Brow Beat

The Chewiest, Crackliest Molasses Cookies Have a Genius Little Secret

Crackled brown cookies.
Bobbi Lin

The secret to a pudgy molasses cookie with just the right amount of chew and sparkly crunch is so simple. It just had to start somewhere that Rose Levy Beranbaum didn’t want it to stay.

She’d received a recipe that made such a cookie with these ideal textures—but because it called for shortening, it lacked the rich, full oomph of butter. Simply swapping butter for shortening isn’t always as straightforward as it seems: While shortening is all fat, American-style butter typically has 15% water. That extra moisture wreaks havoc when you’re trying to land physical perfection. The chew fades, the handsome cracks disappear.

Of course Rose, legendary author of 11 (almost all baking) cookbooks, knew what to do. She simply bubbled the extra water away on the stovetop, as you do when you’re clarifying butter. Then, while she was at it, she kept going to brown the milk solids and make brown butter, because there are very few instances where this isn’t an improvement.

Though a gram-for-gram swap of browned butter for shortening worked as planned, Rose is famously curious and precise, so she kept tinkering and testing to make sure she had every detail just so: the proportions of ginger, clove, and cinnamon, the ideal chill time and ball size and sugar fineness. (“The finer the sugar, the finer the dough,” she says.)

Rolled dough balls, some of which are covered in sugar.
Bobbi Lin

“This is a recipe that took many tests to get the desired texture and cracks,” she wrote to me. “And along the way I discovered what will prevent the cracks which is moisture and temperature.” She documents every one of these details in her newest book Rose’s Baking Basics, so we all can have a failsafe recipe if we follow her—and the powers of understanding how it all works.

Even the name she gave it—much like her iconic Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte and All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake (Both in Genius Desserts, thanks for asking!)—is at once exactly descriptive and poetic, soothing: “Molasses Sugar Butter Cookies.” Just right for place you’ll want to stay.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Molasses Sugar Butter Cookies

• 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3/4 large egg
• 204 grams (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) bleached all-purpose flour
•1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 3/8 teaspoon ground ginger
• 125 grams superfine sugar
• 3 tablespoons (45 ml) light molasses, preferably Grandma’s brand
• 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, for rolling the dough balls (see Baking Pearls)

See the full recipe on Food52.

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