Chocolate chip cookies have a well-deserved reputation as an “All American Classic,” but if you’re planning to put out a cookie plate this Fourth of July, try making these sweet molasses cookies, a treat that comes straight from our colonial ancestors.
Back in those days, sugar was a rare and expensive commodity, especially in the northern colonies where sugar cane didn’t grow. For sweetening, settlers often used honey or maple syrup - sugar had to be shipped from the Caribbean in blocks. The other option was to purchase a cheaper alternative: molasses, a thick, syrupy by-product of sugar.
By itself, molasses has a strong, smoky flavor. As your kids connect with our history, invite them to stick a fingertip into a small bowl of it, and give it a try. Don't be surprised if they find it a bit strange at first! But once they try these molasses cookies, they will definitely become fans. Even the most notorious of picky eaters will love these cookies and ask for more!
What You Do:
- Start by creaming the butter and sugar in a bowl until they are thoroughly combined. Then add the egg, buttermilk, and molasses. Mix everything thoroughly.
- Add the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and stir.
- Slowly mix in the flour and stir until just combined.
- Chill for 20 minutes, or until the dough is slightly stiff.
- To make cookies, form the dough into 1" balls and then dip the tops of the balls in a small dish of white sugar. Place them, sugar side up, on a nonstick cookie sheet, and use the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly.
- Bake the cookies 8-12 minutes at 350° or until they are golden brown and flat. The recipe makes about three dozen 2-inch cookies. Their tops will be sugary and they'll be chewy on the inside. The best part is, they will make your whole house smell delicious!
For an Extra Educational Twist:
Parents, you may notice that this recipe offers some handy practice with the mathematical concept of proportion! In this case, the butter, sugar, molasses, and buttermilk are all included in equal proportion, and each one is in 1:5 proportion with flour. So as you’re preparing your ingredients, don’t hesitate to play around with some math. Let’s say, for example, that your neighbor was making this recipe, and she wanted to adjust the recipe to use up one full cup of sugar. Knowing the laws of proportion, how much buttermilk, milk, and molasses does your child think your neighbor will be be using, and how much flour? (Answer: 1 cup each; 5 cups of flour—6 dozen delicious cookies!)
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school history and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.