them. Miles even said as he grabbed 3 or 4 last night, "We have to get these out of here!" I guess that is what he was working on! Even Evan completely LOVES them. He said after his first one, "Mom, your molasses cookies are soooooo good!" I promptly rushed out and bought him another Christmas present. Just kidding.

You begin with all the usual suspects; flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I made the first switch with the flour. The recipe called for two cups of all purpose flour. Since these were supposed to be for the neighbors I switched only one cup for whole wheat pastry flour. If I make them again I will try it with all whole wheat pastry flour and see how they come out. Mix all these ingredients together.

Yes, I actually have brown sugar in my house. I do make cakes on the side so I have to keep it around. You do need to have dark brown sugar instead of light. This molasses is an unsulphured molasses. That means that no sulfur dioxide was used in the processing of the sugar cane. The best and healthiest molasses to use is blackstrap molasses because of its high mineral content. It contains significant amounts of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and selenium. However, I purchased this with someone elses money to make something for an event and I needed to use it up so it didn't go to waste.

I knew the brown sugar would be essential to the molasses cookies of course but it was also going to kill me to use a whole cup of brown sugar. So this was  my second switch. I used 1/2 a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of sucanat. Sucanat is dehydrated, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. It is still sugar but with less sucrose than table sugar and is less processed and all natural making it a bit healthier. It is actually a perfect switch for these cookies since it contains molasses. I might try using a whole cup of Sucanat next time I make the cookies.

You will want to thoroughly cream 1/2 cup of butter and the sugars together and then add the molasses, eggs, vanilla, and applesauce. Applesauce was my third and final change. The recipe called for two tablespoons of oil. I know that isn't a huge amount, especially when you spread that out over 45 cookies but I didn't substitute the butter so every little bit helps to make a more nutritional cookie with less calories. Add your dry ingredients slowly at this point until mixed in well.


Just thought I would let you know in case you thought you could make these a couple hours before your New Years party.

Once your dough is firm then take it out and roll into one inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil. Press them down with the bottom of a cup and bake in a 350 degree oven for 9 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE! Molasses cookies should be soft and the tops cracking when they come out of the oven. Like this.....

I had actually doubled this recipe because my intentions were to give these cookies away but they began to disappear rather quickly. I think I had close to 100 cookies and there are about 7 left, which ironically is about all I have eaten.

Remember to keep in mind that these cookies are an indulgence because of their sugar content even though they have been slightly cleaned up so don't go crazy eating them. I know it will be hard but try! Also, if you can, please go for the blackstrap molasses because it actually contains heath benefits.
I will next time for sure.

Here is the recipe. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Molasses Cookies
2 cups flour (preferably whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (or use butter substitute)
1 cup sucanat or dark brown sugar (or mix ½ of each)
2 tbsp. applesauce (can use oil if you must)
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses (or unsulphured molasses)
1 large egg
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
White sugar for garnish
Directions:  In a large bowl sift or whisk together all dry ingredients.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the sucanat and/or dark brown sugar and the butter until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add the applesauce, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in the flour mixture slowly. Cover and chill the batter until firm (about 2 hours or overnight).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
Place some white sugar in a bowl. When the dough has chilled sufficiently, roll into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls of dough into the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place on the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart and, with the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly.  Bake for 9-10  minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crinkles yet are barely dry. (They will look a little underdone.) Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

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