Marm's Molasses Cookies

My great grandmother was notorious for her baking and her no nonsense attitude. My mother once recalled the time she threw a pie like a frisbee out the back door because it didn't come out up to snuff. She was a small woman named Myrtle, but everyone called her Marm. She could slaughter a chicken in the morning and have it on the table for supper. She made baked beans on Saturday night and it was a family requirement to attend. They stuffed so many people into the small dining room some had to crawl underneath the table to get out. She loved photography, posing her kids and grandkids in front of the flowering lilac bush or just so as the light streamed in the living room window. Her son, my great uncle, once described her as "the boss." 

Marm and my grandfather, Arno.

Marm and my grandfather, Arno.

Though I never met her, I think of her often. I can see her moving deftly around the kitchen, baking and cooking on a cast iron wood stove with no running water. When I found stacks and stacks of her cookbooks and handwritten recipes I thought it would be fun to honor and connect with her by trying them myself, in the same kitchen more than 50 years later (and with some modern conveniences). I hope she gets a kick out of it, and I hope you will try them along with me!

Last spring, on one of those days where I was so frustrated and overwhelmed with renovations I was dreaming of just burning the goddamn house down, a neighbor stopped by. She asked me the usual neighbor question - "Who are you?" And we pleased to hear I was, in fact, a Day and the house had stayed in the family. She then told me how she loved running over to grab Marm's molasses cookies from the kitchen. So when I saw this handwritten recipe, I knew it had to be first.

MarmsCookies

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup shortening
4 tablespoons molasses

Instructions

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Sift together three times. In a separate bowl, mix shortening, sugar, egg, and molasses with a whisk. Sift the dry ingredients on top of your wet mixture. Mix all ingredients together to create a dry, crumbly dough. Roll dough into small 1-2 inch balls, and gently pat out with the heel of your hand. Bake for 7 minutes. Makes about two dozen.

Tips

The first time I tried these I used my Kitchenaid to mix the wet ingredients, and the second time I used a whisk. I think using a whisk makes for a better cookie. I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together using a wooden spoon. You really need to fold them all in together and push the dry ingredients into the sugar/shortening mixture to get the best result. Because Marm used a wood stove, there are no time or temperature instructions with her recipes, but I tried out a couple combinations and I think 7 minutes at 350 makes for the best, chewy cookie. Gently pat out with your hand. I tried the fork method (you can see below) and those ones came out very hard.

Cookie testing

Cookie testing

These are perfect with coffee or tea, or as an ice cream topping, and they're not too sweet! They would make a great holiday gift because the dough yields so many, and they have a great shelf life without getting too hard.

Give these a shot and let me know what you think! I'll have another recipe coming your way before Christmas. Enjoy!

Goodbye, Boston

Three years ago to the day we moved into our apartment on Trescott Street, my last in a long series. The first had been my dorm on Huntington Avenue, then Darling Street in Mission Hill, then Battery Street in the North End, then Forest Hills Avenue & Perkins Street in Jamaica Plain, then Strathmore Road in Washington Square, and then Buttonwood Street in Dorchester.

I moved to Boston in 2005, a month shy of my 18th birthday to attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I never meant to stay for twelve years, but life marched on so steadily and strangely that all of a sudden more than a decade had passed. I met my husband the first week of school, dated for a while, then became best friends and languished in indecision for quite some time before deciding to do the damn thing. We got engaged laying in bed on Buttonwood Street, and married on the coast of Maine almost ten years after first meeting.

In between, I lived with my sister, very dear friends, and alone in a tiny studio apartment where I had to move my bed a little bit so I could open & use the oven. I studied abroad for a semester, threw parties with my sister in our two apartments that brought together friends from several states, graduated college, got my first real job, mourned the death of my mother, dated a neighbor, struggled with the noise & traffic of the city.  I used my sister's license as my own for an entire summer before turning 21, I ran home in a thunderstorm on the Fourth of July after seeing people get struck by lightening, I drank green beer on St. Patrick's Day, I had a Christmas tree decorated in empty beer cans, I made Easter brunch, I cried with joy at the Pour House watching President Obama's first election results come in.  I sheltered in place during the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt, to later ride bikes down a virtually empty Boylston Avenue, to eventually watch the stand off over a pitcher of beer and pizza. We thought about leaving but jobs held us here, time kept going. I spent a lot of time being angry at people wearing backpacks on the T, walked through the Common in Springtime,  rode along Carson beach during sunset. I watched my closest friends get married, move away, have children. And we remained.

Last year we put the wheels in motion to jump ship. A slow moving leap, as we made sure the water was a little warmer before we plunged. And now our feet have just hit, and we're going in fast. After two years of driving 250 miles each way to our house in Maine, it won't just be our house in Maine -- it will be our home. A home that we share with generations of my family members going back to 1850. An honor that we have worked so hard to achieve.

I am open and shy of what is to come. I am leaving without any regrets, and an urgency to be away from the city. But it will always the place where I really grew up, and for that I am forever grateful. So long, see you soon.