Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jeanie Torrence's Molasses Cookies

One of the great things about Facebook is reconnecting with old friends. Granted, you don’t always want to connect with old friends – sometimes there is a clear reason you aren’t friends anymore (and that’s what the “ignore” button is for). But most times it’s a good thing, and you can look forward to getting up to speed on all the news, flipping through that person’s photos, and catching a glimpse of their lives now.

Facebook connected me with an old friend from university, Kelly Torrence. We went to school in Montreal and she was a friend of my boyfriend’s roommate (my boyfriend is now my husband, The King of Soup). Neither of us lives in Montreal anymore and we also don’t live in the same city, so it’s nice to be able to keep in touch through this channel.

A few weeks ago I saw that she had posted a cookie recipe on her page (eyes immediately light up when recipes are posted). This recipe was pinned to her page with comments like “something to look forward to” and “top 5 favourite things to eat” and “makes me feel like I am in grade 7 again”. Well, now my interest was piqued even more – after all, who doesn’t want to feel like they’re in grade 7 again? Grade 7 was awesome! 

So I asked Kelly if I could test the recipe for the blog, and to whom credit should be given for said recipe. It turns out it's three generations old and comes from a family farm in the Gaspe. I am giving credit today to Kelly’s Mom, Jeanie Torrence, and I thank her for letting me print this online!

When I think of molasses the very first thing that comes to mind is Sunday afternoons at home on Waterford Bridge Road in St. John’s when Mary Hunt, our housekeeper, would bake six loaves of the most delicious white bread you’ve ever had. As soon as the bread would come out of the oven, Mary would take wax paper with a mound of butter on it and pass it over the tops of the loaves to give them a butter crust. Immediately following this exercise, my Mom would tear into one of the loaves and rip out a chunk for each of us to eat. Fingers and mouths burning, my brother and I would munch away on the heels of bread. My Mom would take her piece and dip it into a bowl containing milk mixed with molasses. This was a family tradition from her relatives in La Tuque, Quebec. My brother and I could never quite wrap our heads around dipping fresh, gorgeous bread into dark and oily-looking molasses, so we left that to Mom.

In Newfoundland, there is a traditional dish called toutens, which is basically fried bread dough. Most people serve toutens doused in molasses (instead of maple syrup). I don’t quite understand this either – maple syrup is so much sweeter and more delicious than molasses. And to this day, when I order toutens in a restaurant in Newfoundland I ask them to hold the molasses and bring on the maple syrup.

The way I am writing might make you think that I don’t see a role for molasses in my life. But that is not the case at all. In my opinion, molasses is here on this planet to help us make moist, delicious cookies. Period.

So that brings me back to the beginning of this blog entry, the recipe posting on Kelly’s Facebook page. When I looked closer to see what the recipe was that would make me feel like I was in grade 7 again, I was excited to see it was for molasses cookies!

Without further delay, here’s the recipe for Jeanie Torrence’s Molasses Cookies. My edits/notes are in brackets.

1 c shortening- Crisco or hard margarine (I used butter)
1 c sugar (I did not cut this back – but the next time I make them I think I could take off ¼ cup or so)
1 c molasses
1 egg
2 heaping tbsp. sour cream
1 large tsp baking soda
1 dash salt (a dash is more than a pinch, but less than 1/4 tsp)
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger (I would definitely up this the next time to 1 ½ tsp to make it more gingery, but it all depends on your taste buds)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
4 c all purpose flour, or more (I needed MUCH more – the dough was too sticky to roll out so I ended up using a lot of flour when rolling it out)

Start by creaming together the butter and sugar in your electric mixer. 

Once it is light and fluffy, add the molasses, egg and sour cream. In case you don’t know this awesome trick for molasses, take note: spray the inside of the measuring cup with cooking spray, or put a bit of cooking oil on a paper towel and wipe the inside of the cup. This way the molasses won’t stick in the cup.

When my kids saw me pouring the molasses into the measuring cup, they became quite concerned. Why are you pouring black and goopy stuff into a perfectly good batch of cookies, they wondered. I explained to them that this was molasses. That was my second mistake (the first mistake being that I poured the stuff into the bowl in the first place). Once they heard the word molasses they shut down and went into the fetal position - just kidding but they might as well have. 

Thinking on my feet, I explained to them that there was molasses in gingerbread (they had just constructed a gingerbread house and had been enjoying munching away on the walls of the house). When I pointed this out, they realized that any ingredient that was part of gingerbread couldn't be half bad, so they stopped complaining and started to help.

Continue to beat and then add the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board (as I mentioned above, my board was not lightly floured but rather heavily floured).

Roll to about ¼” thick and cut into shapes using cookie cutters.

Note: I am not too smart when it comes to non-metric measurements so the first time I rolled the dough too thin. The cookies were delicious but came out more like ginger snap texture (The King of Soup gobbled them up because he is a big fan of the snap). For the second roll out of the dough, I kept it much thicker and the cookies were moist and chewy (more my speed).

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat or other silicone baking cover. Don't worry about the flour that's on some of the cookies - this disappears when they are baking.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes. The original recipe says 425 – 450 for 10 – 15 minutes. I baked them at 425 for 8 – 10 minutes and they were perfect. Watch these guys when they’re in the oven because depending on the thickness of the dough, the edges can burn easily.

The tops of the cookies will crack slightly (see photo below).

These freeze very well - and in case you are wondering, they taste amazing when eaten frozen. Out of the freezer they will keep for 4 or 5 days in a tightly-sealed container.

Update: I made a second batch of these last night. This time I used brown sugar, and upped the ginger to 1 1/2 tsp, and the cloves to 1 1/4 tsp. 

Instead of rolling out the dough and cutting shapes, I simply rolled balls of dough and then rolled those balls in white sugar. 

Place the balls on the cookie sheet and use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the dough ball flat. 

This makes a more traditional round, chewy molasses cookie. 

Any way you form these cookies, they're dynamite. ENJOY!! And Merry Christmas Jeanie and Kelly!

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