Molasses Spice Cookies

When it’s cold outside, you need something warm inside.
molasses spice cookies 2These crunchy-soft molasses cookies are spiced with the holy trinity of winter baking spices:  cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.   With a molasses-tinged, soft buttery heart, these are my one of favorite winter time treats.  Enjoy.

Molasses Spice Cookies

1 cup (8 oz) white sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (2 3/4 oz) molasses
1 large egg
2 3/4 cup (13 oz) unbleached all purpose flour*
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
optional:  powdered sugar for rolling (about 1 cup)

Heat oven to 375.

Cream butter with sugar and molasses until fluffy.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, spices, salt and baking soda.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix on low until just combined.

Roll walnut sized balls of dough.  (Roll in powdered sugar if you want a cracked snowy top.)  Evenly space balls on baking sheet, being sure to allow room for cookies to spread.  Bake until very lightly browned on edges but still soft in the center.  Check cookies after about 12 minutes.  Every oven varies, so look for signs of perfect done-ness rather than relying on the timer the first few times you make these.  Cool for five minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to cooling rack.

* I always weigh my flour.  This cookie really does change its texture based on small differences in flour amounts.  The most difficult measurement to predict from person to person using measuring cups is flour.  So, for best results, weigh your flour.  Here is the scale I use in my kitchen.  If you don’t have a scale, and use measuring cups then just keep track of how this recipe works for you.   If your cookies are too flat, add a bit more flour, and conversely, if they are are too puffy or dry, add a bit less flour.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

An all-American classic – Chocolate Chip Cookies.  These are soft in the middle and crunchy on the edges.
chocolate chip cookiesI make mine with lots of California walnuts, and Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips.  A tip for best texture is to watch them carefully at the end of the baking time.  You want them to be golden on the edges, but still a little pale in the center of the cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz (1 cup packed) brown sugar
3 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) white sugar
2  large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz (2 1/3 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
12 oz chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)*

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy.

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda.  Combine flour mixture with the butter/sugar mixture.  Mix on low just until combined.  Add chocolate chips and walnuts.

Scoop 1/4 cup portions on baking sheets.  Allow 2 inches between each ball of dough to allow each cookie to have the room they need to bake evenly.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are set and light golden on the edges.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes, then cool completely on cooling rack.

* This recipe works with or without nuts.  However, the structure of the cookie will be a bit flatter without the walnuts.

Fresh Lemon Bars

Lemons are ripe here in California, and the trees in my neighborhood are loaded with beautiful, yellow gems.  Here’s a recipe for luscious, tangy-sweet lemon bars with a buttery crust.  Enjoy!

lemon bar

Fresh Lemon Bars
Makes 24 bars

For the crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (10 oz) flour
2 TB cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

For the filling:
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) flour
5 large eggs
2 TB fine grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice*

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9 X 13 baking dish with parchment.  Blend together the ingredients listed for the crust until a crumby mixture forms.  Pat into the parchment lined pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling ingredients.  Begin by blending the sugar with the flour in a medium mixing bowl.  To this mixture add the eggs and stir until combined.  Add the lemon juice and zest, stirring until combined.

When the crust is lightly golden brown, pour the filling mixture onto the hot crust and put it right back into the oven.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the filling is no longer liquid in the middle.  Remove from oven and cool until room temperature.  Dust cooled bars with a powdered sugar for a beautiful snowy top.  Cut into bars and serve at room temp or cold.  Store any uneaten bars in the refrigerator.

* These bars may be made with any type of lemon, as long as they are good, fresh lemons.  I especially like to use ripe Meyer lemons in this recipe.  Fresh limes may be substituted, but decrease the zest by 1 TB and the replace 1/4 cup of the juice with water.  You may very gently tint the filling green if making lime bars. Just use a couple drops green food coloring if desired.