Every Christmas, my mother made batches of soft molasses cookies with sweet vanilla frosting on top. Talk about sugarplum fairies — these were the cookies of my dreams.
You can make a chocolate chip cookie all year long and still love it. But there’s something to be said for pulling out a cookie recipe once a year, waiting 11 long months to taste the magic dance of molasses and ginger again. Those cookies my mother made were worth it.
That cookie you see? It’s not my mother’s cookie.
For years, I’ve been wanting to convert that cookie, which was my grandmother’s recipe. My grandmother wasn’t much of a baker — in fact, I don’t remember her making a single thing — but my mother used to pull out a 3x5 card every December and make her mother’s recipe written in spidery light blue ink. It must have been from a magazine. Or maybe my grandmother’s mother? I don’t know where that recipe came from but it made delicious cookies.
However, my mother can’t find the recipe. The other day she told me, “I know it’s in a recipe tin, somewhere in the studio.” Ironically for me, the tin was an advertisement for Shredded Wheat. (I remember it well.) Once again, I couldn’t make that cookie.
So I made up my own.
I probably didn’t need another Christmas cookie on this site. After all, we have plenty of holiday cookies for you already:
With all these cookies, no one could go hungry. We love all of those treats we made in the past. We’ll be making some again this December.
And here’s an interesting dilemma I’ve been facing lately: how to convert my own cookies.
You see, until this year, I made all my gluten-free baked goods with xanthan and guar gum. As I have written about before, I can only take those gums in small doses now. Most of the time, I turn them down. I’m certainly not going to buy bags of them just to make holiday cookies. However, I want my rolled-out sugar cookies too. What to do?
Luckily, it’s easy. I’ve been playing for the past few weeks, and I can give you a good answer.
If you see 1 tablespoon of gums in a recipe (2 teaspoons of xanthan + 1 teaspoon of guar gum, for example), simply replace that with 1 tablespoon of ground chia, ground flaxseed, or psyllium husk.
Xanthan and guar gum suck up water in a baked good. Since those recipes were created with xanthan and guar, if you simply take them out, the batter will be too wet. If you are a confident baker, you can throw in a little more flour until the cookie dough feels right. If not, then add chia, flaxseed, or psyllium. You don’t even have to make slurries out of them. Just toss in 1 tablespoon of chia as a dry ingredient.
As far as I can tell, they work almost interchangeably. Chia leaves dark flecks so you might not like it in a sugar cookie. Golden flax and psyllium blend in. That might influence your decision. Or, you might just use whatever you have in the house.
(Lately, I’ve been grinding up a big batch of chia seeds in the spice grinder once a week then keeping the ground chia in the refrigerator for easy use throughout the week.)
Better news yet? Every baked good I have made without xanthan gum or guar gum is better for its absence.
So take a look at those old recipes and adapt. No need to lose them. Just play.
Still, even with all those good recipes for holiday cookies, I wanted my soft molasses cookies.
Luckily, it’s time again for the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally. If you haven’t joined our rally yet, you should know that the GF Ratio Rally is a band of bakers around the world who are fascinated with baking and the science of it all. Each month, we choose a shared baked good, figure out the ratio, and make our own variations, gluten-free. (This month, the rally was hosted by Caroline at the G-Spot Revolution.)
The classic ratio for simple cookies is this:
1 part sugar
2 parts fat
3 parts flours
Now, here is what you must understand: this does not work in cups. As I have written before, cups are miserably inaccurate. The ratios only work in ounces or grams, in weight.
If you think in ounces, this seems simpler:
2 ounces sugar
4 ounces fat
6 ounces flours
However, if you do this in grams, the baking will be even more precise:
60 grams sugar
120 grams fat
180 grams flours
A recipe created from this ratio makes 1 dozen cookies. If you want more, as we do during the holidays to give away, or make larger cookies, then you need to multiply. Luckily, because you have done this in grams, it’s easy to double or triple these cookies. In the case of these soft molasses cookies, we have multiplied by 2.5.
