We had days and days of cold and rain here in North Carolina this past week. So much rain that my kids’ weekly playgroup was cancelled. The ever-intrepid dad in the group suggested an outing. But one mom said she was making homemade applesauce with her son. Another said she and her son were too cozy at home to face the wind and rain. Uncertain whether to brave the elements or embrace the warmth of home, I settled on the latter. We turned on the gas fireplace, pulled out some old home movies, and made a batch of sugar-topped molasses spice cookies.
The cookies were just meant to provide an afternoon activity, really. My son runs the KitchenAid mixer like a pro (though he’s overly fond of the higher settings and tends to “take a mile,” as they say). My daughter has a lighter touch and specializes in sifting, cracking eggs, and rolling dough. But with the winds whipping the trees so their silvery undersides were showing and the rain pelting against the windowpane, I began to wonder if this might become one of those days my kids will remember for a long time. The warm fire, home movies, and the sweet spice of freshly-baked cookies perfuming the entire house. That’s my idea of home.
As it happens, the cookies were wonderful. When baking with my children, I keep the expectations low so they can play around. Otherwise, I’d be hovering over them on each step, carping about spills, slowing down the mixer (again), and generally extracting all the joy out of baking. So, in this case, my son most definitely overbeat the dough and my daughter spilled a bunch of the dry ingredients in her overzealous sifting, but these cookies weren’t bothered in the least.
They were soft, chewy, with an intense flavor of spice and musky sweetness from the molasses. Well, mine were soft and chewy. The recipe suggests that you flatten the balls of dough before placing them in the oven — to create a flat, crisp cookie — but I skipped this step. I’m a sucker for soft and chewy. Again, I have to give a plug to David Lebovitz for creating the perfect accompaniment to these cookies: cinnamon ice cream. I’d post the recipe, but you must own The Perfect Scoop by now, right?
Chock full of ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and a few grinds of black pepper, I wondered if my kids would find these cookies too intense. No worries on that count. We all sat together on the couch, noshing on molasses spice cookies and marveling at how time flies, and it was a perfect afternoon. Just before bedtime, of course, my kids tore off all the couch pillows and staged a series of acrobatic moves to rival any high-flying act of Cirque du Soleil. Inevitably, they bonked heads, dissolved into tears, and my husband and I slowly carried them upstairs to bed. Just one rainy, blustery day… but maybe they’ll remember.