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Sugar High Friday, or Long-Distance Ginger-Molasses Cookies for Kate

More often than not, Orangette is just a fancy cover for what might be more appropriately titled “The Molly-and-Her-Friends Show,” or “What We Ate, How Ridiculous We Were, and How Much We Adore Each Other Because of and/or Despite Our Ridiculousness.” Lately, however, it’s been a little quieter than usual around here. A principal cast member is missing, and that would be Kate—she of the pointy red heels, long-distance bike rides, winning-hearts-and-minds cakes, broken French, early-morning bread-baking, gin and tonics on the 18th floor, mussels with crabs, and the vacuum cleaner with a hip-hop low-ride shag setting.

About three weeks ago, Kate packed up nearly all of her worldly possessions and jetted off to India on a six-week business trip. When not slaving away, she’s petting elephants outside her hotel (“They are so leathery and sweet and misty-eyed and hUGE!”) and pounding the pavement in her practical but less chic Easy Spirit heels. She’s having coffee in a “pre-independence coffee shop—beautiful wood, leather, simple tables, white long apron on lanky legs and dust swirling in the sun—with dusty clientele sipping their excellent coffee and milk, discussing politics and religion for hours.” And she’s running in a park that’s “beautiful and enormous, with trees dropping pools of flowers that perfume everything and make it look as though brightly colored light is pouring up through the ground at the base of each tree.” Now, certainly, all of this is very nice, and it’s lovely to live vicariously through her letters. But really, it’s not okay.

There’s no one, for instance, to make sure that I’m getting my weekly quota of whipped cream, and there is no vacuum to borrow, low-ride or otherwise. Though Kate left me with custody of her Otis Redding CD and the remains of a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, cocktail hour is somehow lacking. And my visits to Victrola Coffee—where we’ve been known to stage riots if the outrageously delicious Macrina ginger-molasses cookies are sold out—are much less gossipy, much more productive, and no fun at all. If this continues, you may soon find “The Molly-and-Her-Friends Show” shelved with the dramas, rather than the comedies. I may also get very skinny and very sober.

But you know me better than that. Rather than mope and starve, I bake. Last Monday, in honor of Kate’s 26th birthday, I gave myself The Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook, which happens to hold within its very pretty covers the recipe for our coveted cookies. That night, there was no drama and there were no riots, and instead there were gin and tonics and ginger-molasses cookies—dark and spicy, cakey and buttery, with a crisp, sugar-coated edge.

Though perhaps better dipped in milk than in Bombay (Sapphire), they filled my apartment with a perfume strong, delicious, and exotic enough to, I’m sure, be confused with that of the loveliest flowering tree in a park in Bangalore. Soon, Kate can tell me for herself.
Happy (belated) birthday, ma petite!

Ginger-Molasses Cookies
Adapted from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook: Favorite Breads, Pastries, Sweets & Savories

When I e-mailed Kate to tell her that I’d bought this cookbook, she replied, “Jesus, you're adorable. I’m going to have to take a week off and lock myself indoors with it.” And with good reason: Macrina Bakery produces some of the most delicious cookies, crostatas, and breads (especially challah and baguettes) in the city. These cookies may look down-home, but with a kick of pungent molasses and piquant ginger, they’re really very sophisticated.

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
½ cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature (preferably a non-trans-fat brand such as Spectrum)
6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups light brown sugar (I used muscovado for its extra perfumey-ness)
2 eggs
2 tsp peeled and grated ginger
1/3 cup molasses
½ cup granulated sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt, and mix with a whisk to evenly blend. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl and with electric beaters, cream the shortening, butter, and brown sugar until smooth and pale in color. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the ginger and molasses, and mix to blend well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

Using a rubber spatula, fold half of the flour mixture into the wet mixture. After the first half is incorporated, add the remaining flour, and continue folding gently until all of the flour has been absorbed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. [At this point, the dough can hold for up to 4 days.]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner. Pour the granulated sugar into a pie pan or shallow bowl.

