Simple Pleasures.

Simple Pleasures.
Irish soda bread on its way up North with Noah.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Cozy Cookie for Cold Days

Now it's really November. The trees are naked, the skies are flat white, the tip of my nose is cold. My body craves comfort. Soft, thick socks. The familiar hiss and "winter's coming" smell of my archaic radiators. A big pot of pasta e fagioli on the stove.

And these glazed molasses-spice cookies. If I were Norwegian, I'd say they are the embodiment of "hygge"--that untranslatable word for embracing the season with happy-go-lucky-coziness. But I'm not Norwegian. Neither are these cookies. So I'll just say they are one of the very few things that make me look forward to the cold.

As a kid, I never understood the appeal of spiced baking. But as an adult who shivers her way through any season where the mercury dips below 60, the perfume of cinnamon, the pungent punch of clove and the bracing warmth of ginger seduce me at this time of year in a way that no other flavors can. They are the culinary equivalent of a Pendleton blanket.

The cookie itself (from Cook's Illustrated) is, pretty much, the perky ginger snap's consoling cousin. Baked into a buttery batter, made almost candyish by molasses, the heartwarming spices help create a deeply chewy and flavorful disc. Guarding the interior is a just-thick-enough crunch of crust that's given added dimension by a roll in granulated sugar before baking. Add to that an indulgent drizzle of icing and this cookie will almost convince you that Winter isn't so bad after all. On that note, anyone want to go shopping for snow shoes? I'll pick you up on my way to Ski Barn.

Molasses-Spice Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsps. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
12 Tbsps. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling cookies
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap or robust)

For Glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
Approximately 2 Tbsps. milk

Adjust racks to upper and lower middle positions and heat oven to 375F. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together in medium bowl. Set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, cream butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes with mixer set at medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg, vanilla extract, and molasses. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. (I cloak a dish towel over my electric mixer any time I beat in dry ingredients. It's easier than pulling out that klutzy Kitchenaid attachment for the job and works like a charm at keeping flour from fluffing out of the bowl.)

Place remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small, shallow bowl. Working with approximately 2 Tbsps. of dough each time, roll dough into 1 3/4-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. (I line my sheets with parchment.)

Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets (from top to bottom and front to back) halfway through baking, until outer edges begin to set and centers are soft and puffy, 11 to 13 minutes. Watch them carefully as the bottoms can burn in a blink!! Cool cookies on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to cooling racks with a wide spatula. COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE GLAZING!!

To Glaze:

Once cookies are cool, measure confectioners' sugar into a medium-size bowl and gradually add milk until glaze is just the right consistency to slowly drizzle off the back of a spoon and create a nicely opaque ribbon. You may or may not need all 2 Tbsp. of the milk that is suggested. Adjust consistency of your glaze by adding more milk or more sugar, if necessary.

Dip spoon into glaze and drizzle over cookies, which you've set out on wax paper. Allow icing to set for a few hours before packing them or layering them on top of each other.