Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow. They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest was saved for Christmas Day.
Imagine the Ingalls’ little house in the big woods near Pepin, Wisconsin in the early 1870s and the rustic setting of Caroline Ingalls’ kitchen. Molasses was heralded as both a sweetener and coveted for its medicinal properties. Molasses cookies gained popularity in the mid-1900s, and maybe Ma learned of the recipe by way of the Appledore Cookbook, circa 1872. I like to imagine Laura and Mary helping Ma bake molasses cookies for the first time. The thrill of measuring the ingredients and baking the cookies in a wood-fired stove while the wind howled outside. And finally, their faces as the girls taste the delicious treat of fresh-baked cookies, relishing every bite.
When I first read Little House in the Big Woods as a young girl, I was fascinated with how you could make candy with snow and molasses. Back in Laura’s day, they had to think outside of the box when it came to making candy and cookies. You wouldn’t find coconut sitting on a shelf in Mr. Oleson’s store. However, Ma and Pa came up with many creative ways to introduce their girls to those sweet and memorable treats.
We’re sharing a simple molasses cookie recipe, adapted from Tori Avery’s kitchen.
Simple Molasses Cookie Recipe
2 ½ c rolled oats
⅓ c unsalted butter softened + 1 tbsp for greasing the pan
⅓ c granulated sugar
½ c molasses
1 c all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Brush the cookie sheet with one tablespoon of softened butter.
In a medium mixing bowl, use a wire whisk to cream together the butter and the sugar. Then beat one egg into the creamed mix.
Then beat in the molasses and the pure vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, spices, baking powder, and baking soda) to another mixing bowl.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Drop one heaping tablespoon for each cookie on the cookie sheet. If using a small cookie sheet, you will be able to bake six cookies. You should be able to bake twelve cookies at a time on a large cookie sheet.
Place the cookies into a preheated oven on the center rack and bake for 12 minutes.
Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool.
This recipe would be great to try for the upcoming holidays or while enjoying a long winter break. Either way, if you’re a Little House on the Prairie fan, add this recipe idea to your bucket list.
Be sure to check out this easy recipe for popcorn balls using molasses.
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