Molasses Cookie Clouds
Is there anything more holiday than molasses cookies? I don’t think so. I have so many memories tied to molasses and food is all about memories. The flavors and smells immediately can transport us. Growing up, my sister had a serious obsession with these cookies. She would eat the gigantic ones from a certain coffee chain with a green lady logo every weekend and every chance she could get.
So this is a little quirky, but one of my favorite factoids of Boston history is the story of the great molasses spill that happened here many, many years ago. When I first read about it about 20 years ago, I thought it was a joke, but sure enough, it happened. So Boston has always had a strange, sorted history with molasses, but some seriously delicious treats came out of it, like hermits.
For these cookies, I wanted to kick up the spice, take down some of the refined sugar, add a bit more fiber to them and, of course, make them gluten-free.
Let’s talk sugar
One of the key things you have to think about in this recipe is moisture. Molasses is very, very wet, which makes swapping out refined sugars for alternatives a little tricky. Instead of using ordinary light brown sugar and all cane sugar, I used coconut sugar for most of the sugar, while still using cane sugar, but a smaller amount.
One of my favorite gluten-free flours is oat flour. You get all that nutrition from the oats, but a flour you can bake with. And if there is oatmeal in it, that makes these cookies healthy right? My favorite oat flours is Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-free Oat Flour, which you can find at most stores. If you can’t, you can make your own with gluten-free oats and a food processor or high powered blender. Just put your oats in the processor, blitz until flour (it will be a little rougher than store-bought, but no worries).
With the oat flour, I use my favorite gluten-free measure-for-measure all purpose flour from King Arthur, which you can get at Whole Foods, Wegman’s or online.
Thwap the cookies
Yes, I made up a word for this. Bear with me. Sarah Kieffer’s cookbook is one of my favorites. Her recipe for chocolate chip cookies called for tapping the baking trays after the cookies are baked. I tried it once and I was hooked. I call it thwapping rather than tapping because I find I need to use a little bit more force than a tap, more of a thaw (and it freaks my dog out).
When cookies bake, the leavening agent (baking soda here), reacts with the acidity in the dough, along with the heat and creates a gas. It is this gas that lift the cookies. If you like cake cookies, then don’t bother with the thwapping. If you like a slightly denser and chewier cookie, get thwapping.
For these cookies, I bake them nearly completely, roughly 7 minutes, they are cracked on top and puffed up. Take the tray out of the oven and, using both hands on the baking sheet, slam the baking sheet down on your counter a couple of times. You will see the cookies deflate slightly. Put the cookies back in the oven for another 2 minutes, take them out and give another, final thwap on the counter and then let cool.
These cookies won’t be flat, even if you thwap, but that is why I call them clouds. The outsides are crisp and the insides are soft and spicy.
1 cup gluten-free measure-for-measure flour
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
2 tsps baking soda
11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted, grass-fed butter, melted
1/4 cup cane sugar (not the stuff from the yellow box)
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses (this is the super dark stuff, but if you can’t find it, use the milder molasses)
1 large egg
1/3 cup raw cane sugar for rolling the cookie dough in before baking
Preheat the oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, spices and salt. Place the 1/3 cup raw cane sugar in a shallow bowl or a plate.
In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk the butter (I use the microwave to melt it, going at 30 second intervals to avoid butter explosions), cane sugar, coconut sugar, molasses and egg until all smooth. You don’t need to get much air in these babies.
Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and fold until all combined. The dough can be a little stiff so it will take a little time to get all the flour in. Once all the flour is mixed in, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
Pinch off 1 tablespoon sized bits of dough and roll into balls in your hands. Roll each ball in the raw cane sugar, making sure they get a nice, uniform coating. Place on the baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each ball of dough.
Bake for between 8 to 10 minutes.