Let me introduce my new favorite Christmas cookie! Orange-Spice Molasses Cookies….more like ‘mouth watering, deep flavor that hints of Christmases past at grandmother’s house’ cookies. Or ‘orange sugar tops bright notes of spice and rich molasses flavor’ cookies. I am such a sucker for tropical spices and I love the winter holidays because it seems like everything is ‘spiced this or that’ during the fall and winter months. From cakes and cookies to drinks like apple cider, the flavors of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves abound. Ever wonder where Molasses comes from? It’s a byproduct of refining cane sugar. The liquids squeezed out of the sugar cane are boiled, some crystallizes into sugar and the molasses is basically what’s left. It’s then refined much like maple syrup, by boiling. The longer the boiling, the richer and darker it gets. Of course generations long past didn’t like anything to go to waste (a lesson that would be good for many in this generation to remember) and would come up with clever ways of using this ingredient, like making cookies :0)
These cookies are made the old fashioned way, by combining the dry ingredients in one bowl; the ‘wet’ in another, and then combining the two. You can use a hand held mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer, just be careful each time you add ingredients that you have a really slow setting going, or you’ll splatter stuff everywhere! And this dough is very sticky. I recommend you keep a bowl of water handy to dip your hands into to keep them wet. The dough is very easy to roll with wet hands :0)
Be Careful when rolling the little dough balls in the orange sugar that you don’t pile the sugar on. I made that mistake and the sugar clumped in the oven and didn’t allow the cookie to spread properly. I was a little to zealous with the zest :0) The best cookies turned out when I dropped a dough ball in the bowl and just moved the bowl in a little circle on the counter, causing the dough ball to roll around on the top. They have a wonderful ‘frosted’ appearance when you pull them out of the oven. When baking these cookies, you’ll want to pull them out of the oven when they’re still very puffy. They will finish cooking on the baking sheet outside of the oven and cool to the perfect soft-chewy consistency. If they’re no longer puffy, they’ve over-baked and will be too tough. Not to worry, if you warm these cookies in the microwave they will get softer :0)
- 2 1/4 cups 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 finely ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup molasses (either light or dark will do)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest (or zest from one small orange)
- Move the oven rack to the middle and set the oven to heat to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients, including spices and salt together.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar with the paddle attachment until fluffy and no lumps remain, stopping once in the middle to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula. On medium-low speed, add in the egg yolk and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Reduce the speed again to low and add the orange zest and molasses. Whip again on medium until fully incorporated, stopping once to scrape the bottom of the bowl again with a spatula.
- Set mixer to lowest speed again and slowly add the dry ingredient mixture. Mix on low for about 30 seconds. Stop the machine, remove the bowl. Add any excess dough from the paddle to the bowl, and knead the dough a bit by hand to get all the little bits of dry ingredients off the bottom.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the 2/3 cup granulated sugar and the orange zest. Process for about 30 seconds to create a fine orange sugar. You may have to stop once and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula to fully incorporate all the sugar. Place orange sugar into a medium bowl.
- With wet hands, form small dough balls (about 1 inch diameter) and roll around in the orange sugar until just lightly coated. Place onto parchment paper on cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake in single batches in the oven for abut 10-11 minutes until the edges are browned but the middle is still puffy, rotating the cookie sheet once half way through. Pull these cookies out even if they don’t look done in the middle. They will continue to cook on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American