What is it about a picnic basket? The sight of one in a department store, antique mall, magazine, or movie will tug at my heart-strings instantly. Don’t even get me started on actual picnic baskets on actual picnic blankets in an actual park!
So when I saw one, full of gorgeous molasses cookies, propped on bales of straw, in one of my favorite cookbooks … I checked my cupboard for molasses. Since making this particular recipe, I have never strayed.
It is the best.
And it is best in the fall.
There is a beloved set of scriptural verses from Ecclesiastes 3 that says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Now, of course, it doesn’t say “a time to make molasses cookies” but it does say “a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (sometimes you just have to go with the King James Version for the poetry). When fall arrives in the midwest and the harvest begins, our cravings turn to warm, smoky, spicy flavors. And by spicy I mean cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. Apples, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, oatmeal … all call for some butter, sugar/molasses and spice.
It would seem that I have made my point for molasses cookies tasting the best in the fall because my now-grown boys cannot fathom anyone eating molasses cookies in the spring or summer. They will allow for an occasional infraction in the winter … if all the Christmas cookies are gone.
Soft Molasses Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (not margarine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter and shortening. Add sugar slowly and cream ingredients together until light-colored and fluffy. Blend in molasses and eggs.
In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon with a whisk until spices are thoroughly distributed. Gradually mix flour mixture (a cup or so at a time) into creamed ingredients until dough is blended and smooth. Form dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, roll in sugar and place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until top of cookie has cracked as seen in the picture. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and allow to cool 2-3 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a baking rack. Allow to cool completely.
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies.
I credit “A Taste of the Country”, third edition, and LaVonne Hegland of Minnesota, for this recipe. I don’t change one thing in this recipe. It is perfect. Thank you, LaVonne! My family thanks you!
(For a little more background on how I came to own and cherish this series of cookbooks, click here.)
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