Thursday, June 19, 2008

Molasses Crinkles – What to save in case of fire?

With the summer heat most of us are not thinking of firing up the oven to make cookies, but the recent heat has gotten our family thinking about what is most precious to us. Cookies? You bet – along with all the memories of happiness they have inspired in the past and the possibility of their enjoyment into the future.

This sounds so philosophical, so let me back up. While down in Santa Cruz this last weekend - for my brother’s graduation from Junior High (Yeah Unkl Ty!) and father’s day - we were talking and reading about nearby fires in Bonny Doon . My mom heard a story of a man who stayed to protect his home after his family evacuated. In evaluating his options and preparing his strategy to protect the family homestead, he took the thoughtful measure of throwing the family silver into the swimming pool. This story absolutely captured our imaginations … and ignited numerous theories and speculation as to what our own strategy would be. What would we want to save?

After some thoughtful reflection, my mom confidently identified the item we should grab from the house in case of emergency. Her recipe box. It is just so perfect … So simple and packed full of more memories than any photo album or single treasure, and the best part is that if everything else burns, you still have the comfort of home and new memories to make with old favorites.

The one catch … not all of her favorite recipes are in the recipe box. Which is where I come in. One purpose of the Thrifty Kitchen (and one of my motivations for creating it) is as an online trove for all my favorite recipes. My own little recipe book was getting so full I was inspired to create an online cookbook of sorts. Now in case of fire our family favorites are safe … just in case the water proof box and swimming pool aren’t available at a moment’s notice.

This recipe for Molases Crinkles comes from my mom’s first childhood cookbook. The cookbook is wonderful, dogeared and loved by all of us. We tried to convince her it should be grabbed along with the recipe box, but alas this opened the door for confusion, so we kept it simple. These cookies are possibly my favorite ever - though I hesitate to commit – wonderful anytime of year, but especially around the holidays. So we have a while to wait. But just in case of fire, the recipe is safe here with us.

Molasses Crinkles

My mom has tried numerous variations on the original recipe to improve its healthiness. The winning combination is replacing the shortening with half butter and half Earth Balance (a butter substitute common at health food stores) and the flour with half wheat and half white. I have a little aversion to Earth Balance, and prefer the prior “healthy” version with some butter and some shortening (gasp!). This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so I love freezing half the dough in a log shape and defrosting it when a cooking craving strikes.

Servings: ~36 cookies
Cost: $4.50-$5 total, ~$0.12/cookie (MUCH cheaper than at the coffee shop!)
Time: 2 hours, 40 mins active
Adapted from Mom’s copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls

1 cup butter
½ cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup molasses
2 cups wheat flour
2 ½ cups white flour
4 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
½ cup white sugar

Cream the shortening, butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and molasses and mix to incorporate. In a separate bowl whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in one cup increments, mixing completely after each addition. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into balls the size of walnuts, and dip tops into a bowl filled with white sugar. Place dough balls onto greased baking sheet, three inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until set but not hard. Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely (or enjoy warm of course).


Gloria said...

I like that you'd save your Mom's recipe box in case of a fire! Recipes are such an integral part of a person's family history and contain so much more than a list of ingredients; they hold memories and should be preserved. As you mentioned, it's also a good idea to keep your recipes in an online cookbook. A trend that I've noticed lately is that people are putting together family cookbooks and printing them as a way to pass down their recipes and traditions.

Anonymous said...


I hope it never becomes necessary to make the choice.

The cookies look good, but I had a question. Out of habit, I've never used shortening in cookies. Can you comment on pros and cons vs. butter?


Emily said...

Thanks for your comments!
- Hi Gloria: My vision for the Thrifty Kitchen is to "slurp" it into a paper version hopefully via a service like:
Hopefully this will give me the best of both on- and off-line worlds.
- and- hi Corie! - I feel guilty using shortening, mostly because I try to limit the fats I use, especially when they are solid at room temperature. I also try to avoid using things that if hard pressed I could not make in my own kitchen with basic ingredients ... which opens the door just wide enough for me to use butter, but not wide enough to use shortening. One up-side is that shortening manufacturers (e.g. Crisco) have reformulated their products to contain less trans-fat. I suppose that could be the silver lining... all in all, I like the texture shortening gives to cookies and apply the "everything in moderation" approach to justify using it. My mom, avoids shortening and instead substitutes Earth Balance ( and butter ...
Hope you are well!

Bryn said...

first of all, molasses cookies are my absolute favorite and i'm quite excited to try this recipe.

i have a question and a thought:

question - do you just dip them in sugar on the top? why that instead of rolling the whole thing in sugar? i just treat them like snickerdoodles and roll the whole thing in sugar, but in your picture it's just on top. i am sure there is a good reason for that and i want to know it :)

thought - i had an amazing ginger cookie from peets the other day and it had tiny little pieces of crystalized ginger right in it - might be fun to try doing that at home...

Anonymous said...

Wow. These are so like my favorite Christmas cookies that I suspect our "family recipe" is also from Betty Crocker. I agree it's not the same without the shortening. -Sally

Beth said...

Hi, Candace--
I'm trying to reach you to request permission to link to your recipe (and share a photo) for our upcoming Handmade Holidays on the Sew,Mama,Sew! blog. I couldn't find your contact information (though it is late!). Would you mind emailing so I can give you the details? We love your cookies and would like to share the recipe with our readers.

Thank you!

jessicasews said...

Mmmmmm! Thank You for sharing!

~ Jes

Charlotte said...

Thanks for posting this! I lost my copy of what was surely this recipe (though not in a fire) and had no idea where it originally came from.

Re shortening versus butter:

Butter tends to melt more quickly, making cookies that spread out more and are crispier.

"Shortening" doesn't HAVE to involve hydrogenated oil. Spectrum sells 100% palm oil as a natural shortening, and I've also used coconut oil as a shortening. There's some evidence that the specific fatty acids in coconut oil (which is naturally a solid at room temp) may actively be good for you (as opposed to passively not bad for you).

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