Back when I first started baking, about 3 1/2 years ago, I had a lot to learn. I didn't fully realize then that you can't just go around substituting any old ingredient for another. I used to try all kinds of things at first, because I was dieting and wanted to make certain recipes lower in fat and calories. I would try making cookies with no butter, only to find that they turned out gross and weird, with a horrible texture. I attempted brownies made with carob instead of cocoa, and could barely choke down one serving before making my poor husband eat them. Ugh. I could go on and on with more stories like these, but I'll spare you for now. Just take my word for it; I quickly learned to fear ad-libbing in my baking.
Now that I've become a bit more knowledgeable, I decided I was ready to try my hand at improvising again. Only this time, I was determined to make it work, not fail miserably like all those other recipes had.
After looking through The Craft of Baking a bit, I decided that what I really wanted to make were the gingersnaps in the book. I've had this book out from the library for a while now, and this was to be the third time I would bake from it. Since I had made one pretty huge failure first (a pile of yummy crumbs which should have been coffee cake muffins), followed by a rousing success (see my Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie post!), I figured I would go for best out of three to determine whether this book is one I would want to eventually purchase.
So once I had settled on gingersnaps, I knew instantly how I wanted to switch it up a little bit. I have this open bottle of pomegranate molasses just sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for me to figure out how to use it up. I only buy this molasses for one thing (a scrumptious roasted red pepper dip, which I should really get around to blogging about one of these days!), and that recipe doesn't require me to use much. So normally I end up having to throw out the rest of the bottle after a while, because it'll go bad before I can use it again. Not this time, though. This time I was putting that baby to some good use!
I baked these cookies almost exactly as the recipe indicated. The only two changes I made were to substitute pomegranate molasses for the regular blackstrap kind originally called for, and turbinado sugar in place of the Demerara sugar on the tops of the cookies. After I mixed up the dough, I noticed that it was very soft. Too soft to roll into balls by hand, as the recipe instructed. No problem; I just decided to chill the dough well in the fridge before working with it again. After several hours of chilling, the dough was still pretty soft. I ended up dropping the cookie dough by scoopfuls onto my baking sheets, and then sprinkling sugar on the tops, rather than rolling the dough balls in sugar. I think it was fine this way.
I thought the dough smelled a little funny, and was initially worried. Then I reassured myself by remembering that all molasses smells a little funny. I wasn't deterred! I baked up a small batch of these, and then performed a little taste test with my brave boy, Evan (Xander barely touched his).
These cookies are great! The taste is so unique. They definitely have a disctinctive gingersnap flavor to them; Andy tried one without knowing beforehand what kind of cookie it was, and he could identify instantly that it was a gingersnap. However, they have this interesting, fruity tartness to them, offset nicely by the raw sugar on top. The pomegranate paired well with the ginger. Overall, I was really proud of these cookies; Andy even took them to work and people actually ate them! It felt so good, especially knowing that this was purely experimental and I had no idea how it would all turn out. So this was my first time riffing on an existing recipe in about 3 years, and I was successful!
adapted from The Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco
makes about 24-30 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (The original recipe used blackstrap molasses. Pomegranate molasses can be difficult to find; I normally can get it at an international grocer, and it can also be ordered online. Another option is to make your own: reduce pomegranate juice on the stovetop by 2/3, until thick and syrupy. Cool before using.)
1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (The original recipe used Demerara sugar. The two sugars are very similar; both are coarse, brown-colored sugars, but Demerara is a bit coarser and molasses-y in flavor.)
1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the granulated sugar and the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, molasses, and ginger to combine. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours. (I chilled half of mine for several days, and it was still great.)
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape the dough into 3/4-inch balls (I used my small cookie scoop) and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops generously with turbinado sugar. Bake, rotating baking sheets once halfway through, for about 12-14 minutes, until dark golden brown. Transfer sheet to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for 5 days.