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Sweet molasses! There’s orange peel in my cookies!

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Okay, this is a cheater post, because all the pictures are from 2008. Ben and I hadn’t even been married a year, and I decided to make cookies. Okay, I make a lot of cookies. More specifically, I decided to make cookies and document it. This was before “Foodie Blogs” were a thing (or maybe they were a thing, but I certainly hadn’t heard of them yet). This was definitely before Pinterest, but after Facebook.

So my artsy-fartsy little self had decided I would document the cookie baking process and make a facebook album. We lived in this adorable little walk-out basement apartment that we rented from Ben’s grandparents at the time. It was wonderfully outdated, with green shag carpet, and yellow-planter-patterned wallpaper in the kitchen.

So here ya go, since it’s #ThrowBackThursday, it just feels right to share my first baby step into the wide world of Making Food for the Interwebz.

Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Peel

(When I first made this recipe, I followed it exactly as instructed in my America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It took MANY years before I felt comfortable adapting a recipe. I tend to be a rule-follower, but Ben has taught me the error of my ways when it comes to recipes. In the last few years I’ve gotten much more adventurous… Because I’m still very much a rule-follower, I don’t want to break any copyright laws, so I’ve adapted it ever so slightly to post here. Don’t worry, they’ll still be delicious – I promise! I’ve made these time and time again since my first strive-for-prefection days, and I know I’ve tinkered with it. They still tempt me to gluttony.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 2/3 cup reserved
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt (use 1/8 if you’re using salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses
  • 1 medium to large orange, washed well and peel grated (Then cut up the orange and eat it. You only need the rind for this recipe, but once you grate the rind off, the orange will dry out pretty fast.)

Personal Product Plug/Go Pro Tip: If you have never heard of grating/zesting an orange (also can be done to lemons, limes, even grapefruit I suppose?), or simply don’t know how, let me share with you this amazing technique of adding a burst of natural flavor to any dish that calls for it. You’ll need a grater, kind of like a cheese grater, but that won’t work. If you don’t have one, you can certainly omit the orange, but for the few times I do use mine, it’s so worth storing in my gadget drawer, and this is one of those recipes where the orange zest adds that little extra something that just makes this cookie. Anyhow, my grater looks something like this, but they do vary in length and width… I’ll keep it clean and leave out “the Office’s” running gag. Errr, too late?)

You want to make sure that orange peel is good and clean, even wash it with soap. and rinse and dry it well. Because who knows what that peel has touched from field to grocery store to checkout counter with raw-beef-drippings on the conveyor belt, and this is going in your food that you or someone else will eat. I’ll pass on the random shopping cart germs, thankyouverymuch. Anyhow, hold your orange in one hand and the grater in the other, simply slide the grater along the orange in one direction. This baby doesn’t work back and forth (just like a cheese grater in that regard). Also, watch your fingers. You won’t lose a digit, but you might alter your fingerprint if you’re not careful. Do this all over just until you start to see the white pith of the orange. That part is bitter and gross and we don’t want it in our cookies. Just the fragrant orange zest that tastes like summer feels.

Go Pro Tip: The night/morning/a few hours before you want to make cookies, just take out your butter and let it sit on the counter. We leave butter on the counter in a covered butter dish for God-only-knows how long. I’m not using His name in vain, it’s just that I really can’t remember how long it takes us to use up our counter-butter. We go through it quickly enough, but sometimes not so fast, and hey, we’re still fine. My point is, please don’t soften your butter in the microwave. It’s fine to sit out, and the risk with the microwave is that once it melts, it changes the properties of the butter, and it won’t work quite the same as butter that’s soft… Okay, okay, it’ll still work, but it won’t work the same. Remember, you’re dealing with a rule follower here.

Another Go Pro Tip: There’s this french term in the culinary world called “mise en place”(say it with me: meeehz awh(n) plahss – the “n” is almost silent, but not quite; it’s a french thing). It’s when you get all the ingredients measured out and ready in various-size prep bowls so that all you have to do is add the ingredients as needed, rather than waste time between steps measuring out your ingredients. I’m a huge fan…

meehz ash(n) plahssmise en place

Until I got spoiled by a dishwasher in Minnesota, and then we moved to Iowa. They have dishwashers here, but we just don’t have one. Hands down, that’s my most favorite of all the kitchen appliances (maybe make that third to a fridge/freezer and a stove/oven). But there are worse things in life than having to wash your dishes by hand, so… moving on!

If you want to mise en place, go for it. You should really try it at least once in your lifetime. But if now is not that time, I completely understand.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F, set a rack to the middle position, and line your cookie sheets or jellyroll pans with parchment paper. (I only have jelly roll pans and stoneware; multipurpose = yay!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, pepper and salt.

whisking dry ingredients

Add about 1 1/2 tsp of grated orange peel to the molasses and set aside.

orange peel in my molasses?!

In a food processor, pulse the remaining orange peel with the reserved sugar for about 10 seconds. Put the orange-sugar mixture in a bowl and try not to get sidetracked with all the wonderful ideas of how else you could use this wonderfully scented sugar. We’ll need it to roll the cookies in at the end.

Next, bust out your Kitchenaid or similar kitchen appliance – I suppose an electric hand mixer would work, but that gets tricky when you’re adding the flour later on, unless you’re an octopus. You could even go super old-school and mix it all with elbow grease and a spatula, but who has time for that when you’re washing mise en place bowls?

