My sisters, cousins, and I spent a lot of our summer childhoods there, and one of our favourite activities was sneaking into the cow barn to the huge metal drum resting on its side on a wooden frame. It was filled with sticky blackstrap molasses for feeding the cows (Oma topped each cow’s ration of grain with a thick glaze of the nutritious dark syrup). The drum had a spigot in the end, and if we turned the tap just a teensy bit (the trick was not to turn it too far), out oozed a thin trickle of gooey black gold.
We stretched out our palms and the insides of our forearms under the trickle, moving our arms in slow circular waves, so the molasses would loop and curl, forming lovely lacy patterns all over our arms. The pure pleasure of licking the sweet licoricey richness of the molasses off our arms (and our probably very filthy fingers) kept us quiet in guilty pleasure for good amounts of time. Bits of straw and chaff stuck to our sticky skin as we slid down the haystacks afterwards, but we didn’t care. The molasses treat had been worth it. We always thought Oma and Opa didn’t know what we’d been up to, but I’m sure they had an inkling when they saw our sticky faces coming in for a cold glass of milk.
I still love molasses.
You know how some recipes have been with you so long they are woven into the fabric of your family? You can make them with your eyes closed, they always turn out, and you don’t even think about them? They are part of your family’s food memories?
Crinkly molasses and ginger cookies were like that for me. I made them at home as a teenager, I proudly made them for my husband in those early years as a new wife, before the kids came along. I baked a gazillion batches with my four little sidekicks, offering dripping molasses spatulas for them to lick, helping pudgy little fingers roll the balls in sugar, and smiling as they sat with noses pressed to the oven door, waiting for the timer to ring. I must have packed thousands into lunch boxes over the years and refilled the cookie jar with them more times than I can count.
Then . . . half the family couldn’t eat them anymore. Gluten made them sick.
Well, that just couldn’t be.
We needed our cookies. We needed the smell of ginger and molasses wafting through the air. We needed to bite into that crinkly crackly sugar crust and find the soft gingery, chewy middle. We needed that rich molasses goodness with a glass of cold milk. We wanted that little taste of comfort and home and tradition that brought back memories of childhood. Even though my Oma never made cookies like this, they remind me of her, and of being a child, sneaking molasses in her barn.
So. . .
I went to work to make us our cookies again – experimented, played, puzzled, tried and retried. Many batches of flat crumbly puddles, whole pans full of run-together baked goo, and racks of hard round doorknobs later . . . I found our cookies! Now they have no gluten, and they’re better than they’ve ever been.
These babies have it all – they’re the best of every kind of cookie we like: sparkly crackly sugar crust, warm gingery spiciness, rich molasses undertones, soft chewy centers, rustic oatmeal texture, pops of dark melting chocolate and tangy cranberries, plus the secret goodness of buckwheat flour and flax seeds. One word – YES.
Oma’s Ginger Molasses Cookie Knobs now get packed into university and high school lunch bags, large containers of them get loaded into cardboard box care packages, and the cookie jar at home is full again. The smell of ginger and molasses is perfuming our home once more.
Here, have a warm, fresh cookie. Would you like a glass of cold milk with it? Or maybe a hot cup of tea? Sit down and visit a while.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The refrigeration stage for the cookie dough is important so they keep their shape when baking, to make nice knobs rather than flat puddles. During the time in the refrigerator, the oats and flax seeds soften and soak up moisture in the dough. If you bake them before they have chilled long enough, the cookies will be flatter.
You can make larger balls if you want larger cookies. Dough balls that are 1¾ inches (5.5cm) in diameter need 13 minutes to cook. Adjust your time accordingly if you want them even larger.
I can’t decide if I like these cookies better warm from the pan, with their crunchy outsides and soft middles, or the next day, when they get denser and chewier. Hmmm. . . . you might have to make them yourself and let me know what you think.
Oma’s Ginger Molasses Cookie Knobs
(nut-free, gluten free if using gluten-free oats)
- ¾ cup (170gms) salted butter
- ¾ cup (170gms) dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup (60ml) fancy molasses
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 1½ cups (220 grams) buckwheat flour
- 1 cup (100gms) quick oats (small-flake rolled oats), gluten-free if necessary
- ¼ cup (30gms) ground golden flaxseeds
- ¼ cup (35gms) tapioca starch/flour
- 1/3 cup (65gms) chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup (50gms) dried cranberries
- ¼ cup (50gms) granulated sugar
Cream the butter with the brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat well.
Add the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. Mix until blended in.
Add the buckwheat flour, oats, flaxseed, and tapioca starch. Beat until it is all incorporated.
Add the chocolate chips and cranberries and mix just until they are distributed into the batter.
Scrape the dough into a smaller bowl and cover with plastic wrap or wax paper, laying it directly onto the batter so it is airtight. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to one day.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
With a spoon, cut out walnut-sized chunks of dough and roll them into balls 1½ inches (5cm) in diameter.
Pour the granulated sugar into a bowl, and roll the balls in the sugar to completely coat them.
Place the balls on parchment paper-lined (or greased) cookie sheets, at least 2 inches apart. Do not flatten.
Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies will be puffed up, but still look very soft and jiggly, almost as if they aren’t done. Don’t overbake. They will be just right, chewy-soft-inside, when they cool.
Leave to cool in the pans for 5 minutes – this is important so they firm up enough to move them.
With a thin metal spatula, remove the cookies to racks to cool.
Makes 2½ dozen cookies.
This recipe has been entered into the Crosby’s Molasses Sweet Dreams Cookie Contest. I have used their molasses in my cookies (and in my warm molasses milk) for years, and when I saw their contest, I was excited to share my cookie recipe with you readers and enter it in their contest.
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