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Molasses Cookies Recipe (A Taste of History)

Molasses cookies on a saucer beside a pot with floral designs.

One of the first kinds of cookies ever made, Molasses Cookies are just as delicious now as they were two hundred years ago. With a slightly crispy exterior and a soft, spicy interior, these cookies stay moist and tasty for days--if they will last that long!

Preparation time: 15 to 20 minutes mixing; 60 minutes chilling

Baking time: 15 minutes

Servings: 20-25 cookies

Chewy and sweet with the flavors of cinnamon and molasses, molasses cookies are an old fashioned snack that is perfect to keep on hand for snacks and treats. The addition of molasses to the cookie dough keeps the cookies moist and tender for days–that is, if they last that long. These cookies bake up with a delightfully crinkled surface. The outside of the cookies are slightly crispy, and the insides are chewy and delicious.

Baking molasses cookies is like serving up a bite of history. These cookies were one of the first kinds of cookies created in the United States. These tasty treats were made way back in the early 1800s, and molasses was used as a sweetener during this time period because refined white sugar was much more expensive during those days.

Molasses is a sweetener that is a byproduct of the sugar-making process. When sugar is manufactured, the sweet juices from sugar cane or sugar beets are extracted and boiled. During the boiling, the sugar crystallizes and is filtered out of the juice. The leftover juices are what is considered molasses. Sugarmakers perform this process for three successive cycles of boiling and filtering. After each cycle, the leftover molasses is less and less sweet and the resulting liquid is thicker and darker.

There are three main varieties of molasses. The lightest grade of molasses, the sweetest version is produced after the first boiling and filtering of the sugar cane. Dark or medium molasses is made after two cycles of boiling. Last, blackstrap molasses is the least sweet of the types. It is very dark and packed with vitamins and minerals. Blackstrap molasses has a strong, somewhat spicy flavor. Any variety of molasses will work in this recipe.

Sorghum molasses is not made from sugar cane, and food purists don’t consider it a true molasses because of this. Sorghum molasses comes from a plant called sorghum. This grass is cultivated in rural areas, and it is used to make a sweet syrup. Often artisans make this syrup at festivals and fairs in the South using mules to press the liquid out as a sort of living history exhibit.

The liquid is then cooked down to create sorghum molasses. Sorghum molasses is used frequently in Southern cooking and culture. We have used sorghum molasses for this recipe with excellent results.

Molasses is used in baked goods to add moisture and flavor to cookies, cakes, and breads. Cooks also add molasses to sweeten baked beans and add color to the bean liquid. Molasses can also be used in a pinch as a substitute for pancake syrup.

Brown sugar is made when manufacturers add molasses to white sugar to make up about five percent of the volume. If you don’t have any brown sugar on hand, you can substitute for it by adding two tablespoons of molasses to a cup of white sugar.

Because molasses is so thick and sticky, you may want to spray your measuring cup with cooking spray before you measure out the molasses. This will help the sticky, sweet syrup slide out of the measuring cup with ease.

Molasses Cookies Recipe

Cookie Dough Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter, softened and at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Topping Mixture Ingredients

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon

Molasses cookies ingredients consisting of molasses, baking soda, butter, vanilla, salt, ground cinnamon, egg, sugar, flour.

Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer or a wooden spoon to cream together the butter and one cup of sugar.

Mix them until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Butter and sugar mixture stirred in a bowl.

Step 2: Mix in one egg and the vanilla and beat it well. Add in the molasses and stir well.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and baking soda with the cinnamon and salt. Gradually add it to the butter and sugar mixture, stirring well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for about an hour.

Step 3: After an hour, remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Take out a tablespoonful of cookie dough, and roll it into a walnut-sized ball with your hands. Drop the dough into the cinnamon and sugar mixture and roll the ball around to coat the outside of the dough ball.

Three dough balls on a bowl of sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Step 4: Place the dough balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart.

Dough balls on a cookie sheet inside the oven.

Step 5: Bake the cookies in the center of the preheated oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Allow the hot cookies to sit on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes before scraping them off onto a wire rack to cool. Let them cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before storing in an airtight container.

Freshly baked molasses cookies on a cookie sheet.

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