Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sweet Indulgence

I have a great appreciation for tradition. I still use my Dad's electric hand blender when baking birthday cakes. They just don't smell like "Birthday Cake Batter!" if I use my stand mixer. When I make lefsa, a tasty Norwegian treat that satisfies my very soul, I use the pea green colored potato ricer passed down to me from who knows what year. Yes, it's a pain to clean up, but its part of the tradition of making the foods of my family history.

The same holds true when I make cookies. I have a set of 3 Pyrex glass bowls from the 1970's. They were my Dad's. When I came home from school and saw the biggest of the set sitting on the counter I knew it was baking day. The burnt orange glaze on the bowl glistened in the sun as the butter inside warmed up to room temperature. And next to the bowl sat a sturdy wooden spoon. I knew the house would soon be filled with wonderful aromas that would linger for the rest of the night. These sights and smells are what keeps me coming back to the basics.

This recipe is one of my favorites. It's a classic cookie that reminds me, very lovingly of my Grandma. She shares my affinity for sweet, sticky molasses. In order to keep these cookies soft I like to toss a piece of bread in the container with them.

Molasses Cookies

¾ cup margarine
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup medium molasses
1 egg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
2 cups flour

Cream together margarine and sugar. Add molasses, egg, soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and ginger. Mix until just blended. Add flour, stir until combined. Do not over work the dough. Chill, covered, for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Form dough into walnut size balls. Roll in sugar. Press with the bottom of a glass to flatten. Bake about 8 minutes. Cool on paper.


  1. Dad's Cookies

    1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, softened - not melted (never melted!) - if you can't mix it up, it's not soft. Remember, if you are going to use the microwave, DON'T MELT IT! Melted margarine will NOT give you the same results.
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup brown sugar (light or dark - dark has more flavor)

    Mix the sugars and margarine with a heavy wooden spoon. Don't use a mixer. And since these are my cookies, let me say again: don't use a mixer. Use that spoon. With arm power and a wooden spoon, you won't overwork your dough, and the love will flow from you, through your arm, down through the spoon and into every cookie. Mix it well. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda.

    Now make a well in the dough. See the bottom of the bowl? Good. Crack two eggs in there and mix them up good. Add about a tablespoon - maybe two - of water, or milk, or coffee (day-old is fine), or cola or even orange juice. Mix it with the eggs and then mix the dough and eggs together, a bit at a time until you can do it without getting too messy. Now add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla - imitation is fine; it's what I use. Mix it in.

    Add a cup of quick oats. Mix it in. Add a cup of coconut. Make sure to taste it first. Hmmm. It should be flaked and sweetened and remind you of a Peter Paul Mounds® (these are supposed to be tasty, not healthy!).

    Now the flour. 2 and 1/4 cups. DO NOT spoon the flour into a cup and then take a knife and level it off. Scoop the flour. I use a half cup measure. I scoop the flour so it's kind of packed in (the way they always tell you not to do it) and then I level it off with my finger. Four scoops equals 2 cups. Now use the half-cup measure and get it about half full. That's your quarter cup. I use the same half-cup measure for the sugars, oats, coconut and flour. Convenient, and less to wash up afterwards. Make sure to mix the flour from the bottom up, other wise you'll end up with a bunch of dry dough with too much flour on the bottom and not enough through the rest of the dough. Mix it well, but don't over-mix. Your arm will let you know when you've mixed it enough.

    Add the chips. Whether milk chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet or white doesn't matter - but if you use white, add a teaspoon of cinnamon when you add the soda and salt. You can also use butterscotch chips or swirled chips or half white and half chocolate or cinnamon chips or raspberry chips. They all bring their own special goodness and excitement to the cookies. And be sure to taste the chips before you mix them in. No one will notice if ten chips are gone!

    Mix the chips in, but don't beat them into submission. Cover the cookies and put them in the fridge for AT LEAST FOUR HOURS. I'm serious. Don't try and bake these right now. Tomorrow will be a much better day to bake these.

    Tomorrow - or four hours later (at LEAST four hours) - the oats will have absorbed some moisture (that's why the extra liquid is added. Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper works good, too).

    Preheat the oven to 375. LIGHTLY spray your pans. I use three heavy-duty cookie pans (two are cookie sheets; one is a jelly roll pan). I use a metal scoop. The plastic ones you usually find break after one or two cookies made with a real cookie dough like this. If you broke your spoon, you didn't have a heavy wooden spoon. Get one for next time. With my small scoop, I get 5-1/2 dozen out this recipe.

    I scoop a dozen cookies on a sheet. I scoop all three pans before the first one goes in the oven. Put the first pan in on the bottom rack. Five minutes on the timer. Read the paper or work on the crossword. Ding! Move the first cookies to the upper rack (no, not up by the broiler - just up a notch or two so it's in the middle of the oven), and put the second pan on the bottom rack. Five more minutes on the timer. It is important to use the timer! If you don't use a timer, you are going to be unhappy with the results of these cookies. Trust me. Ding! Take the first batch out and set on top of the stove. Move the bottom cookies to the top rack and the third batch in on the bottom rack. Five more minutes on the timer. Let the cookies cool for just a minute.

    Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack (my preferred method), or two several sheets of newspaper (my old method an done which served me well for over 20 years). Scoop another dozen cookies on that sheet - no spray needed now. You should have about 90 seconds before the next batch is done. Relax for a second. When the timer goes off, repeat the process.

    When you transfer the third pan of cookies to the cooling rack, the first batch should be ready to eat. Have one or two to make sure you did good. Stop now. There'll be time for more later.

    When done baking all the cookies, clean up. When done washing the bowl, spoon, pans, etc., bag the cookies and toss in the freezer. They keep great. Keep some out for the people who come in and say, "Hmmmmm! You baked cookies!" "Yes. Have one!"

    This is really just the recipe on the chocolate chips bag with a little more sugar - which is the way the recipe originally read - and oats and coconut, a little extra moisture and lots of love. I have made them with orange zest and dark chocolate chips and they're good, too. I don't put nuts in these, but you can. Pecans would be good. I think I'll go out to the kitchen now and get out my bowl and spoon and try that. -- Dad

  2. This seems to be much more involved than I recall. But delightfully yummy!

  3. What did you want? Something like this?

    Dad's Chocolate Chip Cookies

    1 cup butter or margarine
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    2 eggs
    2 tbsp water (or other liquid like coffee or cola)
    2 tsp vanilla flavoring
    1 cup quick oats
    1 cup coconut
    2-1/4 cup flour
    1 12 oz bag of chocolate chips (or other chips of your choice)

    Mix in order, by hand. Chill dough for at least four hours or overnight. Bake at 375-degrees. Drop by spoonfuls (or use metal cookie scoop) on sheet pan. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool. Eat. Enjoy. Makes 5-1/2 dozen. Each cookie about 120 calories.

    I gave it to you like we were making them together. Or the director's cut, with commentary. :-)

  4. Greatly appreciated the version where we baked them together :) It was a warm hug through food.