Collie Mercer is the type of woman who believed that children should be protected from all that is bad in the world. This is exactly what she did for the four Welles siblings in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles.
Whether shielding them from the overly harsh discipline of their oft drunk father, news of the Great War in Europe, or details of the Flu Pandemic, Collie worked hard to ensure peace for the children she was raising.
Her tactics could be as simple and comforting as a batch of homemade molasses cookies. Of course, any of Collie’s delicious recipes supplied the distraction and reassurance her stepchildren needed as she brought them together time and again to the table as a family.
When I wrote the scene involving Collie’s molasses cookies, I had a soft cookie in mind but no recipe. I don’t care for crisp molasses cookies, and while I enjoy the chewy version, I adore the soft ones best. Thanks to my friend, Gayle Hoffman, I finally have a recipe for soft molasses cookies such as Collie would have offered that are tender, delicious, and easy to make.
Gayle Hoffman’s Soft Molasses Cutout Cookies
1 c shortening (I used unsalted butter)
½ c sugar (I used raw)
½ c packed brown sugar
1 c dark molasses
5 ½ c flour
1 T baking soda
1 ½ t ginger
1 t cinnamon
¾ t salt
½ c water
Preheat your oven to 350°. I worked with a KitchenAid stand mixer.
Cream the shortening or butter and both sugars about five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the molasses.
Combine and sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the cream mixture by large spoonsful, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. I suggest adding the water alternately with the dry mixture as the batter thickens. When completely mixed, it should be soft and pliable.
Cover or wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least three hours. This will make for easier handling and rolling.
Divide the dough into four sections and refrigerate the other three to keep the dough firm. Roll one section at a time, approximately 3/8” thick, on a surface dusted with a half flour/half powdered sugar mixture. Cut with your favorite cutter.
Bake at 350° for 10 – 11 minutes. You may need to adjust the baking time depending on how large or small your cut cookie is. Allow to cool on a rack and dust with more powdered sugar. An alternate topping would be to dust with sanding sugar prior to baking. Store in an airtight container. Freezes well.