Mine is still the family that leaves a plate of cookies out for Santa every Christmas Eve, and even though I’ve stopped checking, I’m pretty darn sure he (or maybe it’s Mom or Dad) still takes a bite out of each cookie after he makes his classic exit through the chimney. For as long as I can remember, those cookies have always been the nostalgic sugar cookies, slathered in colorful frostings and showered in a variety of sprinkles. Thankfully, over the years with further development of my artistic decorative skills, the adornments on each cookies have become more appealing to the eye.
I look back on our Christmas memories with so. much. joy. Until I was seven, every Christmas was white as could be. That was Minnesota’s gift to me every year and I could not have loved it more. My parents still tell me that it took an army (of snacks) to bring me inside after a day of playing in the snow. Only a plate of salami, cheese, and crackers could lure me in from the chilly piles of white fluff. Our backyard at the time - the very best one we’ve ever had - was meant for three snow-loving kids (two of us being my brother and me, and the other being my dad), with it’s sloping side yards that led to a ginormous open area for endless construction of snowmen and snow furniture, which was mine and my dad’s favorite activity.
Grandma and Grandpa on my dad’s side and aunts and uncles on my mom’s side each hosted Christmas gatherings every year. I took those for granted for seven years, not fully understanding how big of a blessing they were, that spending Christmas with tons of family isn’t always going to be a given. Of course, I remember the food. I remember my Aunt Mary’s famous egg-bake every morning, with sausage and veggies and cheese. I remember Grandma’s lasagna, oozing with homemade red sauce and, again, stuffed with sausage and cheese (and maybe a few veggies). I remember every single morsel of chocolate and variety of cookies a kid could imagine.
There isn’t a single moment about these Christmas memories that I could change, other than their once-in-a-lifetime limit because, if I could, I would relive them every year. I would give… wow. I would give almost anything to spend every Christmas for the rest of my life with my family. Tears. Tears are happening right now, so give me a minute.
Okay. We’re good. To any of my family who may be reading this, know that you are part of the best thing that has ever happened to me. Also, know that for all future Christmas family gatherings, I will be bringing these cookies along and you can just thank me when we get there. From the memories I’ve sorted through, I can’t recall any ginger molasses cookies (or at least none that I felt inclined to try?). So, here’s to cherished memories and new traditions, to beloved, irreplaceable family and really, really good cookies.
Makes about 20 cookies
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup grass-fed butter
1/3 cup turbinado sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses*
1 pasture-raised egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the butter until browned. Here is a step-by-step guide if you’ve never done it before. Once browned, transfer the butter to a small bowl and let it cool completely.
Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl. Stir in the chopped dates and set this bowl aside.
In a small mixing bowl, beat the cooled butter, sugar, molasses, and egg until smooth. The sugar will not fully cream, so stop mixing when everything is combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing at the same time, until fully incorporated. It will be very sticky!
Pour about 3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar into a flat bowl and set aside. Rub a small amount of oil on your hands to reduce the stickiness. Roll the cookie dough into golfball-size portions and then roll each ball in the sugar to coat the outside. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the dough balls on the sheet with about 2 inches between each. Bake for 10-12 minutes - you won’t see any change in color because of how dark the dough already is, so trust your instinct. Use 10 minutes as a baseline, and increase by 1 minute as needed until the dough isn’t gooey to the touch. They should be soft when you remove them, but they will firm up when they cool.
Serve when cooled (about 5-10 minutes). Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
*I’ve tried this recipe with blackstrap molasses, too, and the flavor was much richer and slightly more bitter. I still enjoyed them, so if this is all you can find instead of the unsulphured version, you can still give it a try!