I invented a cookie!
Grandma’s Molasses was having a recipe contest, and since I’ve never created my very own cookie recipe before, I seized the moment, thought about flavors, and then inspired by my previous experiment with Orange Mocha Muffins, I created these Molasses-Orange Cookies with Espresso Glaze. Why not?
I looked at a million cookie recipes and then mish-moshed them together with some of my own experiences to figure out how best to do this. By the end I was just tasting, adding, tasting, checking, and adjusting as I went along. And I think they’re terrific! I left some unglazed for the kids, although Nathaniel has warmed to the espresso already. The glaze, despite the powdered sugar it contains, isn’t terribly sweet, but it’s a great counterpoint to the sweet cookie and the turbinado sugar it’s rolled in, with the orange there just as a whisper to add a subtle note that makes these cookies really unique.
I started simply, creaming together butter and two kinds of sugar, cane and sucanat. Sucanat already has a slight molasses flavor, so I thought the cane sugar would balance it out.
Once those were well mixed, I added an egg. All cookies need an egg. (Well, I guess vegan cookies don’t, they get flax eggs, but I had a real egg and I egged it on in.)
Once that was well beaten, I added the molasses (key ingredient) and some vanilla bean paste.
I was pretty nervous, as I was making this one up myself, but it started to look like the beginnings of a cookie batter pretty quickly.
Once I was happy with that, I turned to the dry ingredients. I used whole wheat white flour and wheat germ, baking soda, sea salt (my new preference), cinnamon, and ginger. Every good molasses cookie needs cinnamon and ginger, but I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed since I was planning on bringing in two more flavors later on.
While I was there, I looked for something else to do that wouldn’t require me to turn on the stand mixer again for a minute. I’ve been binge-viewing Revolution on my iPad, and the mixer’s so loud that I can’t watch at the same time, and I was at a really good part. I took the opportunity to zest the orange. (My timing was perfect; Dave had just walked in with the oranges about two minutes earlier.)
I juiced it as well, but didn’t add either one in yet. I figured I’d have to gauge that by taste, so I set it aside and poured half the flour mixture into the stand mixer bowl. Off went Revolution, on went the mixer.
I repeated this with the rest of the flour.
Then I got so absorbed with added orange zest and orange juice and tasting, and adding more, and mixing, and tasting, that I completely forgot to take any more pictures until the cookies were actually out of the oven. Oh wait — for some reason I took a quick shot of the turbinado sugar, waiting for its first cookie ball.
So with no photos to show for it, I played with the zest and juice until I had a nice subtle orange flavor going, and then, noting that the batter was a little sticky, I chilled it for half an hour. I would have chilled it for longer, but I was impatient, so I stuck with 30 minutes and then chilled it again between batches, just to keep it workable.
In my 30 minute break, I made the glaze, which I mysteriously also neglected to photograph. This is so unlike me!
The glaze was inspired by a nice thin cinnamon glaze I’ve made before, although I felt it was important to mix the espresso powder with hot water first, and then add vanilla, and then smooth it out with a little milk. I did the milk last so I could add a little in at a time, and I took notes so I’d know exactly how much I used of everything. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t taking pictures, I was too busy writing things down. (Next time I’ll just use voice dictation and get batter all over my iPhone.)
The batter finally ready, I cookie-scooped it out and rolled it into balls, then gave it a spin in the turbinado sugar. I set the timer for 7 minutes, but it was in the 9-10 minute range that these seemed good to go. I tested them by just pushing the edges of a cookie with my finger, and if it was solid enough to keep its shape, I took the tray out. I gave them five more minutes on the tray itself to finish cooking.
Then I got into a whole rhythm of rolling new batches, chilling the dough again, giving them time on the tray, moving them to the rack, and starting all over again. The kitchen smelled great. (I still wish I had a picture or two of the turbinado-coated cookie balls, dammit.)
When the cookies seemed cool enough, I started drizzling the glaze on them. I tried a few different things: circles in the middle, coating the whole top of the cookie, but mostly I just tried to go back & forth across the top in nice lines. Some were gloppier than others.
And then I waited.
Okay, I didn’t wait fully. I wanted to wait until the glaze dried, but I couldn’t, so I ate one. I liked it, but the glaze seemed a little intense. I should have waited, because once the glaze dried, it all came together beautifully. This morning, the combination came to its full glory, and they are really delicious, unique, amazing creations. The cookies are crisp-chewy, not crispy enough to snap, not chewy enough to be called soft, but right there in the middle. The spices, the hint of orange, the edgy-but-toned-down espresso, and the sweetness of the sugars bring it all home. Really, really good. I’m so happy! (And a little surprised, I admit.)
MOLASSES-ORANGE COOKIES WITH ESPRESSO GLAZE RECIPE
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cane sugar
½ cup sucanat (brown sugar is fine)
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (extract is fine)
1 2/3 cup whole wheat white flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt (regular salt is fine)
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
½ heaping teaspoon ginger
1 ½ teaspoons orange zest
1 ¾ tablespoons orange juice
Turnbinado sugar, for rolling
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 ½ tablespoons espresso powder mixed with 2 tablespoons hot water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons 1% milk
Zest and juice the orange. You should only need one regular-sized orange for this.
Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, and beat again. Beat in the molasses and vanilla.
Separately, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
Pour half the flour mixture into the stand mixer bowl and beat on medium-high speed until incorporated. Add the rest, and beat again. Add the orange zest and juice and beat one more time, tasting the batter to make sure all the flavors are present.
Chill the dough for 30-60 minutes. (If you only chill for 30, you might want to chill between batches to keep it ready to work with.)
Using a cookie scoop to keep portions even, roll the dough into balls and then roll the balls in some turbinado sugar. Place them a few inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, as they will spread.
Bake for 7-10 minutes, taking them out when you can push the side of a cookie with your finger and it seems like it’s keeping its shape. Give them another five minutes on the hot baking sheet to finish cooking, then move to a wire rack to cool.
To make the glaze, sift the powdered sugar, then add the espresso and water mixture and vanilla. Whisk. Add in the milk, one teaspoon at a time, until you like the consistency. It will taste strong, but don’t worry, it settles in nicely with the cookie flavors.
Once the cookies are cool, drizzle the glaze back & forth across each cookie using a teaspoon. (If you’re smart, you’ll put parchment or wax paper underneath your cookie rack to catch all the drips. It took me just a bit too long to figure that one out.)
They taste good fresh, but the next day, they are perfect.