When it comes to Christmas cookies, I don’t mess around. In fact, every year I take a whole day off from work just to get some baking done. It’s just so much more enjoyable when you have the whole day to make eight batches of award-winning cream cheese pillows.
This year, I started my Christmas bake-athon with the old timiest recipe I have and one of my family’s most loved cookies: pioneer molasses cookies. These cookies are simple – no fanciness or flourish here – just a good, hard working cookie that makes the holidays complete.
Now, why are these the old timiest? Well, the original recipe – a favorite of my grandma’s – calls for melted lard. Lard. So that tells you something about the era. But this 1930s original also just isn’t really like recipes of today, mostly because the original calls for a whopping six cups of flour, and also because it has no sugar (outside of the molasses). None. But it’s still a good cookie and a solid option for when you want to make something simple and not too sweet – and also something that makes you feel homesick for another time.
Here’s what you’ll need to make these old fashioned faves:
- 3 cups flour
- 10 tbsp. butter, softened
- ½ cup molasses
- ½ cup boiling water
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
And for the frosting:
- 2⅔ cups powdered sugar
- 3-4 tbsp. water
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Red and green food color
To make these, start by creaming the butter and molasses. Then alternate adding dry ingredients with the hot water. This should form a good, albeit sticky, dough pretty readily. Once it’s mixed, chill for at least an hour.
When you’re ready, flour your chilled dough lightly and roll out to ¼” thick. You can use cookie cutters here, though I prefer just to slice these into rectangles with a pizza cutter. Like I said, these cookies are pretty simple and rustic, so I think a simple shape works well. Bake for 12 minutes at 375°F. Cool on a wire rack or brown paper.
To complete these, I recommend a simple frosting. Simply mix the ingredients above – bear in mind you may have to add a little more water or sugar to get the right spreading consistency. Once you’re satisfied with this basic frosting, split the batch in two and color with red and green. Then frost your cooled cookies.
They aren’t the most Pinterest-ready cookies out there, but the sight of these red and green squares always brings me a lot of joy this time of year.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!