So, if you want to make up your own cookie, you have to create a backbone before you begin putting on flesh. For this cookie, I chose
150 grams sugar
300 grams butter
450 grams flour
Work with this ratio and you can make any cookie you want. Want a lemon sugar cookie? Add lemon zest, a touch of lemon juice, baking powder, salt, and eggs. You have a lemon cookie. Want a chocolate peppermint cookie? Add peppermint extract, cocoa powder, plus the baking powder, salt, and eggs. Do you see how it works? Make a structure that works and then finish it with your own flavors.
Suddenly, you’re no longer making your grandmother’s cookies. You’re making your own. But you know those cookies work because you are basing them on a ratio that has been used for centuries, by bakers around the world, whether or not they were using gluten.
And these molasses cookies? They are different than the ones my mother made. I think they might be better, at least for my taste. With three kinds of ginger, big dollops of molasses, and flours I can eat safely? These are the ones I’ll be eating this season.
Mostly, it makes me happy to think that someday Lu will remember these cookies fondly as the ones her mama made every December.
Want to check out the other cookies that came from the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally? Of course you do!
Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple | Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! | Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] | Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free | Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery | Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom | Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure | Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat | Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love | Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes | Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine | Basler Brunsli
Jonathan| The Canary Files | Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! | Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen | Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes | Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan | Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty | Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri| Stevia Sweetened & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem| Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook | Melomakarona
Shauna | Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef | Soft Molasses Cookies
Silvana Nardone | Silvana’s Kitchen |Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara | A Baking Life | Walnut Shortbread
GINGERY SOFT MOLASSES COOKIES
These spicy, gingery soft molasses cookies will probably be the taste of this holiday season for me. Several friends tried them yesterday and declared them the best molasses cookie they have ever eaten. “And I don’t even like molasses cookies!” (One of them nearly fought the other one for a cookie!) There are several secrets to this cookie, apart from following the baking ratio for a good cookie.
Molasses. People, this is a molasses cookie. Don’t shy away from the dark stuff. Too many molasses cookies have only the faintest hint of dark unsulphured molasses through the sheen of sweetness. This cookie is laden with molasses, made better by it. There’s no hiding it here. These cookies are only faintly sweet for all that darkness, so if you want more sweetness, think about icing them.
Also, ginger. I’m a ginger fiend. Clearly, Lu is becoming one too because she chose these cookies over two other kinds offered. Here we used every kind of ginger in the kitchen: powdered, fresh grated, and crystallized. If you want a milder cookie, you could leave out the grated and crystallized ginger. But really, why?
I’ve specified the grams of flour here, rather than the specific flours, because we know so many of you like to use your own mix of flours. It should work, no matter what kind of flours you have in your kitchen when you make these. However, if you want to know what we used? Sorghum, potato starch, sweet rice, and teff, in equal portions. Also, some of the cookies we baked collapsed just a bit in the center, as though a small child had touched each of them. If you are worried about that, add a teaspoon of psyllium or ground chia into the batter to add more structure.
As hard as it is to wait, this dough is too soft and sticky to bake it immediately after the mixer turns off. Refrigerate it overnight. Trust us.
450 grams gluten-free flours
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground chia or psyllium husk (optional)
300 grams butter, at room temperature
150 grams sugar
170 grams molasses
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
100 grams crystallized ginger, cut into small pieces
½ cup raw sugar
Combining the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. (If you are using chia or psyllium, throw it in here too.) Whisk all the ingredients together until they are one color. Set aside.
Creaming the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together until they are fluffy and creamy. With the mixer running, add the molasses, then the fresh ginger. Add one egg at a time, mixing between each egg, until both are fully incorporated into the batter.
Finishing the batter. Add the dry ingredients slowly, about ¼ of the volume at a time. When the flour has completely disappeared into the batter, fold the crystallized ginger into the batter with a rubber spatula.
Refrigerating the dough. Refrigerate the dough overnight.
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop some dough — about 45 grams’ worth— out of the bowl and roll it into a smooth ball. Roll the ball of dough in the raw sugar to coat. Put the ball of dough onto the baking sheet. Gently, press the ball down with the palm of your hand until it’s a small chubby disk. Keeping the balls of dough at least 2 inches apart, continue with the dough until the baking sheet is filled.
Bake the cookies until the edges are crisp and the middle of the cookies is lightly firm without being crisp, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies rest on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Refrain from eating them until they are cool to the touch.
Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie you make.