Recipe: Chewy molasses cookies by Muffy Vhay
As of this writing, Christmas is a little less than a month away, and there’s lots to do. Decorations to be put up, tree (living or cut?) to be purchased and decorated. Gifts wrapped and packed to ship to far places, the boxes stuffed with pine and cones to fill all the empty spaces.
Family traditions — at least in our household — are a little simpler than they used to be. For many years, when there were sometimes as many as 15 or 20 at my mother’s Christmas table, it was different. A huge white linen tablecloth to be ironed and spread. A large cornucopia shaped basket centerpiece to be filled with all manner of fruits and nuts — pineapple, bananas, oranges, grapes and more — all out of season here in Northern Nevada, but required, nonetheless.
The preparation started weeks ahead of time with some of the early baking. My job was to make fruit cakes (wrapped in brandy soaked cloths), and the traditional plum pudding — a cake steamed in a mold, drenched in brandy and allowed to mellow. It was always served with hard sauce, a confection of butter, powdered sugar, and yet more brandy. As the finale to Christmas dinner, the plum pudding was warmed, decorated with holly, doused with more brandy and set ablaze at the table. Quite a spectacle. The holly almost always exploded in flames that had to be put out by a brave member of the party wielding a damp towel. How we never set the room on fire, I’ll never know.
Often the centerpiece of the meal was a suckling pig with an apple in it’s mouth — or two or three fat geese or a large turkey — all raised on the ranch with Christmas dinner in mind. That was always sad, because the turkey had invariably been given a name, and to me anyway, had a real persona.
Since many folks brought parts of the dinner, there was never enough space in the fridge, enough burners on the six burner stove, or space in one of the two ovens. It was a huge production; somehow it all worked out and the feast happened pretty much on time.
The recipe for today is one of my family’s favorite Christmas cookies, the one we usually left out for Santa, along with a glass of milk. If anyone out there wants to tackle fruit cakes or a plum pudding, I’ll be happy to get a recipe to you.
CHEWY MOLASSES COOKIES
These cookies are sugary and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They keep well and freeze well. This is a big recipe and makes about five dozen cookies.
1 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup (dark preferred) molasses, warm, not hot
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
5 1/4 cups unbleached flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg
In a large bowl, mix together the oil, molasses, sugar, and eggs. Beat until smooth and well blended. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and spices until well blended.
Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing until you have a soft dough. You may need just a tad more flour if dough is too sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until the dough is workable — about one or two hours.
Set oven to 350 degrees. Put one additional cup of sugar in shallow bowl. Roll the dough into balls about big walnut size, roll around in the sugar, and place about 2 or 3 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.
Flatten slightly with fingers or fork. Bake about 10 to 13 minutes until just barely brown. Let cool.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.