The Cookies That Changed The Way I Bake...Forever.
I recently went on a baking spree; a baking binge; a baking rampage, if you will. I’ve been trying to set aside more of my free time for things that bring me joy (as opposed to mindlessly scrolling through my damn Instagram feed), and spending time in the kitchen is one of those things. More specifically, baking is one of those things. Over the holidays, I spent almost two entire weekends -- we’re talking between six and eight hours on Saturday and on Sunday...twice! — in the kitchen baking. I baked two different kinds of granola. I made a massive, beautifully golden, perfectly flaky challah. I baked the best pumpkin loaf I’ve ever tasted because I’m still not over pumpkin even though what’s traditionally thought of as pumpkin season has more or less passed. I baked this old fashioned doughnut bundt cake because I mean, who doesn’t love bundt cake? And I baked cookies, on cookies, on cookies. (Um...by the way...should they be called bakeies?? Anyway.)
Sure, I like to cook too, but the reason I think I love baking so much is because its methodical; its prescribed; it’s like following a formula that [usually] always works: a2 + b2 = c2. I’ve been actively baking for somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 years — and I even worked at a bakery when I was in high school — but I only recently gave in to the power of the scale. Time and time again recipes have offered me measurements in both cups and in grams, and time and time again I’ve opted for the former. Measuring cups were familiar and a scale felt like overkill...that is, until I decided to give it a whirl. Holy moly, it made a difference! Not only did the scale end up changing some of what would have been my measurements had I used traditional measuring cups, but my cookies turned out perfectly — I’m talking magazine quality perfect. Like, Caitlin Jarvis of Henrietta Red perfect. Like, I-would-pay-lots-and-lots-of-money-for-that-cookie perfect. So I used my scale again, this time for the challah: exquisite. I used my scale for the pumpkin bread: serene. And now I’m planning to use it every freaking time I bake and maybe even, on occasion, when I cook too because there’s nothing that brings me more happiness than going through that entire formula and getting all the way to the end of the equation and seeing absolute pristine perfection.
These cookies were the ones that proved to me the power of the scale.
Note: I know this recipe looks very involved, but it really isn’t. The instructions are just very detailed. Aside from browning the butter, which can take some time, it’s really a very simple recipe.
Rose Levy Beranbaum's Molasses Sugar Butter Cookies
Makes: twenty-four 2 3/4-inch cookies
Prep time: 1 hrs 30 min
Cook time: 30 min
150 grams or 10 1/2 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
38 grams or 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (35 ml) or 3/4 large egg
204 grams or 1 3/4 cups minus 1 tablespoon (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) bleached all-purpose flour
8.2 grams or 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 or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
60 grams or 3 tablespoons (45 ml) light molasses, preferably Grandma’s brand
24 grams or 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, for rolling the dough balls
CLARIFY AND BROWN THE BUTTER: Have ready by the cooktop a 1 cup glass measure with a spout. In a small heavy saucepan, on very low heat, melt the butter, stirring often with a silicone spatula. Raise the heat to low and boil, stirring constantly, until the milk solids on the spatula become a deep brown. Immediately pour the butter into the glass measure, scraping in the browned solids as well. Allow the browned butter to cool to room temperature, or no higher than 80°F/27°C (see Baking Pearls, below).
Into another 1 cup measure with a spout or a small bowl, weigh or measure the egg. Cover with plastic wrap.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
MAKE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the browned butter with its solids, the sugar, molasses, and egg on low speed for 1 minute.
Add the flour mixture. Start mixing on the lowest speed to moisten the flour. Raise the speed to low and beat for 30 seconds.
Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it in half (about 281 grams each). Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm enough to handle (see Baking Pearls).
PREHEAT THE OVEN: Thirty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack at the middle level. Set the oven at 375°F/190°C.
ROLL THE DOUGH INTO BALLS: In a small bowl or large custard cup, place the sugar for rolling the dough balls. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator.
Measure the dough into a 1 1/2-inch diameter cookie scoop and level it off with a small metal spatula, or scoop out a heaping tablespoon (23 grams). You will get 12 pieces of dough. Roll each piece in the palms of your hands to form a 1¼ inch ball.
Roll each dough ball around in the bowl of sugar to coat it well. Set the dough balls a minimum of 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.
BAKE THE COOKIES: Bake for 4 minutes. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet halfway around. Continue baking for 4 to 6 minutes. Cracks will appear on the surface, but the inside will look slightly underbaked. When gently pressed with a fingertip, the cookies should still feel soft in the middle. (Baking longer will result in a darker looking and crisper cookie throughout.)
COOL THE COOKIES: Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 3 to 5 minutes, until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack for cooling. Use a thin pancake turner to transfer the cookies to another wire rack. They will firm up as they cool, with a crisp surface and soft chewy interior. Shape, bake, and cool the second batch.
STORE AIRTIGHT: room temperature, 7 days; refrigerated, 2 weeks; frozen, 3 months.
BAKING PEARLS: If the browned butter is used at a higher temperature than 80°F/27°C, the cookies will not expand to 2 3/4 inches and will not form cracks. They will also require another 2 minutes of baking.
It is essential to clarify the butter for these cookies, because just melting the butter will result in a thinner cookie that doesn’t bake through. Use grade AA butter; lower-quality butter (containing more water) will result in a lesser amount of browned butter. You will need a total of 110 grams/½ cup plus 1 tablespoon/133 ml browned butter.
Superfine sugar will give the finest, most even crunch to the surface of the cookies, but if desired, turbinado sugar can be used instead for more sparkle.
Refrigerating half the dough while you shape the first batch keeps the remaining dough cool, which prevents the baking soda from activating and ensures that the cookies will be uniform in size and shape. The time it takes to roll the remaining twelve dough balls is about the same as it takes to bake the first batch.
The raw dough freezes nicely; however, if the dough is not baked on the same day as mixing, the cookies will be slightly larger, flatter, and darker in color.