Those who know me best can confirm that the longer I live in Britain, the more American I become.
The truth, of course, is that at 18 you do all you can to fit in, but by 38, you really don’t care.
But the particular aspect of Americana that emerge always surprise me. Right now, this season, I have suddenly embraced my roots, and discovered a love of cookies.
Please understand: cookies are not biscuits. This is not just a word game. Cookies are chewy and soft and wonderful. Biscuits are for serving with tea when you really don’t want people to get too comfortable.
It began with a sudden craving for oatmeal cookies a few months ago.
And then — as Halloween came, and then the snow, I have been on a quest for the perfect Molasses Cookie.
The Perfect Molasses Cookie comes from Sturbridge Village. It is eaten as you walk on dirt paths through bright autumn leaves, or as you stand shivering in the snow and discover a sudden interest in blacksmiths, because the forge is warm. The cookies are hard when you bite into them — almost too hard — but then they yield and become chewy, dark handfulls of bliss.
These cookies are also big — 5 or 6 inches across, even when such a thing was rare in the states. (there is no reason to make a 6 inch chocolate chip cookie. It is just consumerism gone wrong. A chocoloate chip cookie has it’s best texture at 2 1/2 inches. But a Molasses cookie needs to be big, to get the right mix of crunchy and chewy — as well as to see you through the gale force ten storm, as you ride the waves.
OK, you’ve caught me. Sturbridge has no waves. But the cookie in question has a shipping heritage, and I grew up near Mystic too. Old Cookie recipes are allowed to accumulate geography along the way.
So far, my attempts to create this perfect childhood memory have failed. They have failed because I have not found the right recipe yet — and not just because of the inevitable gilding of childhood memory. But what fun it is trying.
The first batch tasted great, but had totally the wrong texture.
The second batch came closer to the right texture, but the taste was not as good. The next batch — which is on hold till I either want them enough to carry flour across town in the snow, or till I manage to free my car from the driveway — might just be the one, though I am dubious about the concept that the chewy wonders might be roll cookies instead of drop cookies.
The recipie below is the second one — chewy, but not spicy enough. I’ll give it as I made it and you can adapt.
I realise, of course, that I should be thinking about more noble things in Advent. But today is Wednesday, and my day off, and cookies also proclaim the glory of God.
recipe below the fold… Molasses Cookies
1 cup sugar (uk = volume equivalent of 8 fluid ounces)
1 cup shortening (uk = trex)
1 cup dark molasses (or black treacle if you are snowed in and can’t get the real stuff)
4 cups (16 oz) flour
1 teaspoon (t) baking soda
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon
2 t ginger
Cream the sugar and shortening. Beat in molasses and eggs. Stir in flour. Let chill for 15 min (or as long as you like) to make it easier to handle.
Break off walnut sized balls of dough, roll them, and dip them in coarse sugar. Flatten slightly as you put them on the baking sheet.
Bake at 350 F/ 180 C/ GM 4 for 12 – 15 minutes.
The tops will crack and that is part of the charm.
Next time I make these, I’m going to try half butter instead of shortening; brown sugar instead of white; and 15 minutes instead of 12. I’ve already increased the amount of ginger, but even that might not be enough.
Let me know how it goes…
And if you think you have the perfect recipe already, please share.