Fall has been a bit standoffish this year. It's nearly the end of October and the past month and a half has been far too dominated by 74 degree weather and green-leafed trees.
It's October, Chicago! Get your act together.
But at long last this week has delivered those wonderful, rainy Autumn days I've been missing. It's 58 outside and has been drizzling for the past five hours, which means I can don my wool socks and cozy up with hot cider and things made almost entirely out of spices. The tree outside is yellow! All is as it should be.
Growing up, there were markers for every season - certain rituals or events or projects that queued each change of year and made it official. For the Fall, there was always raking, leaf-jumping, molasses cookies, dipping leaves in wax, and the bi-annual bonfire where we spent a full day feeding all the summer's fallen branches and felled trees from the pile behind the garage into the steady flames. We would light it in the morning and it would burn until night, glowing with piles of warm and twinkling embers that looked like cityscapes as I stared into them from my perch on our red wagon. Exhausted at the end of the day, we would sit around the dwindling fire and turn marshmallows on the remaining sticks. The air was cold and scented with autumnal crispness.
I live in an apartment now, so the leaf piles and the Great Autumnal Bonfire are (at least for now) rituals of the past. But the molasses cookies... those I can summon up in a heartbeat.
So naturally the second Chicago gave me a semblance of Autumnal chill, I trotted straight to the kitchen and whipped out a batch of these. I'm ready for you, Fall! You'd better stick around this time.
I look forward to these cookies every year. They're one of my absolute favorite comfort foods. I'm not alone in this either - my father-in-law regularly waxes eloquent about these, to the point where now I just bake a box of them for him every year as his Christmas present. Which probably explains why the dogs have developed a penchant for chewing on presents.
Depending on how you prefer your cookies, they can either bake up as a crispy ginger snap variety, or can be soft, a little chewy, and very melt-in-your-mouth (my favorite). I use blackstrap so the rich, dark, undertone of the molasses isn't overpowered by the punch of ginger that comes alongside. I also love making them as tiny, two-inch cookies so I can pop them in like bites if I feel so inclined. Eating multiple cookies is always better than eating just one massive one.
So dig in!
ginger molasses cookies
¾ cup butter
1 cup sugar (plus additional for rolling the dough)
¼ cup molasses*
2 cups flour
1 TB ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 375º F.
In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and molasses and mix well.
Combine the remaining dry ingredients with the butter mixture until it is an even color and texture.
For the easiest handling, chill the dough for an hour before shaping the cookies. To make the small cookies, roll teaspoon-sized scoops of chilled dough into balls. To make larger cookies, use a tablespoon of dough. Roll these in a bit of sugar, just to coat, and then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
For the small cookies, bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove from the pan immediately.* For the large cookies, bake for 12-14 minutes.
*I use blackstrap molasses, but any molasses can work.
**The times provided are for a soft bake.