When the dough is solid and cool enough to handle without horrible sticking, scoop it out of the bowl and roll it into balls a scant 2 inches in diameter. Toss each of the balls gently in the sugar, and then place them on the baking sheet (you should be able to fit eight on a single sheet), leaving 3 inches between each ball. Bake cookies on the center rack of the oven for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown and slightly puffed. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before transferring to a rack. Repeat with two more sheets of cookies.

Yield: About 22 cookies.


Anonymous Viv said...

Ahh, Molly! Yet another lovely story, scrumptious photo and one more reason why yours is one of my favorite blogs anywhere. Viv

12:14 PM, April 22, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

If I had a ginger-molasses cookie for every friend I wish were closer, I'd have a much fuller figure. I'd probably also be just the teensiest bit glad that they weren't around because if they were, I'd have to share.

These look and sound perfect.

12:37 PM, April 22, 2005  
Blogger TanTian said...

I like the idea of buying yourself a present in honor of the absent birthday child! Although I think I would get melancholy thinking about how so many of my nearest and dearest are actually very far from me these days. (Hello there Amylou!) The cookies look delicious, but probably could't survive a trip to India. (What's does Kate do that requires trips abroad? I'm jealous!)

1:18 PM, April 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi molly, i'm a new reader and i love your recipes, posts, and photos! (and jimmy...you think he'll adopt me?) my girlfriends and i spent a weekend in seattle last month and loved it. i'm so jealous you can just go to the pike place market any time!


3:09 PM, April 22, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Well, thank you, Viv! Ours is a very good city for bon vivants, no?

Amy, I think you'd really like these. Can you get molasses over there? Maybe it's time to start working on that fuller figure...

And TanTian, to answer your question, hmmm, I'm not sure I can properly explain what Kate does. The short answer is that she works for a nonprofit organization that, to crib from its website, helps "the world’s poorest people to improve their lives through microfinance. [We work to] unleash the power of microcredit, helping microfinance institutions reach millions more people." That probably doesn't help, does it?

And liv, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Glad to hear that Seattle treated you well...

4:24 PM, April 22, 2005  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

I still do, and probably always will, love your writing Molly. Now, just one question: how can I, on this side of the ocean put my little paws on a copy of that book? Sounds like a must-have! Does the book have pictures, and if so, are they anything like yours? Those cookies look awesome! Okay, that was several questions...

4:27 PM, April 22, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

Molly - How sweet of you to bake in honor of your friend's birthday! But I take issue with the chic-ness of Easy Spirit. Practical can be chic (at least, that's what I tell myself).

5:35 PM, April 22, 2005  
Anonymous emb said...

Dear Orangette,
I have just found you. I am hooked. On Sunday I try out the eggs and leeks on toast, on friends who do not like to eat meat. And I have half a fancy to attempt the gorgeousness of the ginger cookies described above. As I mentioned I have only just found you so would you/could you suggest alternatives?


6:29 PM, April 22, 2005  
Blogger Cathy said...

What lovely cookies - I must check out that book...

7:18 PM, April 22, 2005  
Anonymous Julie said...

Molly, these are clearly a gorgeous cookie. I love all kinds of cookies: crisp, chewy, you name it...but sometimes I have a hankering for something cakey with a crisp edge, which isn't easy to find. These look perfect -- especially since I have some light muscovado sugar in the pantry just begging to be used...

8:37 AM, April 23, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cherie! ma petite bibichou, ma biche, comme je t'adore! i am just winding down from a steamy afternoon of financial modelling and a surprisingly confidence-inspiring motorcycle ride through Hyderabad. i love you and your beautiful stack of cookies- they look even more perfect than our last batch (is it possible)?! thank you thank you for the dedication, and never fear- we will celebrate belated birthdays and homecomings sooner than you can say tikka masala. a bien tot, sweet pea!


