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This recipe comes from Louise Hamel of Braintree, Massachusetts (mother-in-law of Baker's Catalogue Editor PJ Hamel). PJ writes: "My mother-in-law has always celebrated Christmas with a lot of enthusiasm. Time has diminished her physical capacity to carry out all of her longstanding traditions, but some, thankfully, persist. ...Perhaps her ginger stars, soft, fat molasses cookies cut into star shapes, are the absolute number-one tradition: her children, arriving from points all over New England, check out the poinsettia cookie jar as soon as they shake the snow from their boots and step into the warm kitchen."
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (6 ounces) molasses
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) dark rum*
*The rum gives these cookies a distinctive flavor; we feel it teams well with molasses. However, some of our taste-testers didn't like it, so if you're uncertain, just substitute water.
Dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt and baking soda, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar, then beat in the molasses. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the rum or water, beating the mixture till it's smooth. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
Shaping: Flour a work surface, and transfer the dough to the floured surface. Roll it out 1/4-inch thick; this is thicker than normal, as you want the cookies to be soft, not snapping-crisp. Cut out 2 1/2- to 3-inch stars (or the shapes of your choice). Gather and re-roll the scraps, cutting till you've used up all the dough. Note: Remember, the more times you re-roll dough, the tougher the cookies will be; try to get as many cookies as possible out of the first rollout. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet.
Baking: Bake the cookies in a preheated 375°F oven for 11 to 12 minutes, reversing the cookie sheets top to bottom and back to front midway through the baking. When the cookies are done they will have cracked on top, but won't have browned around the edges. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them on a wire rack. Yield: about 22 (3-inch) cookies.
Note: To keep these cookies soft, we recommend storing them in an airtight container (a plastic bag is fine) as soon as they're just barely warm. Add a couple of slices of cut apple if you plan on keeping them around long.
Nutrition information per serving (1 cookie, 31g): 112 cal, 3g fat, 1g protein, 9g complex carbohydrates, 11g sugar, 7mg cholesterol, 81mg sodium, 152mg potassium, 24RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 63mg calcium, 15mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XII, No. 1, Holiday 2000 issue.