I woke up in a baking mood today, and decided to make some molasses ginger cookies. These are an adaptation of the “Elevator Lady Spice Cookies” from “The I Hate to Cook Book,” by Peg Bracken, published in 1960. I’ve always loved Peg’s sassy writing style and unfussy recipes, and my mom, sister and I have been making these cookies for decades.
These cookies are nice and spicy, with crinkly tops and chewy centers. Over the years I’ve tinkered with the recipe and made some modifications to suit our tastes.
The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of shortening. Crisco was a popular baking ingredient back in the day, and it helped give the cookies a chewy texture. However, some of the fat in Crisco is unhealthy trans fat so I’ve replaced that with a blend of 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. The result is a chewy cookie with the rich flavor that only comes from baking with butter. If you prefer, you can use all butter and the cookies will just be a little more crispy.
One time I made a batch of these cookies with blackstrap molasses because I didn’t have any ‘baking’ molasses in the cupboard. The flavor was so drastically improved, I’ve never gone back. Then I tried adding some chopped crystallized ginger to the recipe. The result is a nice little flavor burst in the chewy cookie and a very bright ginger taste that dances in the mouth…definitely a worthy addition.
Last year I tried a recipe for “Triple Ginger Cookies,” that called for minced fresh ginger to be added to a ginger cookie batter. I concluded that the hoped-for fresh ginger flavor was sort of lost in translation. Plus, peeling and mincing fresh ginger is no walk in the park. But if you want to try it sometime, add a tablespoon and a half of finely minced fresh ginger to the recipe.
The original recipe called for rolling the dough balls in granulated sugar. I do that, and top them with a little sprinkle of crystal decorating sugar just before baking. You can skip the sugar if you prefer a less-sweet cookie.
Chewy, Spicy Ginger Cookie Recipe
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening (or substitute butter)
1/4 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses (you can substitute regular molasses)
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use organic unbleached flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
granulated sugar for rolling
crystal decorating sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix the brown sugar, butter, shortening, egg and molasses together in a medium bowl until well-blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and stir until well blended. Add the chopped crystallized ginger and mix well. The mixture will be somewhat sticky and can be refrigerated for a little while, but it’s not necessary.
Using a dining teaspoon, shape the dough in walnut-sized balls (try to get a few pieces of candied ginger in each) and roll in granulated sugar. Arrange on prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart and sprinkle with crystal sugar, if desired. Bake just until edges are done, tops are crackly, and centers are still soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. (For chewy cookies, don’t overcook.) Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
You can also make larger cookies, using a dining tablespoon as your measure and shaping the dough the size of golf balls. After you arrange the balls on the baking sheet, flatten them a little with your fingers so they’ll spread more easily when they bake. Sprinkle the tops with a little more sugar to replace the sugar that came off on your fingers, and then bake as usual. You’ll get about 18 oversized cookies from this recipe.
P.S. I updated this post with fresh photos, but here’s the original from 2007 (when I was excited to learn about food photography, but hadn’t yet begun.)