A few years ago, my sister Kate decided to make a batch of gingerbread cookies before Christmas eve service. One of the first steps was boiling molasses and spices together. She turned her back for just a minute – and the molasses boiled over on the gas stove, caught fire, and turned into a massive fireball. While we were rooted in shock, Erik grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed down the kitchen – and Kate, who looked like a kabuki player when the air cleared. Years later, we’re still finding pockets of white powder and molasses drops welded to the underside of cupboards.
In honor of Kate, I tried the cookies this year – with a very, very large pot for the molasses and spices. It’s worth it – the cookies hit the happy median between chewy and tender, and the spices come through.
22 carbs/oz, makes about 2 dozen cookies.
2/3 cup molasses (not robust)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bring molasses, brown sugar, and spices to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat. Stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up), then stir in butter 3 pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding next, until all butter is melted. Add egg and stir until combined, then stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed to prevent sticking, until soft and easy to handle, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Halve dough, then wrap 1 half in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
Roll out remaining dough (1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out cookies and transfer with spatula to 2 buttered large baking sheets, arranging them about 1 inch apart.
Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes total (watch carefully toward end of baking; cookies can burn easily). Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
Go to town with icing, sprinkles, etc. (and bathe child).