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Ladies Home Masala

My mother has been feeling a little down, lately, and when she mentioned a yearning for molasses cookies, I jumped at the chance to cheer her up at least a little. (I personally loathe and despise molasses cookies, and would be even more depressed to receive a box of them. But I digress). Looking through my cookbooks I found all sorts of tarted-up variations, but I knew that what she wanted was the kind of plain, honest, cookie that she remembered from childhood. Lacking any resources from her youth, I turned to one from mine – the 1963 edition of the Ladies’ Home Journal Cookbook which I “borrowed” from my parents’ house about seven years ago.

As I had suspected, this vintage beauty was the kind of cookbook that had, not only a recipe for molasses cookies, but for molasses bars, custard, milk, popcorn balls, praline creams, praline ice cream and taffy. Whew! It also had some kickass technicolor pictures, which I am including mainly because I did not take pictures of the cookies (for reasons I will disclose in the fullness of time) and have cavalierly promised to start taking pictures and including them in my posts.

When it came time to do the actual baking, I discovered that I had no ginger. The recipe calls for both cinnamon and ginger, and although I had a brand new bottle of Saigon Cinnamon, there was no ginger, dried, fresh or even crystallized. The proverbial light bulb went off in my head (the energy saving kind, of course) and I remembered that Garam Masala was made up of cinnamon and ginger, among other things; I have quite a lot of that, fresh, homemade and aromatic. My mixture also happens to include bay leaves and black pepper, but I thought of pfeferneusse cookies and decided to take the plunge. In place of the separate cinnamon and ginger I added two teaspoons of Garam Masala. The cookies were fantastic, if I do say so myself. They were soft, and a little spicy, but it certainly wasn’t as if one were eating curried molasses cookies. It just all worked together for the greatest possible good. I did not photograph the cookies because I made them “dropped” rather than rolled, and they were pretty ugly. Next time I cook someting and believe that seeing a photographic representation will cause you all to lose control, run to the store for ingredients, and make your own, I’ll take a picture. This was not that.

Molasses Cookies – Traditional or Masala

(Adapted from Ladies’ Home Journal Cookbook, 1962 edition)

  1. 1 cup butter
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 cup molasses
  5. 1 teaspoon ginger
  6. 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or replace 5 & 6 with 2 teaspoons Garam Masala)
  7. 3 1/2 cups flour
  8. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/2 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, molasses, ginger and cinnamon (or Garam Masala).

Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt.

Add the sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the cold water.

Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, parchment paper or silicone baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. These may also be rolled and cut with a cookie cutter (if you are out of your mind), but you will need to add a little more flour and chill the dough as its quite sticky.

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

15 responses »

  1. re; photos. you could have piled them all on a plate and taken them from a weird angle…

    just a little suggestion. sometimes delicious food is not beautiful but it still is worthy of a pic! a pile of cookies is rarely a nasty sight to anyone, despite any and all imperfections!

  2. they DO sound great, and I happen to agree with claudia (cook eat FRET) that you should have taken picture(s) anyway. You don’t have to post every picture you take. Just download them all to your computer and pick your favorite. Digital pictures have the advantage of being lit from behind instead of face-on. This seems to make even mediocre pictures better than they really are.

  3. OK, I am totally intrigued. I need to find a source of garam masala, just to try the cookies.

  4. When I was a little girl, my grandmother made molasses cookies. I can remember thinking I didn’t understand why she ruined perfectly good cookies with that horrible tasting molasses.

    Eric Williams sent me to this site, so he gets the credit… right???

  5. I totally hate molasses and this proves to me that I am indeed a compulsive person….I’m going to give this recipe a try. You have convinced me!

    Give Jayedee credit for sending me your way.

  6. Annie ~ I hope that your cookies helped brighten your mom’s day. You are a good daughter! junemoon

  7. these are wonderful! i just pulled the last tray of them out of my oven and my house smells heavenly!

    i had to tweak it a bit though. i needed nearly an extra cup of flour, probably due to our horrible humidity today. i also criss crossed them with a fork and sprinkled them with a bit of sugar. the men around here can never have too much sugar lol

  8. Ann,
    When you come to San Francisco, you have to go with us to this place

    If paradise can be found on an oyster shell, this is where to go.

  9. claudia, they were actually pretty good – I think the change in spice somehow made them less icky-molasses-y for me.

    Eric, I think that you and claudia know each other secretly and are conspiring to force me to take pictures. Seriously, please explain ro me in words of one syllable about the “lit from behind instead of face on” thing. I don’t get it.

    Katrina, I make my own because I’m nibby, but you can find it in most Asian groceries, and I think there’s even a McCormick or Spice Islands version. I like the fresh kind for actual curry, but I think you’d be fine with pre-made powder for cookies.

    Thank you, Mary! Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention…..

    Mrs. Williams, I agree totally. Thank you so much for visiting, I hope all is well with you, and yes, of course Eric gets credit.

    LeAnn, these didn’t make me love molasses, but maybe I hate it less now? Thanks for stopping by; credit for jayedee!

    junemoon, I think they did. I try to be a good daughter. All I’ve got is a sense of humor and the ability to cook, so I alternate food with funny and see what I can do to make her smile….

    jayedee, you made them. With garam masala?! The fact that you found time to do that puts me to shame.

    Eric, I will go anywhere with you, particularly if I get to go to San Francisco. Tomales Bay Oysters it is. Do they have a liquor license? Just asking……

  10. i actually DID use garam marsala……..and a bit of extra cinnamon (no such thing as too much cinnamon)

    i bought a little jar of it a few months ago ( for a recipe i wanted to try…….i can’t find the recipe now, and the jar was just languishing in my pantry so i thought…..why not? lol

    holy cow! i didn’t read the recipe right either! i ALSO added more fresh ginger (in addition to what’s in the garam marsala)

    i used my little dough scoop, hence the pretty shape, criss crossed ’em with a fork so they weren’t so puffy and sprinkled with a bit of sugar. they were awesome!

    danny came in and was excited to see cookies until i told him “don’t touch! they’re for a bake sale!” his face fell about a mile and i had to take pity and tell him i was just ragging on him a little!

    this morning, i think there are only about 10 cookies left.


  11. Hi Ann,
    I just meant, a regular picture (on paper that you hold in your hand) is lighted from whatever source is in the room, or sunlight or whatever, but digital pictures on a computer screen have the light generated from the computer screen lighting the picture “from behind” as well as the light in the room hitting the computer screen. I should have said computer images are “double-lit” It seems to enhance color, sharpness. I just feel images we see on the computer have a wider margin for error that is compensated for by the double-lighting phenonmenon.

  12. One last comment (don’t want you to think I’m cyber-stalking you! ha!) All your food pictures look great as they are now anyway, I don’t see why you’re afraid to post pictures. The lemons look like they could be in any food mag. done by a professional. And I peeked at Claudia’s website and wanted to snatch those olives and fennel right off the screen and stuff them in my mouth. See? Picture are your secret weapon.

  13. jayedee, my “pre-made” Garam Masala comes from Zamouri; Rob bought me a bunch of exotic spices from there for Christmas, and I’ve been very pleased with them. I would have added fresh ginger if I’d had any; that sounds perfect. As for teasing your family…I consider that to be standard operating procedure.

    Eric, thanks for the explanation. I am only techie about audio stuff; pictures totally baffle me. Thanks SO much for the kind words about the pictures. Positive reinforcement will definitely encourage me to kep hacking away. Claudia’s site is beautiful – and her recipes are to die for, although mostly things i could never get my guys to eat. I just lust after them.


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