Friday, July 12, 2013

{vegan} Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies always make me feel like Christmas. Much like the chilly nights we're experiencing in Sydney at the moment. The first year I lived in Australia, I realized one day in the middle of July that I was humming Christmas music in my head. It startled me to think how closely my subconscious related cold weather with my favorite holiday season. I had experienced plenty of cold, non-Christmas weather living in England, but somehow mid-July in Sydney got me into the yuletide spirit.

My mother makes molasses cookies and apricot preserves to give away every Christmas. All through the fall months, the freezer would gradually fill with tins of frozen cookies, and jars of apricot preserves would take up copious amounts of room on the fridge shelves. My siblings and I would sneak into the freezer and pull cookies from various tins, carefully rearranging my mother's perfectly placed cookies so that the recipient wouldn't realize they hadn't received a full batch (mom could always tell we'd stolen a couple). To this day, they're one of the only desserts besides ice cream that I will eat frozen.
{vegan} molasses cookies @ Southern Spoon blog
spiced molasses cookies: vegan & delightful
This is a lightened up and vegan version of my mother's recipe, which I think originated in an Atlanta Junior League cookbook. It's a small batch, so double it up if you're baking for a crowd. I've used oil instead of Crisco vegetable shortening because it allows you to cut the fat in half, and because Crisco is hard to come by in Australia (and I've learned through expat experience that if you aren't going to use Crisco as your shortening, don't bother trying anything else). Instead of an egg, this recipe features ground flaxseed mixed with water. I've also cut the sugar in half, and incorporated some whole wheat flour, which holds up well in this bold-flavored cookie. If you don't like cloves, use a little less than a 1/2 teaspoon, but don't cut them out completely. The spice mixture really is key, but make sure it's well blended into the flour before you mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
{vegan} molasses cookies @ Southern Spoon blog
warm molasses cookies with not-so-vegan vanilla ice cream
These are delicious served on their own or tucked into a scoop of vanilla ice cream (the hubs' pick). They make a great holiday gift, and they travel well. My best friend's little brother decided these were his favorite cookie many years ago when my mother began gifting them for Christmas. When he served in Afghanistan, his mother got the recipe from mine and sent out regular deliveries of molasses cookies. What a comfort it can be to experience tastes and smells that immediately recall memories of family, home, and the many things in life worth fighting for. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you treasure old family food traditions even as you create your own.

{vegan} Molasses Cookies
12 cookies

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon oil (I use rice bran oil or olive oil)
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw sugar (divided use)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed reconstituted with 2 tablespoons warm water
1 cup flour (I use half all-purpose or spelt flour and half whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of freshly ground sea salt

In a large bowl, mix the oil, molasses, and 1/4 cup raw sugar until well blended. Add the flaxseed which has been reconstituted by the water, and mix until well blended. 

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Mix thoroughly until combined. 

Pour the flour mixture into the molasses mixture, and stir well until combined. Chill dough in the fridge for at least 40 minutes, or up to 12 hours.

Roll the dough into balls of about 1-inch diameter. Roll each dough portion in the remaining 2 tablespoons of raw sugar, coating evenly. Place on cookie sheets, leaving at least 3 inches between each dough portion. Bake at 277C/ 350F for 8-10 minutes, until cookies have spread out to about 2 inches in diameter and are crackled on top. 

Remove from oven and wait for one minute before removing cookies. Allow the cookies to firm up a bit by cooling for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, or frozen for 3 months.

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