Parting is such sweet sorrow - or in this case such SWEET cookies!
I am leaving tonight on a plane bound for Copenhagen, where I'll begin my travels for the next 6+ weeks through Denmark, Sweden & Norway. All of my time there will be spent guiding tours (three, two-week tours of Scandinavia), but I'll have some afternoons and evening on my own - so expect notes from the road.
Leaving Gavin for an extended period of time is always tough - on me and him - but after 10+ years at this job, we are getting the hang of it. I truly appreciate what he has to take care of at home - bills, car, house, cats - not to mention the ever-growing list of house projects.
So, a few years back I started leaving him "stay at home" presents. These range from gift cards to our favorite burger & taco joints to movie rentals, new magazines or books. More often than not though, I bake up some sort of sweet treat for him to enjoy in those first few days I am gone.
I generally fly out in the early evening, so that gives me an entire day to wrap up loose ends, pack and relax. I find baking to be very relaxing and this kind of meditation allows me to clear my head and remember any items I may have forgotten to pack.
Gavin's favorite cookies of all time are chewy molasses cookies. I had never made them until I got a new ATK cookbook a few years back. This recipe makes store (and even bakery) bought cookies pale in comparison. The key is using the freshest spices possible. I buy my spices in bulk from a store with good turnover - that way I only buy what I can use in 4-6 months. I also date the top of the refillable jar so I know when the spices are getting old.
To one-up the ATK folks, I also crush my own black pepper and allspice in a mortar and pestle. I swear this makes a difference.
Soft and Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies
1/3 cup granulated sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces), plus 1/2 cup for dipping
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp table salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses (about 6 ounces), light or dark
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup sugar for dipping in 8- or 9-inch cake pan.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.
3. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown and granulated sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add yolk and vanilla; increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom. Dough will be soft.
4. Using tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll between wet palms into 1 1/2-inch ball; drop ball into cake pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls. Toss balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.
5. Cool cookies on baking sheet 10 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature and serve. (Can be stored at room temperature in airtight container or zipper-lock plastic bag up to 5 days.)