As a kid, I didn’t like molasses flavored cookies. I’d crinkle my little nose at gingerbread men and reach for a snickerdoodle instead. I’ve changed my ways this year and finally learned to like—no, to love—the bittersweet flavor of molasses. Molasses retains some of the trace minerals found in the sugar cane plant, like iron and calcium, so it’s a sweetener worth learning to like.
These cookies deliver a serious kick in the mouth, with a strong molasses flavor and lots of warm spices, including a dash of freshly ground black pepper. Simmering the spices with the butter lends a delightful complexity and makes the cookies extraordinary. These cookies are not for kids, mind you, but for true molasses fans.
I’ve been posting more dessert recipes than usual this month but promise that come January, we can detox with greens and satisfying soups. So if you’re not quite fed up with holiday sweets yet, I suggest making a batch of these spicy treats this weekend. One batch yields only about 16 cookies, and they freeze well, so you can savor them over the next couple of cold months if you’d like. I find that one of these spicy cookies is the perfect companion my afternoon cup of coffee.
- 4 tablespoons raw (turbinado) sugar, divided
- ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper (a couple of twists’ worth)
- ¼ cup light or dark molasses
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar or Muscovado sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- With an oven rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of raw sugar into a small, shallow dish for rolling.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Transfer the butter mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly.
- Whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons raw sugar, brown sugar, egg yolk, vanilla and molasses into the melted butter mixture. Stir in the flour mixture until combined.
- Use a cookie dough scoop or spoons to scoop out about one tablespoon of dough at a time. Lightly shape into a ball and dunk half the cookie into the small bowl of raw sugar. Place each cookie on the baking sheet, sugar side up, leaving a couple of inches around each cookie.
- Bake the cookies until the edges are set but the centers are still soft, puffy and underdone, which will take 9 to 12 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a cooling rack.
- Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.
- Note that you can temper the intensity of the molasses by choosing a lighter molasses and going with light brown sugar; the darker the better, in my opinion.
- For flatter, less puffy cookies like you see in my gingersnap and pumpkin ice cream sandwiches, use 1 cup + 2 teaspoons white whole wheat (or regular whole wheat) flour in place of the whole wheat pastry/whole wheat flours indicated in the recipe.