Yesterday I spent the bulk of the afternoon baking cookies. I really only bake cookies around the holidays. It's because I LOVE cookies and if I make them and they're in the house, I WILL eat them all. I have zero cookie willpower. The big cookie bake was for the AWC cookie exchange which is tomorrow. We had 21 people signed up but one dropped out when she realized how many cookies that meant she had to bake (and I forgave her because she has a brand-new baby AND a 4-year-old even though there are at least 3 other women signed up who are in the same boat). We bake 6 cookies for each of the participants, not including ourselves, so that meant baking 114 cookies. That's a LOT of cookies!
I didn't want to make anything that was too labor-intensive, so that ruled out any sandwich-type cookies (which would have meant 228 cookies, at which the mind boggles and refuses to move on) or cut-out cookies or well, anything that required more than rolling dough in balls and plopping them on cookie sheets. I decided to make my grandmother's gingersnaps, which were a favorite of every single relative I have on my mother's side and a particular childhood favorite of mine.
My grandmother made endless batches of gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies and whenever we were visiting, her cookie jar was always full, and I don't remember ever being told I couldn't have a cookie, though I'm sure my mom would remember differently. I can still see her tall glass cookie jar with the pointy lid, crammed full of sparkling sugar-coated gingersnaps. When I moved to Sweden, my grandmother filled tins and mailed them to me for Christmas for a few years, two cookies each carefully packed in plastic wrap and then tucked two by two into bubble wrap. Even the ones that arrived in pieces, despite the painstaking packaging, were hoovered up by Anders and myself. Not a crumb went to waste!
I haven't made them in a really long time, but I was sure I still had a bottle of blackstrap molasses somewhere in the pantry. I pulled out the ingredients and piled them on the kitchen counter...sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, flour...where the heck is that bottle of blackstrap? I checked the pullout with the baking stuff on it...nope. Checked the back of the pullout with the bottles of oil and vinegar and such...nope. Checked the top shelf where more baking stuff is...nope. DARN IT.
So, I used the "dark syrup" that you can find here in Sweden (they also have "light syrup", don't ask me what the difference is...the dark variant is only a few slight shades darker. It's NOTHING like "real" molasses, especially blackstrap!). I made 3 batches of gingersnap cookie dough, and then, to clear some space, I started putting back things and suddenly realized that jams and syrups were on a BOTTOM pullout shelf, which I promptly pulled out and there at the back was my bottle of blackstrap. DOH.
Molasses doesn't go bad, does it? I just googled that and apparently no one knows. As long as it's stored correctly in a cool, dark place, it can last for years. Anyway, it was too late and I wasn't about to pitch three batches and start over so I just drizzled a little bit on top of the dough and mixed it in. It smelled and tasted fine, so maybe I can get away with several more years? haha!
The entire cookie baking process took about 3 hours or so. Rolling balls of dough, then rolling them in sugar and placing them on the cookie sheet and baking them for 9 minutes. I made 11 dozen cookies. The whole house smelled heavenly. It was like being transported back to 1970s Michigan, running in from my grandparent's back yard to grab a cookie. While I was baking, I finished reading the book group book, too, so I feel very on top of things right now. Tonight, after work, I packaged them all in to cups with a red ribbon and a label on top.
Tomorrow is the last AWC meeting of the year, and I'll come home with 114 OTHER kinds of cookies to enjoy until we leave for the holidays (at which point I'll freeze any that are left...HAHAHAHA). Since I'm the web editor, I've already been receiving recipes from the other participants and I'm already looking forward to snickerdoodles, chocolate crinkles, cinnamon cookies and something called Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies.
My grandma's gingersnaps
from Bernice Pangborn
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
Cream butter and sugar, add molasses. Add egg and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to mix. Roll into round balls about 1-inch in size and then roll in sugar. Bake at 375F for 9-10 minutes. Makes approx. 3.5 dozen