Around this time of year we start thinking about silken pies, decadent cakes and cookies formed into whimsical shapes. These warmly spiced molasses cutouts don't disappoint those familiar holiday cravings. Cut into festive turkeys and autumn leaves (although that was simply our preference of the day - feel free to shape as you wish) and scented with the heady flavors of cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and a dash of black pepper, these cookies are thick with molasses and spectacularly irresistible. The orange-sugar topping adds a burst of fresh flavor and mouthwatering texture. Not to mention the smell. Oh the spice-laden, citrusy aroma that signals the start to this splendidly celebratory time of year.
Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Sugar
Makes two-three dozen cookies depending on size
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 orange; zested
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, mixing just to combine. Stir in the molasses and vanilla extract.
Fold in the flour mixture, until just combined. Separate the dough into 2 portions (it should be quite sticky) and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough 1/4-inch thick. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, stir together orange zest and turbinado sugar with your fingers.
Remove dough from fridge. Working in batches, cut out cookies into desired shapes. Keep unused dough chilled. Sprinkle with orange-sugar topping. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes until cookies are firm around the edges and set in the middle. Cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes, then cool completely on a cooling rack.