If you couldn’t tell from many of the recipes on this blog, I love to bake and I struggle throughout the year trying to balance the sweet treats with savory and/or healthier recipes. But from Thanksgiving to New Years Day all that falls away and I embrace what I like to call “baking season”. I don’t put restrictions on myself, I don’t worry about calories, I just let loose and make whatever I want and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about anything I eat. It’s my yearly Christmas present to myself.
Cookies are my favorite thing to make during the holiday season and I think I’ve been mentally saving up because I haven’t posted any cookie recipes here since May. So when I heard about the Food Blogger Cookie Swap I immediately signed up. I’d be making cookies anyway so why not share some of them with others?
The thing I didn’t factor in was how difficult it would be to find a good cookie recipe! The main issue was finding cookies that could travel well and that would keep for at least a week. Maybe others didn’t have any trouble with this and I was just being crazy but it took me weeks to find a recipe that worked. The upside is that my boyfriend’s coworkers love me now since I sent all those trial cookies into work with him.
These molasses spice cookies were actually a last minute find. I had pretty much decided on a whole different recipe but a couple days before they needed to be shipped I found a recipe for cookies with Orange Sugar. That sounded so good that I just had to try it immediately. And honestly, the first time I tried the orange sugar it was like one of those the-skies-open-up-and-angels-are-singing type moments. Have you ever had those chewy orange slice-shaped candies that are covered in sugar? That’s exactly what this sugar tastes like. That’s probably my favorite candy so now that I’ve discovered how easy it is to make it’s hard not to sprinkle orange sugar on everything. I’ve already made cranberry muffins with it on top. Yum!
Unfortunately, the actual cookies that the orange sugar was sprinkled on wound up being temperamental and actually tasted worse the next day. But there was no going back, I had to make cookies with this orange sugar now! Thanks to Martha Stewart I found a cookie recipe that I was able to adapt to complement the delicious sugar topping. I minimized some of the spices (mostly ginger) so that the molasses flavor would shine through. Orange and molasses may just be my favorite new flavor combination. I have another recipe for molasses spice cookies that I posted years back, but these are quite different since they’re rolled out. They’re slightly crispy around the edges but soft and chewy in the middle. The sugar adds a nice crispy topping to bite into, like little orange flavor crystals that explode in your mouth. These cookies keep their shape well, too. I hate going to the trouble of rolling and cutting cookies only to have them turn into blobs in the oven.
I adore these cookies and the feedback I got from Brandon’s coworkers and one of my cookie swap recipients has been very positive which makes me very happy after weeks of worrying. But the best part about a cookie swap is that I also got three dozen cookies from three very awesome ladies. Brandon and I have been gleefully stuffing them in our faces this past week. Amber from Amber’s Confections sent chocolate cookies covered in powdered sugar. Beth from Eat.Drink.Smile sent Chunky Chocolate Gobs, which are chocolate cookies filled with chocolate chips and chunks of Mounds candy bars. And Leslie from My Kitchen is Open sent Dark Chocolate Cafenela Cookies which are a variation of chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon, coffee and pecans. Check them out! Trust me, you’ll want to try those cookies!
I’d also like to give a shout out to the ladies I sent my cookies to: Deanna from Silly Goose Farm, Tanvi at The Hathi Cooks and Annalise at Completely Delicious. I don’t know what kind of cookies they made yet, but I will definitely be checking out their Cookie Swap posts to see!
Finally, if the Food Blogger Cookie Swap sounds like fun to you and you didn’t get a chance to sign up this year, I encourage you to subscribe to their announcement list now so that you’ll be notified when you can sign up for the cookie swap next year! Even though it was a bit stressful trying to find the best cookie recipe (and then worrying how it would be received) I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Sugar
Dessert, Cookies | Yield: about 3 dozen cookies, depending on size
Prep time: 1 hour | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 2 hours 30 min
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 cup (4 oz. – 1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- Zest of 3 large oranges*
*The oranges should be very finely zested, you don’t want to be biting into giant pieces of orange peel. A fine microplane grater works best.
- Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Put butter and brown sugar in a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium until fluffy.
- Add the egg and molasses and mix until combined.
- Add in the flour mixture and mix on low until well incorporated.
- Divide dough into two disks and wrap each disk in plastic. Freeze for one hour or chill in the fridge several hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line two large baking sheets with parchment.
- Put turbinado sugar in a medium bowl. Add orange zest and use your fingers to incorporate it into the sugar. Set aside. You may want to lick your fingers at this point and that’s totally ok. 🙂
- Roll out one disk of dough on a very well floured surface. To make sure the dough doesn’t stick, roll it out to about an inch thick. Pick it up and sprinkle a bit more flour in the spot where it had been sitting. Flip the dough over and continue rolling to just under 1/4-inch thick.
- Use the cookie cutters of your choice to cut out shapes in the dough. Cut them as close as possible to minimize the amount of times you will need to re-roll the dough. (As more and more flour gets incorporated it starts affecting the taste and texture of the cookies.) Transfer to the baking sheet, about one inch apart. (If any of them stick to the counter, a thin metal spatula or knife slid underneath should easily free them.) When one baking sheet is full, transfer the whole sheet to your freezer to sit for about 15 minutes (or about how long it takes to fill up the other sheet with cookies). Gather up the leftover dough into a ball and place it back into the freezer. Take out your other ball of dough and repeat the process all over again.
- Take the sheet of cookies out of the freezer and sprinkle each cookie generously with the orange sugar.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or just until starting to crisp around the edges. Transfer cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.
Note: You’ll need to keep repeating the roll-cut-freeze-bake process until you’ve used up all of the dough. It’s pretty easy to get into a rhythm with this as long as you have at least two large baking sheets (though more would be better) and can work on another sheet while the first is freezing/baking. Since I didn’t want newly cut cookies on a hot baking sheet, I let the sheets cool for a few minutes after they came out of the oven and then put them in the freezer to cool off quickly.
Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.