In the past few years I have decided that one of the major advantages of adulthood is freedom to bake. Maybe you don’t have long, lazy summer vacations any more, and maybe you miss slumber parties, but you can make cookies any time you please, and you can sneak as much raw dough as you like.
(Some of you may have had baking freedom as children, but no one in my family was overly friendly with the oven. In fact, my sister and I once adventurously made a batch of cookies while my parents were out, and the reward for our intrepidness was an oven floor covered with dough that was literally blazing, having spilled off the baking sheet. We turned off the oven and let the fire burn itself out, but the lesson we learned about the dangers of following your sweet tooth was not so quick to die.)
Baking cookies makes me feel as carefree and mischievous as a child and as powerful and self-determined as a woman. They’re so easy: crave a cookie at 9pm on a lazy Sunday and you can have a freshly-baked specimen in your hand by 10. Maybe they’re too easy: when I bake a really good batch, I feel obliged (in a life-is-short kind of way) to give in and eat as many as I want. But somehow the mediocre batches seem to disappear pretty quickly, too, and it isn’t all Andrew’s doing.
I have a secret, actually: I’ve started eating cookies in the middle of the night. This is New York, and my kitchen is one wall of the living room, which is also the only room. Essentially we live in a kitchen from which a bed is separated by French doors. When I wake up in the middle of the night and stumble across the apartment to the bathroom, I cannot avoid passing the cookie jar. Sleepily scarfing one down before falling back into bed somehow seems less crazy in the dreamy dark, however sheepish I feel in the morning. I wish I could blame this on Ambien or some other drug, but it’s just acute cookie madness. And let me tell you, my tummy is not looking so acute any more. I’m going to give you a wonderful cookie recipe, but please exercise your right to bake responsibly. Bakers with little willpower, beware!
Mary Jones from Cleveland’s Molasses Cookies
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Makes about 20 big cookies
These are big, flat, soft, and spicy, just like the Archway molasses cookies I loved as a child and gave up in my 20s because they were full of transfats and other nasty things. I was first thrilled to find the recipe in Suzanne Goin’s reliably wonderful cookbook and then shocked to see that it calls for shortening, which I just don’t use. I had learned from America’s Test Kitchen that creaming sugar with melted and cooled butter (instead of merely softened, room-temperature butter) yields a cookie that is chewy instead of crisp, and so I substituted melted butter for the shortening. The results are outstanding.
-Preheat oven to 325. Melt a stick of butter (1/2 cup) and allow it to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
And then stir in ½ tsp salt.
-Cream together ¼ cup molasses, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 extra large egg, and the melted butter. (Suzanne Goin recommends 3 minutes on medium in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, but my stand mixer is too inconveniently stored to haul out for something as easy as cookies. I use the handheld mixer and beat for 3 minutes on high.) Mix in half the dry ingredients on low speed; scrape down the sides; and mix in the rest of the dry ingredients.
-Chill the dough for 15 minutes. Suzanne Goin rolls the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and uses a cookie cutter, because her cookies are destined for ice cream sandwiches. I can’t be bothered with this and instead deposit 1.5 tablespoon lumps of dough on two parchment paper lined baking sheets, then flatten them to about ¼ inch with the bottom of a glass dipped in water. Sprinkle with turbinado or granulated sugar and bake 12 or 13 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your cookies.