The promise of something good

…and something good

The perfect molasses cookie is lightly crunchy on the outside, moist and soft on the inside, and packed with melt-in-your-mouth spice-laden flavor. They are a Christmas tradition in our family. They are also the most finicky, easy to screw up tradition in our family. The problem? These sweets turn into stones if you overcook them by even half a minute. They’ll make perfect door-stoppers, hockey pucks, and slingshot ammo, but you’ll look like a hungry lion gnawing on a bone if you try to eat them. However, we’re now at a record three consecutive Advents of perfect molasses cookies. The rules for a success?

1) Use shortening, not butter. I’m half German, descended from a long line of hardy souls who treat butter as a vocation, not an ingredient. They may strike me from the family tree for saying this, but: it’s not good for molasses cookies. The shortening versions stay moist. The butter versions burn and harden at the drop of a hat.

2) Follow the baking directions to a T, and do not multitask after the cookies are in the oven. Do not walk out of the room to put laundry away. Do not get engrossed in a phone conversation. Do not sit down with a movie. Ovens vary. For mine, the second the timer goes off at ten minutes, I yank the cookies out and immediately slide them off the baking sheet onto a plate or rack.

3) Store the cooled cookies in a sealed container. They will harden sitting out on an uncovered plate.

My favorite recipe comes from the 1978 Betty Crocker Cookbook, a garage sale find back in college. Following the recipe exactly turns out a perfect batch of cookies every. single. time. If only I could keep them instead of taking them to the ladies Christmas brunch at church this morning.

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