I loved it when Gram came to stay overnight at our house.
That meant we would mostly likely be baking in the kitchen - without Mom around. She was most likely at work at the hospital. Gram and I would bake all day, usually making cookies, pies, tarts or bread. Then we would make tea. Sometimes we would even make jam as a reward and put a little in our tea for flavoring and as a sweetener. (Gram was way ahead of all these current day fancy tea and coffee shops with their artificial sweeteners and flavors!) We were in heaven.
When we baked together we giggled a lot. We had flour all over the counter, and on our clothes and up our sleeves. We didn't care. We were having fun. I don't remember if we ever cleaned up in the kitchen. We must have, because Mom was never upset when she got home to see all the baking we had produced. The kitchen always smelled fabulous!
My favorite cookie we made together was this Molasses Cookie recipe. The cookie was thick and soft on the inside. Sometimes crunchy on the outside. Nice and chewy, it filled your mouth with that sugary molasses flavor. We would make them all day. They didn't really need any frosting, but sometimes we would make some powdered sugar frosting to top them with or just dust them with powdered sugar. When we were done baking we would have hot tea in her fancy little tea cups with matching saucers. Then she would show me how to dunk the molasses cookie and let them soak a few seconds so the molasses flavoring would seep into my tea. When I think about Gram, I can smell her molasses cookies. Mmmmmm.
So, let's update Gram's Molasses Cookies for Christmas. I won't change her cookie recipe, but I will make some changes to the way I frost them to bring them into the holiday season.
Just a note about Gram's recipe:
I've written it as she had it written on handwritten paper. I love the part about the water and molasses (see below) and how much flour to add - "enough to make a soft dough."
Prep the pans:
Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven:
A few minutes before the cookies are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F degrees.
Molasses Cookie Ingredients:
5 T Lard or shortening
5 T Water
Molasses.- Place the water in a 1 cup measuring vessel and fill the cup with molasses
1 t Baking soda
Pinch of Salt
1 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Nutmeg
1/2 t Ginger
Flour, enough to make a soft dough
Follow Gram's directions:
- Mix the lard, water, molasses together. with a pastry cutter so it's well combined and the lard is evenly distributed. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a couple cups of flour.
- Stir both mixtures together until well combined.
- Add more flour to make a soft dough.
Making the cookie shapes:
- Roll out the cookie dough to about 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface.
- Dip cookie cutters in flour and cut out cookies and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
- Sprinkle white sugar or colored holiday sugars or other decorations on top. If you plan to frost them, you can omit sprinkling sugars on them prior to baking.
- Bake at 375F degrees for 10-12 minutes.
- Today, some people have loads of cookie cutters in their kitchen or pantry. In those days, Gram might have had only one or two cookie cutter to her name. If she didn't have one handy, she would just use the bottom of a cut glass drinking glass or her potato masher. Both had intricate patterns and transferred those patterns to her cookies when she pressed them on a carefully rounded ball of dough. She would roll the ball of dough to be about 1 1/2" in diameter to make a nice sized cookie. I especially liked this process as a young child because as we rolled them between our palms, Gram always had some family stories to tell me.
One story I especially remember is the story about when she was a newly wed to Grandpa living in far northern Minnesota next to an Indian Reservation in the early 1900's. A local man from the neighboring Reservation knocked on her door looking for Grandpa to trade fresh fish for sugar. Since Grandpa was away out in the woods logging with some other "men folk" as she called them, she made what she felt was a decent trade. The man was happy, calling her a "good woman" as he left with the much prized sugar. That night she fried fresh fish for Grandpa, with fat from the larder, on the woodstove for their supper. As she related the story to me, I remember she sounded very proud that she had made the trade at such a young age.
Options for Gram's cookies:
- Sometimes I add white chocolate chips to the batter before I bake them, or I press some into the top of each cookie before I bake them.
- I almost always frost them because the different flavors in the vanilla frosting and spicy molasses are a welcome taste.
- Dip in candy melts. At Christmas time I like to dip one side of the cookie in melted white candy melts. (They are especially good with the candy melts!) Then, sprinkle with red or green sugars. Sometimes I'll pipe a few green holly leaves and red berries on top of the white coating.
- Make a coffee icing and drizzle on each cookie for a unique combination of flavors. The coffee is strong enough to complement the molasses flavor. They are great for dipping in coffee and latte.
Bake your own Memories!