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Grandmother's Molasses Cookies

Well, not my grandmother's cookies. I came across a recipe book when I first started grad school at Wesleyan. A church was cleaning its basement out and they had a stack of these cookbooks that the members had put together a while back. So I took one and forgot about it. A few weeks ago I was looking through my bookshelf and I found it again. I thought it would be nice to go through some of the recipes.

It's gonna be a trip, because the book was printed in 1958. Some of the directions aren't complete. I've called my parents to ask about some of the ingredients for some of the recipes. Also, some of the recipes don't give measurements for all of the ingredients. I found that out with these cookies.

I've never made cookies with molasses, so I was very excited to try these! Also, the recipe has ginger and I'm a sucker for ginger snaps. It didn't seem like these would make that many cookies, so I doubled the recipe. I mean, look at it! There's barely anything in there:

What I failed to realize is that it hadn't told me how much flour to put in. Fine, fine. Except it needed a lot of flour. I'm going to give you the recipe for a single batch, so you don't have to go through the struggle I went through when I made these. All the adjustments I made are included in the recipe below.


Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup molasses

  • 1 cup shortening (melted)

  • 4 teaspoons ginger

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

  • 4 1/2 cups flour

You'll also need a rolling pin, a cookie cutter (or a glass), and extra flour to sprinkle around.


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Measure out the milk and add the vinegar. Let sit for about 5 minutes. If you have sour milk or butter milk, skip the vinegar and just use that.

  2. Mix the brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of ginger, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

  3. Mix all of the wet ingredients together. I mixed by hand with a whisk, but a hand mixer should do fine.

  4. Add the remaining dry ingredients, except the flour. Mix well.

  5. Add the flour one cup at a time until the mixture is stiff enough to be rolled out. You may need a little more or less flour depending on how sticky your batter is. (I had to switch from a whisk to a hefty spatula for this part, since the dough got very stiff.)

  6. On the surface where you plan to roll out the dough, sprinkle some flour. Also rub some flour on your rolling pin, and have some flour set aside to keep doing this. Take some of the dough out and roll it to 1/8-1/4 inch thick. (I also sprinkled flour on top of the dough before rolling to prevent sticking.

  7. Take your cookie cutter and go for it! If it's sticking, dip it in some flour. I used a glass that was 2 inches wide at the mouth.

  8. Optional: If you find it hard to pick the cookies up after you cut them, sprinkle some flour on a cooking spatula and use that to help.

  9. If using a nonstick pan, you don't need to spray it, just put the cookies on the sheet. They don't spread much, so you can put them closer together than you would drop cookies. Take the sugar mixture you set aside at the beginning and sprinkle some on each cookies. Lightly press the sugar into each cookie so that it has a chance of sticking.

  10. Bake for 10-12 min. (10 is softer, 12 if a little crispy at the edges.) Once out of the oven, you can use a spatula to take the cookies off the tray immediately and put on a wire rack to cool.

These cookies are amazing! Especially dipped into a cup of tea or coffee. My apartment also smelled like ginger snaps after, so I was particularly happy.

Possible changes/adjustments

  • If you use a bigger cookie cutter, they need more bake time. 11-13 mins for a 2 1/2 inch cutter.

  • These cookies are soft, but if you roll them thinner and use cooking spray on the pans, they should have a nice crunch.

  • If you like cinnamon more than ginger, just switch the measurements for each. Ground cloves or nutmeg would also be delicious.

  • These cookies would also be delicious with oats, pieces of candied ginger, fresh grated ginger, or nuts.

  • When I used cooking spray on one cookie sheet, the cookies got a little crispy on the bottom.

  • You can use sour milk or buttermilk in place of the milk and vinegar mixture. I just never have either of those on hand.

  • Since this recipe used melted shortening, you should be able to use vegetable oil instead.

The recipe here is for the cookies on the right. The ones on the left were with a larger cookie cutter, more baking time, and no ginger-sugar topping. People also liked them!


From the math lounge.

- "I've had 5 cookies. No...6? 6 cookies."

- *thumbs up*

- "You made these from scratch? "

- "What are you making next week?"


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