Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ginger molasses cookies

I've probably baked these cookies more than any other item in my life. While studying at Starbucks in law school about 10 years ago(!), I came across a chewy ginger cookie in the pastry case. I'd never had a ginger cookie before, save for a stale ginger snap offered by a classmate in elementary school which had basically turned me off of the entire institution. But the cookie behind the glass case at Starbucks looked so inviting - you could just tell it was going to be chewy and hearty. I fell in love with the cookie at first bite. It was everything that a generic ginger snap is not: fresh, moist, buttery, chewy, sweet, and paired with a glass of cold milk, possibly the best afternoon snack imaginable. I was instantly addicted.

I can be a bit OCD, so when I love something, I become absolutely obsessed with it. When I discover a new food that I love, I basically eat it again and again and again until I get sick of it. The problem was, I wasn't getting sick of the ginger cookie at Starbucks. And they were $2.75 a pop, and I was a poor law school student. So I decided one day that I was just going to learn how to make it at home.

It took a lot of trial and error. There are hundreds of recipes for ginger cookies out there, but I was very specific about what I wanted. It had to be thick and chewy. It had to have exactly the right combination of ginger, cinnamon and cloves. It had to have a rich molasses flavor that reminded me of the South (even though I'm not from the South).

I tinkered and tinkered with the recipe. My boyfriend at the time, who was the taste-tester for all my recipes, ate batch after batch happily, but still, I tinkered some more. The first time I finally got this recipe right was probably when the first seed of opening a bakery got planted in my mind. I wanted to share these cookies with everyone - friends, family, classmates, strangers. It's probably where I got the name for the bakery too, now that I think about it: love at first bite, because at least for me, it was.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon regular unsulphured molasses (Brer Rabbit or Grandma brand)

Granulated sugar (for coating cookie dough before baking) 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg together into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. With mixer on medium speed, beat in the egg and molasses, then increase the speed to high and beat about 1 minute longer, until the mixture no longer looks curdled. Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula several times while mixing.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and with a spatula mix together. You can also use an electric mixer on low speed, but make sure you have a large enough bowl or the flour will splatter. Mix until the flour is well incorporated and you have a sticky dough. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, which will help the dough firm up.
  5. Using a large spoon, scoop some of the batter into your hand and roll into a ball about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch thick, depending on how large you want your cookies. Roll the ball in a bowl of granulated sugar until fully covered with sugar, then place on cookie sheet. Make sure to space the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches apart, as they will spread a lot during baking. 
Bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookies have spread and are firm to the touch. Rotate the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven, sprinkle tops with more sugar and let the cookies cool on a baking sheet. 

 Put the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and sift together.
 Mix the butter, egg, brown sugar and molasses together. It will look curdled at first, but keep mixing.
 The butter-sugar-molasses mixture should look creamy and slightly fluffy when it's ready, as above.
 Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix together with a rubber spatula. The cookie dough will be sticky and a bit difficult to handle, but refrigerating for half an hour will firm it up and make it easier to form into balls.

After rolling the dough into balls, dip in granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet to bake.

 The finished cookie. Best eaten with a tall glass of ice cold milk.

General tips on baking:
- let your eggs and butter come to room temperature before using them, unless otherwise instructed.
- crack your eggs in a separate bowl before adding them to the butter. One stray eggshell can ruin an entire batch.
- when measuring drying ingredients, use a knife to level off the measuring cup so you get precisely the amount that the recipe calls for.
- use fresh ingredients - baking soda, baking flour, spices, flour can all go stale and ruin a recipe.
- mix your dry ingredients thoroughly first (I'm a huge fan of sifting, even if the recipe doesn't call for it).
- when making batter for cake, cream/mix the butter and sugar thoroughly until fluffy and creamy. You basically can't overmix at this point. The more you mix, the creamier and fluffier it will get.
- do NOT overmix the dry and wet ingredients together, or you will get a tough/chewy/non-fluffy cake.
- preheat the oven.
- invest in an oven thermometer.
- invest in a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of bowls.


  1. Wow, small world! Deborah! I have been looking for the perfect ginger molasses cookie. I've tried Martha's, a couple blogs but they were this morning I woke up and thought, "Maybe love at first bite had a cookie? least I know she had some awesome cupcakes!" So I googled it and found this site! Thanks for sharing your recipes that you worked so hard on..I will give this a try very soon. Hope you're doing well!

  2. Hi Eileen - hope you enjoy them! I retried this recipe in a home oven and found that 12 minutes is a tad too long - I would start watching the oven carefully after 10 minutes and take out when they still look barely done for a maximum chewy cookie.

  3. My last 10 minutes:

    1) See Paul's name in my gchat
    2) Reminisce about law school
    3) Wonder what Deborah Im is up to
    4) Google Deborah Im
    5) Find her LinkedIn page
    6) See link to the blog
    7) Find recipe I've wanted for 10 years!!!

    Hope you're doing well