(I should have warned you, this isn’t a one-dish cookie. If that’s what you’re looking for, search Pinterest for those goofy microwave-cookie-things, make it in 5 minutes, and then cry when you realize it’s not nearly as good as these will be, and know that almost always, the extra effort really is worth it, because you can share these, and that’s the best part.)

Personal Product Plug: I’ve had my Kitchenaid mixer for 8+ years, and it’s my tried and true friend in the kitchen. While you certainly can use a hand mixer, or by your own strength and the sweat of your brow, having a standing mixer that can slowly mix while you use both your hands to carefully add in messy ingredients from large bowls really is like having a friend in the kitchen doing half the work for you. Except this friend won’t backseat-drive or deny you a taste of cookie dough. Not that I have any friends like that, do you?

 

Beat the butter, brown and white sugar (keeping the reserved sugar to the side, obviously, ’cause, y’know, that’s why it’s called “reserved” sugar) together until they look light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer on low, beat in the egg and vanilla until well-mixed. Scrape down the sides (you’ll hear that again). Next the orange-infused-molasses, again, making sure they’re all blended together in a glorious harmony of flavor. Also, don’t forget to scrape down the sides as needed (see? I told you…) to make sure no little bit of dough feels ostracized from the bunch. There are no bullies in cookie dough.

 

 

beat the butter and the sugarsbeat it good!keep the party going, nobody gets left out.

Now is the moment when you’ll be oh-so-glad you have a standing mixer (or if not, take pride in taking the harder route and tell yourself that you’re building character, because I’m sure in some regard, you are).

Slowly add in the flour mixture about a third at a time, and I’ll say it again, nobody gets left out at this cookie party, make sure to scrape down those sides!

add the flour

Once it’s all mixed up and you can’t tell who’s who, get out a cookie scoop (similar to an ice cream scoop but smaller) or a tablespoon (not a measuring tablespoon, but the big spoon you put next to your soup bowl). Scoop out a heaping 1 1/2 TBSP and roll into a ball, then roll that ball into the reserved-orange-sugar, and place it on your parchment paper.

ball rollingsugar coating

You’ll want to place the cookies about 2 inches apart, and as many as you can properly space on a pan, because you’ll need to bake these one pan at a time. If you have multiple baking pans, go ahead and get the second one ready with the raw cookies before you put this pan in the oven.

bake those cookies!

Bake for 6 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for about another 4-6 minutes. You’ll want to undercook them a smidgen – the edges should be set and the tops cracked, but you want the centers to still be soft. Once you pull your pan out of the oven, let the cookies rest on the pan for about another 10 minutes before eating or moving them to a cooling rack. Repeat until any remaining dough is baked or in your tummy (if you’re a not-pregnant, risk taker).

dough testingcool your cookies!

As usual, practice self-discipline, and don’t eat the entire batch by yourself in one sitting. If you decide to eat them all, okay fine. If you decide to share them with a friend or two, and then they’re gone after one sitting, well hey, we all have our days. But really, you and I both know you’re gonna have a nasty tummy ache if you eat all of them all at once all by yourself. (Cue Celine Dion.)

So pour yourself an ice cold glass of milk and savor one or two with your spouse, or special friend or bff, or cat (can they eat molasses cookies?) – whoever in your life also shares a love for orange and spices and molasses, and then see if you can get them to wash the dishes. (Just kidding, washing dishes is best done side-by-side, not alone… you know, if you don’t have a dishwasher.)

yummy cookies!

PS – I would like to give a huge once-again thank you to many special people who showered Ben and I with much love as we prepared to get married. I have quite a few hand-me-downs from my grandma Aloise (like the blue glass canisters) which I cherish dearly, but I also received the majority (I’m pretty sure it was around 99%) of our kitchen stock (appliances, cutlery, mixing bowls, etc.) as bridal shower or wedding presents (among other things). If you’re reading this, you might see something pictured and think, “hey, I got that for them!” I’ll be honest, I have a hard time remembering who all gave what (baby-brain really is obnoxious!), but I can assure you, it has been well used, well cared for, and still in circulation for a good number of my kitchen creations. This isn’t really a product plug, but more so a testament to how having the right tools for the job can make even tedious-seeming-tasks go so much more smoothly, and thus more enjoyable. Construction workers have construction tools, artists have artist tools, pastors even have special pastor tools, and bakers have baker tools. I still really love all my tools. So thanks again!


Printer Friendly Directions – you’ll have to copy and paste and print from whatever you paste it into… see the end of my very first post, Scones to Start!, for more details.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 2/3 cup reserved
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt (use 1/8 if you’re using salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses
  • 1 medium to large orange, washed well and peel grated

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F, set a rack to the middle position, and line your cookie sheets or jellyroll pans with parchment paper. (I only have jelly roll pans and stoneware; multipurpose = yay!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, pepper and salt.

Add about 1 1/2 tsp of grated orange peel to the molasses and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining orange peel with the reserved sugar for about 10 seconds. Put the orange-sugar mixture in a bowl and set aside.

With a standing or hand mixer, beat the butter, brown and 1/3 cup white sugar together until they look light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer on low, beat in the egg and vanilla until well-mixed. Next ad the orange-infused-molasses. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after adding ingredients.

Slowly add in the flour mixture about a third at a time until well incorporated, again, scraping the sides as needed.

Scoop out a heaping 1 1/2 TBSP and roll into a ball, then roll that ball into the reserved-orange-sugar, and place it on your parchment paper.

Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake one pan at a time for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

When done, the edges should be set, the tops cracked, and the centers should still be soft. Let the cookies rest on the pan for about another 10 minutes before eating or moving them to a cooling rack.

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