Sometimes I wish I lived in my friend Karrie Adamany’s neighborhood. That way I could go over to her place with my sketch pad and colored pencils for drawing night. Or at this time of year, for cookie night. For that, you bring your best cookie recipe and your best gossip and your exasperation with the demands of the holiday season. You skip out on gift shopping — you’re here to barter.
At Karrie’s cookie parties you could count on some meticulous crafty bossy types to bring cutouts and set up assembly lines too long for her Brooklyn apartment. There was some competitiveness: “Oh, Florentines. Of course!” A certain kind of baker, somebody with an agenda, might propose macaroons representing snowballs (instead of the proper buttery, nutty, confectioners’ sugar covered tea cakes like the ones in Carol Rizzoli’s recipe) and try to convert the “it’s a texture thing” holdouts. Inside information flowed: this is where I found out that ordinary people can just follow a recipe for François Payard’s crackly-shelled fudgy chocolate walnut cookies and be done with longing for the bakery itself.
Since everybody leaves a cookie party with the full array, every recipe is a keeper. But if you’re thinking of hosting one of these gatherings, a little advice: make something simple enough to allow you to tend bar while baking. Karrie’s molasses cookies are right for the occasion. They have all the warm spice flavors of a gingerbread person without the broken legs. They bake up into perfect sugar-coated circles for stacking into gift bags like so many poker chips. A dozen or so will fit in an 8-ounce canning jar to be given away as miniature “cookie jars.”
Karrie calls them “Chewy Molasses Cookies.” That’s what happens if you bake them until they’re just done, dry, not glossy on top but not yet going from golden to brown. I sometimes let them go a minute or two longer, though, on purpose, to make them crisp like you’d want a ginger snap to be. Either way, they’re butter-forward, so they taste fancier than they look. Santa likes them too — they’re so easy to grab on the fly.
CHEWY (OR CRISP) MOLASSES COOKIES
Makes 7 dozen
2 cups flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. fine salt
1 cup sugar, plus ½ cup for rolling
6 oz. butter (one and a half sticks)
1 large egg
¼ cup unsulfured molasses (you’ll be sorry if you use the health food kind for these)
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Put the half cup of sugar into a wide bowl for rolling the dough in later and set aside.
- With an electric mixer, beat the one cup of sugar with the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and molasses. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, beating just until a dough forms.
- Put the bowl of dough in the fridge for a few minutes while you preheat oven to 350° F for baking. Then, using one level teaspoon per cookie, roll the dough into balls and roll the balls in the reserved sugar to coat.
- Place the sugar-coated balls on a baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake until the edges are firm and they are just done, 10 to 12 minutes for chewy cookies. Bake a minute or two longer for crisp ones.