9:09 AM, April 23, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Hmmm, Zarah Maria, I'm not sure how you can get a copy of the cookbook. Does Amazon or anything similar operate in Denmark? Hmmm. As for photos, I'm sorry to say that there aren't too many--and they're all all black and white and small. Hmph! But the recipes are spectacular.

Nic., as for Easy Spirits, Kate's really are quite chic, actually. Little black round-toed heels. It's just the *idea* of Easy Spirits that is bad, really.

E, your Sunday sounds delicious! As for other suggestions, hmmm, well, I love everything I write about, so I'm hard-pressed to choose favorites. Have you checked out my recipe index?

Cathy, yes, go look at the book. It has some great bread recipes as well, and I also adore their chocolate and apricot cookies. Mmmm.

Julie, let me know what you think! And three cheers for muscovado!

And Kate, ma fourchette preferee, je suis tellement contente de te trouver ici! Je peux bien t'imaginer sur une moto...c'etait le "700-lb hog," non? Je peux toujours compter sur toi pour rapporter des droles d'histoires. Je t'adore, comme d'habitude.

12:59 PM, April 23, 2005  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

Guess I'm not the sharpest knife in the knife block - Geez! I never realized it was linked, and yes, amazon delivers in Denmark - unfortunately? Fortunately? :-) Thank you for pointing me in the right direction Molly, it's on my wishlist now, despite the "missing" pictures in it - guess I can just stop by here and have a look at the finished results!

2:36 AM, April 24, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have been reading your blog for several weeks now and adore your writing, yummy recipes and spectacular pictures. I'm a placement director for a culinary school in the Southeast and have several students interested in food styling and journalism. I have encouraged them to look to your blog as an example of incredible writing and delightful, intriguing pictures that rival some of the best professional chef mags out there. Keep up the good work and inspiring the chefs of tomorrow!


5:34 AM, April 24, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Zarah Maria, I'm glad we got that straightened out, and how terrific that Amazon delivers in Denmark!

And Suzanne, thank you so, so much for your very generous compliments! I'm honored to know that your students are reading Orangette. This site truly is a labor of love, and the payoffs have been greater that I would have ever dared to imagine!

10:51 AM, April 24, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly, can I just tell you that I am so pleased you don't participate in the themed food blog events? After scrolling (more like scanning) through other blogs, I'm always so happy to come back to your originality. (And not have to read about oranges again.)

3:41 PM, April 26, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, Anonymous! Funny, though...this post was actually part of Sugar High Fridays, one of those food-blogging events! I don't take part in many of them, but occasionally they call for an ingredient or a technique that I want to play with anyway, such as this case. But no matter what I'm writing about, or what I'm writing for, I try to keep my "storyline" in the fore, as opposed to, say, the themed event that may have inspired the post. Either way, thank you for the generous compliment!

11:24 PM, April 27, 2005  
Blogger lulu said...

I know it's been a month since you posted the recipe for these cookies, but I just tried this today. WONDERFUL! My husband - who usually only eats cookies he knows and knows he'll like - ate a bunch right out of the oven! :) Thanks

10:30 PM, May 25, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Lulu, I'm so glad to hear it! Your husband obviously has very good taste.

9:59 AM, June 01, 2005  
Blogger C xx said...

So very late to this party, but I wanted to thank you for this recipe...these cookies are amazing. I've had requests from friends, wanting me to make them a batch. I've started using them to make ice cream sandwiches...very very nice. Thanks!

10:22 PM, October 17, 2008  
Blogger Ronda said...

Molly, I had one of these cookies at your book signing today on Orcas Island. I was told it was a Macrina Bakery recipe. My favorite ginger cookie recipe is from the now closed Stars restaurant in SF. I could have sworn it was the same recipe. I had the ginger cookies at Stars,warm out of the oven, and immediately went out an bought Emily Luchetti's Stars Desserts cookbook. OK, why am I telling you this? I now feel I need to have a ginger cookie bakeoff!

8:33 PM, April 12, 2010  

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