Those who know me well are aware that I have a strong affinity for crystallized ginger.
I can snack on it all hours of the day. I've eaten it while watching movies in lieu of buttered popcorn. I've been known to visit multiple stores while up in Anchorage looking for large bags of the spicy, chewy goodness that I have trouble finding in my area, and upon finding it, I've purchased every bag on the shelf. I've also been known to order it online in bulk from Amazon when I'm really desperate.
I'll reach for it when I'm hungry or craving something sweet. I also reach for it when I'm feeling queasy or anxious, and it helps soothe my stomach. And, of course, I'll find any excuse to use it in recipes.
Whenever I offer to make cookies for the family, my middle son requests molasses cookies without fail. We aren't talking about gingersnaps — the crunchy dark cookie that actually snaps when you break it. We are talking about molasses cookies, spiced with cinnamon, ginger and cloves and rolled in sugar. These cookies have perfect crackles and crinkles on top, chewy edges and soft, almost-gooey centers. Then, to take them over the top, I add chopped crystallized ginger.
As you can probably tell, I'm not the kind of cook who relegates warm spices to the fall and winter months. We enjoy these in our home year-round without shame. I'm eating one fresh from the oven as I type this.
A quick tip for achieving the perfectly crinkled cookie: I use the back of a wooden spoon to gently press the center of the cookies down right when they come out of the oven. Also, the dough keeps beautifully in a sealed container in the refrigerator to bake more cookies another day.
Ginger molasses cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
sugar, for rolling cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and the brown sugar. Add the egg and molasses and beat until smooth, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and crystallized ginger (if using). Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat the dough until completely combined.
Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop the dough into uniform balls. Roll each ball of dough in sugar before placing them onto the cookie sheet. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, removing them from the oven while they still appear somewhat underdone in the center.
As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press the center of each cookie down with the back of a wooden spoon to achieve the crinkled look. Let the cookies cool on a cooling rack. These are delicious warm or at room temperature.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.