These are the spiciest, most molassesy-est cookies I have ever eaten. And they are good. Perfect, even, for a cold holiday evening with a glass of peaty scotch—a cookie not quite suited for a tall glass of milk, but superb with spirits, eggnog, or hot mulled cider. I made them to kick-start my first-ever year of cookie-baking for Christmas. I thought they would be sufficiently holly, jolly, and nice—and would keep me in good spirits throughout a week of cookie madness that I’m sure will bring on many expletives, cookie-cursing, and a bag of coal in my stocking.
Because not only did I agree to cook the brunt of Christmas dinner at my sister’s this holiday, but I’ve decided to bring dozens and dozens (and dozens) of cookies with me. So far, so good, though I’ve only made two kinds. I do have all the recipe-finding and shopping done for the others, and I find that part to be the hardest. Or at least I’ll say so now, while I’m sipping my morning coffee and gazing out the window towards the river. Later, when I’m covered in flour and there’s dirty dishes everywhere, I may have a different opinion.
But I seriously doubt that I’ll ever regret signing on to the dinner (which I’m super excited about, since I hardly ever get to cook for my family) or the cookies. I mean, when all is said and done (even if there is a mound of dishes in the sink), when you finally get to plop down on the couch, lift your cocoa-powder splotched feet, and award yourself a sample (or 3) of each and every delectable that you’ve just created, how can anyone regret the process? And I for one am extra lucky, because I have a very weak-willed boyfriend who will do anything, even the dishes, to share in my sampling.
These cookies in particular are good graft for the weak-willed. Their heady aroma, of ginger and clove and allspice and molasses, fills the air, even before they enter the oven, as you whip them into a batter. I based the recipe off on one from Cook’s Illustrated, using 2 sticks of butter instead of 1 ½ because I had mistaken the directions. I have to laugh at myself now, as I ran to Jim terror-stricken, telling him that I had mucked up everything. He looked at me like I was crazy—I had put too much butter? And I was upset? The extra butter of course didn’t muck up a thing, and I like to think it enhanced the consistency, but go by the original recipe if you are like, health-conscious or something. For the molasses, because I am a sucker for the potency of blackstrap, I used a mixture of it with natural molasses to up the spiciness factor, the result being intense and delicious. They are spicy. And they are good.
Dark Spice Cookies
makes about 22 cookies
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for dipping
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup natural molasses
- 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place 1/2 cup sugar for dipping in 8- or 9-inch cake pan.
Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.
In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasseses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom. Dough will be soft.
Using tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll between palms into 11/2-inch ball; drop ball into cake pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls. Toss balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.
Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature.