My Grandma Molly gave me this recipe several years back, and it is easily my favorite Christmas cookie recipe. (Except the Russian tea cakes from Carol, which I love for very different reasons and because Muppet dog loved them just as much.) I seem to remember her picking it up from Better Homes and Gardens or some such place, and I remember her reading it over the phone to me when I had misplaced my own copy. When I make these cookies, it’s like she is in the kitchen with me.
Plus, they make your house smell amazing.
My Indian coworkers loved these, and they were not alone. Something about ginger and molasses and allspice and cloves just work together to make the perfect cookie. They’re a tiny bit crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Delicious. Cookies like this make me understand why Europeans were looking for trade routes. Land and wealth are one thing, but exotic spices that smell of fragrant tradewinds and make you forget that you’ve eaten nothing but salted cod for six months are another thing altogether.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (I use China #1 from Penzeys)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I use China Tung Hing cinnamon from Penzeys; if you’re feel daring, try the Vietnamese cinnamon)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (use those Crisco sticks to make your life easier. I just keep them in the refrigerator.)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup dark molasses (I use Grandma’s Molasses or Brer Rabbit Molasses, in a pinch)
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, set aside to roll cookies in
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Find the baking sheets that are not scarred from pie-filling overflows and use those. And while you’re down there, dig out the baker’s racks.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves.
- Add the shortening, butter and the brown and granulated sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add molasses and egg to shortening mixture and beat until well incorporated.
- Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture by half-cup additions; beat until combined.
- Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When you roll the cookies in sugar, the dough won’t be so soft and gooey.
- Add the sugar you set aside to a small plate or bowl. Roll the dough into balls that are 1 inch in diameter and then roll them in the sugar.
- Place 12 balls on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies 9 to 11 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Cool on the baking sheets for 4 minutes, then continue cooling on wire racks.
- I’ve seen recipes call for turbinado sugar to roll the cookies in prior to baking. This is fine, but in my opinion, the sugar is so fine that it dissolves into the cookie. If this is what you like, then spend the extra to get turbinado sugar. If this sounds too fussy for you, regular sugar will work just fine. Trust me.
- Rolling the cookies in sugar is easily my least favorite part of this recipe. Get someone else to help you during this part. Grandkids, siblings, girlfriends, husbands watching auto stuff on television, your mum–all fair game to pitch in and help.
- These freeze pretty well, although they’ll lose a bit of that marvelous interior chewiness. Still, make a double batch and keep some in the freezer for when you need to give something to the neighbor for watching your dog on occasion.