An old favourite

Today’s post is about an oldie but a goodie, something that’s rather unfashionable but downright delicious.

These days, there’s nothing stylish about The Silver Palate Cookbook, is there? Of course in the 1980s, the Manhattan shop which gave way to the book was all the rage, one of the first gourmet takeaway shops in New York. Nowadays, though, the book reads somewhat like a product of its time (salmon mousse, anyone?). No matter – it’s a favourite of mine.

Some of my best-loved dishes come from this book: Chicken Marbella, one of the most delicious ways I know to prepare poultry; Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Pasta, which my neighbour and best babysitting client Nancy once brought to a neighbourhood party when I was a teenager and has been in my dinner repertoire ever since; and Orange Bundt, a cake that has served time and time again in my family as a simple but seriously special birthday cake.

Then there’s one of my all-time favourite cookie recipes. Like The Silver Palate Cookbook itself, molasses cookies aren’t exactly on the cutting edge of current taste. Think about it – you almost never see molasses anything in newly published baking books, do you? Although molasses once reigned supreme in North American kitchens (did you know that until the late 19th century it was the most popular sweetener in American homes?) it fell out of favour with the advent of cheaper, refined sugars in the first part of the 20th century. Ever since, molasses has had this grandmotherly aura about it (not really helped by the fact that one of the major brands is called Grandma’s.) And is it just me or do all recipes involving molasses invariably have 'old fashioned' in the title?

This old fashioned association isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. I like to think that it lends molasses a respectability and gravitas as a cookery ingredient – it may not be hot to trot, but molasses transcends foodie fads. It will never really go out of style. These cookies from The Silver Palate are so outrageously good, you’ll take one bite and wish for more ways to use molasses. If you like your cookies soft and chewy, with deeply complex and subtle flavours, these are for you!

A note on treacle and molasses: Wondering what the difference between molassses and British dark treacle? There really isn’t one – both are byproducts of the sugar cane refining process. They can be used interchageably in baking. I used Lyle’s black treacle in the 'molasses cookies' above!

Molasses Cookies
From The Silver Palate Cookbook

Makes 12 to 18 cookies depending on size

12 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (I use 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup molasses or dark treacle
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar and molasses. Lightly beat the egg and add to the butter mixture, stirring well. In a bowl whisk the dry ingredients together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined. You will have a fairly wet batter.

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet; leave about 3 inches between each one since the cookies will spread as they bake. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, just until the cookies darken and are beginning to set in the middle. The longer you bake the cookies, the crispier they will be.

Transfer to a cooling rack until cool and store in an airtight container.