chewy-gooey ginger-molasses cookies
I am, apparently, a liar. Based on my last post, I lied on two accounts. Unintentionally, of course. I try to be very honest in this space. This medium forces me to be brutally honest with myself, actually.
Last Saturday I thought I had sent this tweet early in the morning: “It’s Dec 1st. It’s snowing. Today’s plans: bake cookies, drink hot chocolate, decorate tree. When did my life get so adorable? It’s creepy.” I really had woken up to a beautiful day. December 1st. It’s the day on which I traditionally acknowledge that Fall is over. The day on which pumpkins can be trashed. On which bands can play and lights can flicker.
It was snowing, not treacherously so, but just enough to make my tiny home feel like the inside of a snow globe. I had no desire to run errands or to catch up after a busy week. I wanted to stay safely in that snow globe, sip my tea at breakfast, work mindlessly in the kitchen, and attempt to make a winter — following a fall that hadn’t been the happiest — brighter. To start on a positive note. To stay warm.
But I guess it was “fate” that that tweet never went out. Instead, my day was mired in indecision. Lazy indecision. That’s what happens when I don’t have a plan or a list. When I don’t start the day on fire. I hemmed and hawed over what to make, what to do, and in what order to do it (the result of too many neglected cookie ideas and cookie recipes…) and before you know it, I had made pie dough to store for no reason, and it was 6 o’clock pm. No cookies were made, no music played, and I’d be hungry for dinner soon.
The next morning, I was hell-bent on cookies—no longer because they meant something or because they felt festive, but because my wandering, obsessive mind told me there had to be cookies or I had failed. So I baked cookies. Yep, in my last post I said I rarely bake cookies. I guess I lied? 2 posts, 3 cookies.
But the biggest lie came after making the cookies. I said I liked chewy and crunchy equally. I went on and on about these two varieties. (I reread that post today and said to myself, “Oh, just get on with it already!”.) I said each had its intriguing qualities; each reflected my split personality. Well maybe it was just the moment, or maybe it was my mood. But after eating these cookies, I must say, I am firmly a lover of warm “chewy-gooey” above all. Yes, that’s a real cookie category: chewy-gooey. It shouldn’t be confused with chewy. But if forced to fit into a rigid category set by the dividing chapters of a Martha Stewart book, it would indeed be called chewy. It’s something you rip into but it doesn’t rip; it bends, giving way to molten fillings that also make the parting journey, stretching into shiny ribbons. And it’s exactly what you need in the winter when your mood is low. One bite of this cookie made me ask: Why-would-I-ever-want-crunchy-or-just-chewy-when-i-can-have-chewy–gooey?!
OK, I still have love for the crunchy, but seriously, these extra-spicy, super-chewy ginger-molasses cookies are something else. I tweaked a cookie I made a few years ago and loved. I knew exactly what I wanted in that moment. After the trying day, I needed something festive but biting of ginger, overflowing with fruity, fruity molasses flavor. These strong flavors need only be tempered by a conservative amount of something cool and creamy. I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate. I can appreciate it as something other than milk or dark chocolate but only when it’s balanced by other flavors. A good white chocolate shines with flavors of dairy more than flavors of, well, sugar, but I’d still much prefer it caramelized. But I do like the combination of a little bit of white chocolate and gingerbread.
I took Martha Stewart’s Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie and eliminated the chocolate. Just a couple of teaspoons of flour stood in for the missing cocoa powder. The spice, which is already great in the original recipe, was pumped up to cater to this new dough; black pepper was added and a pinch of cayenne for good, spicy measure. Cinnamon rounded out the spice to give it winter warmth, nutmeg was omitted, and a small amount (just 3 ounces for two dozen cookies) of white chocolate went into the mix –- the milk to the jalapeño, basically — and made it feel seasonal while mellowing it out. And since white chocolate lacks the “snap” of “real” chocolate, the chunks never get hard, staying soft and not interrupting the chew. And these certainly are chewy with all of that dark brown sugar and molasses.
I think I need to bake more cookies. I think I need to look into this. I’m sure the journey can only be good. Maybe I’m lying again. I just don’t know.
So basically, believe what you want when you come here.
Chewy-Gooey Ginger-Molasses Cookies
inspired by and adapted from this recipe in Martha Stewart’s Cookies
50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
224 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 ½ cups plus 5 teaspoons)
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Scant ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
112 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
100 grams (1/2 cup) dark brown sugar
130 grams (1/2 cups) molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon boiling water
3 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped into thin ½-inch chunks/shards*
Spread granulated sugar in dish and set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and cayenne (if using).
Beat butter and grated ginger together on medium speed until light, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat until combined. With mixer running, slowly beat in molasses until combined.
Pour boiling water over baking soda in small bowl and stir to dissolve. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture, then baking soda-water solution, then remaining flour mixture on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl. On low speed, mix in white chocolate.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and flatten into 1-inch disk. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 2-tablespoon portions (a 1½-inch potion scoops makes this easy. Roll dough into balls and coat in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Using the bottom of sugared glass or measuring cup to flatten balls slightly. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Use the bottom of a sugared glass or measuring cup to flatten the balls slightly (to just over 3/4 inch thick). Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the surfaces begin to crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. (Again, pull em’ when they look underdone. Its OK, I promise!). Let cookies cool on baking sheet set on wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
*For any chocolate chunk, I like larger shards of chocolate that cut through the batter creating layers rather than cubic chunks that do not create these striations. Whatever you prefer will be fine, though.