Nothing smells like Christmas more than the scent of a live Christmas tree. Unfortunately, we have an artificial tree so the only scent of Christmas at our house comes from the kitchen. For me, the aroma of the spices in Molasses Sugar Cookies epitomizes Christmas.
One of my pet peeves is when I take molasses cookies to functions and people refer to them as "Gingersnaps." Both cookies use molasses and ginger, but that is the extent of their similarity. Gingersnaps are crisp cookies; molasses cookies are soft. In addition to ginger, molasses cookies also use cinnamon and cloves.
Molasses comes in light and dark varieties. Light molasses is sweeter while dark molasses has more flavor and gives baked goods a darker color. I prefer light molasses, but the two varieties can be interchanged so use whichever you prefer or have on hand.
If you don't use spices much during the year, it's a good idea to check them before you start baking. If the spices have little or no aroma, throw them out. If you can't smell them, you won't be able to taste them either.
The recipe is straightforward, but it does have a step not usually found in most cookie recipes. The dry ingredients need to be sifted. Sifting removes any lumps, helps blend ingredients and incorporates air which makes the ingredients lighter.
Over the years, friends have asked me how to tell if flour should be sifted before or after measuring. If a recipe calls for 2 cups sifted flour, it means to sift the flour before it's measured. If a recipe calls for 2 cups flour, sifted, it means to measure the flour before it's sifted.
Once the flour has been sifted and measured, I combine the remaining dry ingredients and sift them directly into the flour. I use a fork or wire whisk to blend all the dry ingredients together.
The dough is sticky so chill it in the refrigerator for an hour. This makes it easier to handle and shape into balls. Keep the dough refrigerated between batches.
and place 2-inches apart -- they spread -- on a cookie sheet.
When the cookies are done, leave them on the cookie sheet for about a minute and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies are great for a Christmas cookie swap because the recipe makes four dozen cookies. I also have it on good authority that Santa Claus likes finding a plate of these cookies and a glass of milk on Christmas Eve.