The Lovechild of a Gingerbread Man and a Snickerdoodle
Most of my Christmas standards are things I make because other people like them or because they’re my grandma’s recipes. In some ways, isn’t Christmas really all about grandmas? These are the one exception. They’re the cookies I make because I like them.
Texturally, they’re almost identical to snickerdoodles—they have the same ratio of butter : sugar : flour : eggs and they’re also rolled in sugar before baking, so the outside gets crackly and has a little crunch. But flavor-wise, they’re all gingerbread: molasses and cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger and cloves. You can imagine how they smell as they bake.
The best part about these cookies is that if you don’t over-bake them, they turn out amazingly soft. And they stay that way even after they cool, even if you don’t store them in a perfectly airtight container, even if you want to make them a week before Christmas and savor them until New Year’s Day. I think it must be because of the little bit of oil in the dough. It does make them a little more prone to falling apart, but I think that’s a small price to pay for enduring just-out-of-the-oven softness.
If you like the kind of gingerbread that bites back, you might want to double all the spices. I think they’re perfect as is: as much butter as you can possibly get into a cookie without it melting into a puddle of goo (which they occasionally do anyway, as you can see at approximately 3 o’clock in the picture above), just enough molasses and spices to be festive without getting too overbearing, and a little sparkle from the sugary coating. They’re also the easiest part of this year’s pared-down cookie assortment.
Recipe: Soft Molasses Cookies (from JoyofBaking.com)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon regular)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons neutral cooking oil (I used peanut)
- 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup white sugar (for rolling)
1. Whisk the dry ingredients together (flour, soda, salt, & spices).
2. Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes with a stand or hand mixer, 5-10 minutes arm power).
3. Add the oil, molasses, egg, and vanilla to the butter mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
5. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to a week.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
7. Put the white sugar in a bowl. Shape the cookies by pinching off pieces of dough about the size of a walnut, rolling them between your palms until they form smooth balls, and coating them in the sugar.
8. Using something with a flat bottom, like a drinking glass, flatten the balls slightly.
9. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are crinkled but barely dry. They will look a little underdone.
10. Let them cool on the pans for about 10 minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack or paper towels to cool completely. Store any that don’t get eaten immediately in an airtight container.