There are certain things that are matches made in heaven; peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving and well, Christmas and cookies. Maybe it’s the whole what-we-leave-for-Santa thing, I don’t know. I do know that more cookies get made and eaten at my house during December than any other time of the year.
I was reading an article about cookie recipes passed down through the family that are still used. As I read, it reminded me of one of my favorites from my man’s Grandma Buzzini – isn’t that a great name?
Each year I pull out the recipe for Molasses Sugar Cookies which is written in her handwriting on a Christmas postcard. They are chewy and filled with cinnamon, ginger and cloves with a little crunch from the coarse sugar topping. When I went to mix up a batch, the molasses was not to be found, but maple syrup was abiding in the cupboard. While the flavor is distinctly different, the consistency of molasses and maple syrup are very similar.
So, this year, using Grandma Buzzini’s recipe as a starting point, I find myself fashioning Maple Sugar Cookies. I had, what I thought would be a brilliant idea; to make the cookies into snowflakes. Snowflakes have been a theme of late, both at work in the form of paper snowflakes and then those icy concoctions that have been steadily falling from winter skies.
When one starts to play around with recipes, one does need to know that there could be some failures.
This experiment was basically, a case in point since two changes were made. First, the maple syrup for molasses and second was subbing butter for shortening. Now I do know that butter tends to melt faster and therefore the cookies spread out and become crispier than when shortening is used. Shortening yields a taller, tenderer cookie. Often if I sub in butter, which has a distinctively better flavor, I’ll add a little additional flour; say a quarter of a cup. Not this time. It didn’t even register.
I proceeded to cut out sweet little snowflakes, placed them on the baking sheet and waited the requisite 7 to 8 minutes of baking time. When I opened the oven, I was greeted with flat flower-ish shapes that morphed into one amoeba like blob. Did I mention that I’d sprinkled them with lovely cardamom-vanilla sugar? And, I did understand the error of my ways.
Not to be deterred, I quickly rolled the already-cut snowflakes into balls and popped the newly formed shapes into the oven; this time the result was round, flat disks full of maple and spice with a hint of chewiness that gave way to a delicate crunch. And, you know what? No one seemed to mind the blob shaped cookies since the flavor was outstanding!
A couple of notes: I’ll share the original recipe which calls for shortening, along with my changes. If you want traditional Molasses Sugar Cookies follow the recipe. They turn out chewy and perfect. By switching to butter with no additional flour, you’ll get delightful crisp cookies. A little extra flour produces a cookie somewhere in between.
Grandma Buzzini’s Molasses Sugar Cookies
- ¾ cup shortening (substitute butter)
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup Brer Rabbit Molasses (substitute maple syrup)
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups flour (add ¼ additional flour if using butter)
- ½ teaspoon each salt, cloves and ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Additional sugar to roll the cookies in (try flavored sugars like vanilla, or my favorite, cardamom-vanilla)
- Melt shortening in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; let cool.
- Add sugar molasses and egg; beat well.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Add to first mixture. Mix well and chill.
- Form in 1” balls, roll in granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet 2” apart. Before baking press each cookie with a fork across one way and then across the other to lightly imprint.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.
Baking is always a sweet adventure; even though my first thought was that this batch of cookies was a failure, I learned some things and had lovely crisp, cookie wafers which didn’t last very long.
Happy baking, my friends –