Batter Licker

October 3, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 4 (soft ginger molasses cookies)

After the fudge-making session, it’s time to get baking again! And now, it’s ginger molasses cookie time. Even though it’s been quite a few years since I first made these cookies, I’m still obsessed and can polish off a dozen in one sitting without a second thought.

But what I’m dying to know this time around is why is there sugar already spilled all over my counter when I haven’t started baking yet?!?!?

Let’s just say that next time I’ve finished a few hours’ worth of baking and think I hear the sound of sugar spilling, instead of quickly glancing over and, not seeing any spills, dismissing it as sugar shifting inside a bag I had recently moved, I’ll be sure to look a little closer and investigate a little further.

Anyway, like any baking project worth sharing, this one starts with an iconic Leaning Tower of Butter.

The recipe continues in quite a predictable fashion. Whip butter and sugar into fluffiness.

Any idea what comes next? You guessed it: add eggs. But things are about to get wild. Either that or I’m about to start going a little crazy.

After all the baking I’ve done during my 28 years of life, and especially for this dessert bar, the Association for the Advancement of Baking Ingredients’ Rights would likely consider me an abuser of butter, sugar & eggs.

But until I receive a cease and desist letter in the mail, the baking must go on: beat ’em.

Molasses and I are as thick as thieves. Or as thick as molasses itself.

Random musing that confirms I’ve been spending too much time alone in the kitchen: I’m pretty sure molasses is thicker than blood. And if blood is thicker than water, which is a way of saying family bonds are stronger than non-family ones … does that mean my bond to this molasses cookie is stronger than that to family members? Because that might not be entirely unbelievable, especially given how much time I’ve spent with cookies as of late.

This is where the dough – I mean, these cookies (whose dough I am totally not tasting before baking, especially with raw eggs in it that could get me sick before my wedding) start getting stickily good …

And after mixing in the molasses, this batch is finally starting to look like the cookies I know and thoroughly demolish each Autumn. Heck – I go through them in winter too!

Totally important side note: Whenever tackling a baking project, don’t underestimate value of placing a pot or bowl full of hot water in the sink. It helps contain the mess, and makes cleanup so much faster easier.

It’s also a great excuse for not cleaning up last night’s water-boiling pasta pot right away.

Turning back to the dough at hand, it’s time to spice things up! Ginger, cinnamon, cloves – the loveliest warming spices of the season. No others smell quite as good in the oven, or even in tea.

Ordinary baking soda, the rocket science component of many baked goods, really helps heighten these cookies. Literally. It’s a leavening agent.

Always amazes me how a teaspoon – or two or half – of this stuff makes such a huge difference in the baking outcome. Don’t believe me? Try using old baking soda. Actually, don’t. It’s a waste of other ingredients, and will result in the saddest cookie puddles ever.

Bowl is getting a tad full, so I’m making the best of it by adding half the flour, then gradually mixing in the rest.

Mixing in stages is fine, so long as each stage is mixed only until flour is just barely incorporated. I mentioned earlier than cookie puddles are no good, but neither are hard cookie biscuits. In other words, don’t over-mix.

Ginger molasses dough: fin. Looks like a giant, unattractive blog, but both the dough and the baked cookies really disappear fast! The final cookies won’t be baked until next week, but they’ll have coarse turbinado sugar sprinkled on top for a little Autumn sparkle.

In the meantime, chill the dough, and make another double batch. Because unlike last time, you were too lazy to do double bowl duty this time around … which of course means you just made even more work for yourself, smartypants.

Then double-wrap the dough in plastic and freeze until a couple days before baking.

I put the dough in the fridge about 2 days before I wanted to bake the cookies.

Once ready to get the baking on, pour out some coarse sugar into a shallow dish.

Scoop out a heaping (i.e., double) teaspoon of cookie dough.

Roll the rounded dough ball around to coat with the coarse sugar.

Arrange the pretty, sparkly little balls onto a baking sheet, leaving some room because these babies will spread out.

Now pop them into the oven. From here, there are two ways to do these cookies. First is the ginger snap method, which results in a crisp, snappy cookie and requires baking long enough for the ball to collapse and harden.

My preference, however, is for the softer, fluffier cookie. But for wedding purposes, I made batches of both so everyone could choose.

Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies (from my previous post on ginger molasses cookies, which has both better and final result pictures)
Makes 24 cookies

Usually, I shape the dough into walnut-sized balls, which spread out into a fairly decent sized cookie. For dessert bar purposes, I quadrupled the recipe and will size down a tad (and reduce cooking time accordingly) to ensure the final cookie results will be a bit smaller, stretch a bit further, and look a bit cuter. I also will use coarsely ground turbinado sugar, instead of ordinary granulated sugar, to give these a bit more sparkle for the wedding.

NOTE: whether you end up with soft ginger cookies or crunchy ginger snaps depends a lot on the exact size of the scooped cookie dough. Try to scoop uniformly sized balls of cookie dough, and use the first batch in the oven as an experiment, as I find that a minute or two of baking time makes the difference between a soft and fluffy cookie, a soft and flattened cookie, and a flattened and crunchy cookie.

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp. orange juice or water
1/4 c. molasses
2 Tbsp. turbinado or other coarsely ground sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the orange juice (or water) and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture.

Shape dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll them in the 2 tablespoons of coarsely ground sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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