MOLASSES + COOKIES

As a child, I ate molasses these ways: drizzled over my biscuits at my grandmother’s table, in Shoofly Pie, barbeque sauce, and baked in fresh gingerbread. As an adult, I’m beginning to notice plenty of restaurants adding this sugar cane syrup to their dishes in glazes and sauces, salad dressings, and many delicious cocktails. I have eaten molasses-rubbed pork tenderloin, a tuna sashimi with pomegranate molasses, and at Blackberry Farm, I had a to-die-for cocktail sweetened with molasses.

Molasses is making a comeback. Like beer, there are modern versions that might be considered “craft” molasses. Today’s molasses is more than a sweet syrup – it’s also a presence in the re-emergence of handmade, small, traditional, and local goods.

In The American Cane Mill, Don Howard Dean compares the history of syrup canes (molasses and sorghum) and explains the history of these mills in the rural South. He notes that the syrup’s production was largely a cottage industry and had an economical, culinary, and social prominence that is little appreciated now.

I’ve found many similarities between sugar cane and cotton crops. They’ve been able to thrive in the South because of our warm climate. A version of the roller mill, used to extract the juice from sugar cane, was actually modeled after a type of cotton gin. Sugar mills dotted our Southern landscape much like the cotton and textile mills. These days, those mills are often vacant buildings, but are (slowly) being revived- along with the renewed interest in preserving certain methods of farming and production.

Because sorghum is also referred to as sorghum molasses, I often hear the two terms used interchangeably. However, sorghum and molasses differ in origin, flavor, and consistency: sorghum is sweeter syrup, while molasses has a more bitter flavor. The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane used. There are three grades: mild, dark, and blackstrap. Molasses has the dark, thick quality that sorghum lacks. And because of sorghum’s sweeter taste, it is used more as syrup, and molasses as a common substitute in baking.

I’ve found a fantastic recipe using local molasses and honey that makes the best marble cookies: Honey-Lemon Ginger-Molasses Marble Cookies. They are soft and chewy, bursting with lemon flavor and peppery molasses – and the sugar gives the cookies a nice exterior crispness. The honey and molasses keep the cookie very moist. Stored in a mason jar, they’ll stay fresh for weeks.

HONEY-LEMON GINGER-MOLASSES MARBLE COOKIES

For Ginger-Molasses Dough

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 stick of salted butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of full-flavor molasses
½ teaspoon of vanilla
1 large egg

Take a whisk and thoroughly combine the flour, baking soda, and spices in a medium bowl.

Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and cream the two together until the mixture is smooth and sugar is fully incorporated.

Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula, add molasses and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Do the same with the egg, making sure to scrape down sides.

Add flour mixture and mix completely until the flour has fully incorporated into the dough mixture and you don’t see any butter lumps or streaks.

Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

For Honey-Lemon Dough

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
zest from 3 medium sized lemons
1 stick of salted butter
½ cup white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of local raw honey
½ teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 large egg

Take a whisk and thoroughly combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and cream the two together until the mixture is smooth and sugar is fully incorporated

Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula, add honey and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Do the same with the egg, making sure to scrape down sides. Add the lemon zest and lemon extract. Mix well.

Add flour mixture and mix completely until the flour has fully incorporated into the dough mixture and you don’t see any butter lumps or streaks.

Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

TO MAKE MARBLE COOKIES

½ cup of white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon sparkling sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the two sugars together (if using sparkling sugar) and place in small bowl.

Create four small balls of dough – two ¼ tablespoon balls of ginger molasses cookie dough and two ¼ tablespoon balls of lemon honey cookie dough. Line the dough up in a row, alternating the types of dough, and then press together. Now roll the dough into 1 inch ball. Your dough should look marbled.

Roll dough in sugar and then place on a non-stick cookie sheet. Continue until cookie sheet is filled, placing cookies 2 inches apart from each other.

Bake for 8 -10 minutes or until the lemon part of the cookie starts to brown a bit on the edges. Cool on sheet for 2 – 3 minutes before moving to a wire rack for further cooling.

Makes about 60 cookies.

 

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