Comfortingly Soft Molasses Drop Cookies

A little four-inch square piece of paper floated out of the Recipes to Try file folder, and on one side was a recipe, probably Xeroxed from a newspaper for Old Fashioned Drop Molasses Cookies, with handwritten note in black ink, “These were good.” On the other side was written in my hand, “Richard McLaughlin, Machias.” Goodness knows when that arrived in my mailbox but on a chilly day this past week I gave the recipe a try.

The cookies had a crisp exterior the day I made them, but they softened up and now have a lovely tender, texture, not at all challenging in the chewing department. The recipe called for shortening but I decided to use butter. You will need milk—sour, buttermilk, or fresh milk to which a bit of vinegar has been added. You know the drill—measure out a half cup of milk, add in a couple teaspoons or three of vinegar or dribble it in by eye. It’ll curdle a little on the top but make it sour enough to react with the baking soda for leavening. I used buttermilk because I usually have it around anyway.

No molasses or ginger cookie or gingerbread recipe I have ever met calls for enough ginger. I routinely double the amount, and I did in this one as well. I never double the cloves because I think they make quite a strong statement. Proceed as you wish.

It really helps to chill this dough which is fairly soft. I wanted drop cookies though the recipe says you can roll and cut them, but you’d probably have to be more generous with flour in order to handle the dough. They spread a fair amount in baking. How many you get depends on how large you make them. I made a few with tablespoon-sized drops, then switched to a small ice cream scoop which was a lot easier with the somewhat sticky dough.

The consensus here was that Richard’s note was right, “These were good.” Still are.

Soft Molasses Drop Cookies
  • 2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ginger, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup shortening or butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 egg, unbeaten
  • ½ cup sour milk, buttermilk or fresh milk soured with vinegar
  1. Sift together all the dry ingredients: flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. Melt the shortening.
  3. Put the sugar and molasses in a mixing bowl and add the melted shortening and unbeaten egg.
  4. Beat all together until it is quite light.
  5. To the shortening and sugar mixture, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk.
  6. Chill for an hour (or even overnight).
  7. When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  9. Drop dough allowing room for it to spread quite a bit.
  10. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, checking after the first 10, or until cookies are deep brown.
  11. Store in container with tight lid.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.