I love cookies!! More than any other snack, quite honestly. I think it's because they are easy. Easy to grab. Easy to hold. Easy to eat. And for the most part, easy to make.
In my new historical novel, The Widow of Rose Hill, cookies make an appearance a couple times. Specifically, molasses cookies! Harriet, a former slave and the cook for Rose Hill plantation, makes them in Chapter Seven. Natalie, our heroine, serves the treat to Colonel Maish and Corporal Banks on the manor house porch despite the fact that the Colonel and his men have just delivered a message that completely turns Natalie's world upside down!
You might remember that I made Prince of Wales cake when my first book, The Planter's Daughter, released. Aunt Lu and Adella Rose were attempting to make it, although the recipe seemed a little strange to them. I figured I needed to keep the tradition going, so today I'm making authentic molasses cookies just like Harriet made in Book 2.
The Widow of Rose Hill takes place in Texas in June 1865. The Civil War has been raging for four long years. Union blockades prevented supplies from entering Texas and kept cotton growers like the Ellis's from selling their products. Common staples like coffee and sugar were hard to come by, but other ingredients like flour and salt were still available.
With that in mind, I searched for a simple recipe Harriet might have used. I opted to use butter instead of shortening because I think Harriet would have used butter. I'm also using brown sugar, which she may or may not have had access to.
First, cream together the butter (or shortening), sugar, egg, and molasses. It won't look pretty, but that's okay. We're on a mission to deliciousness. A little ugly is expected along the way.
Next, stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger, all common ingredients for that time period.
I used my handy dandy Kitchen Aid mixer (thank you, Daddy & Mom!) to mix it all together. Poor Harriet would have had to mix it by hand. I'll bet she would have loved a Kitchen Aid!
The dough will look a little crumbly once it's all blended well.
Scrape out all the dough onto a clean surface and form it into a big ol' ball.
The recipe suggests putting it in the refrigerator for an hour to chill, for rolling purposes I guess, but I didn't do that. Harriet didn't have a refrigerator and would have rolled them out right then, so that's what I did too.
I used a light coating of flour on the rolling pin and on the parchment paper and didn't have any issues with the dough sticking to either.
Use a cookie cutter ... or a glass, like I did 'cuz I don't own cookie cutters ... and cut out your cookies. It's just like making sugar cookies!
I love to bake cookies on my Pampered Chef baking stone because it's never failed me yet. These cookies don't spread, so you can get quite a few on the sheet. Bake for ten minutes and then let 'em cool a little ... but you better keep an eye on them!!! Or someone might sneak a bite!
And wa-la! You have some delicious, authentic Civil War molasses cookies to enjoy while you read The Widow of Rose Hill!
Here's a little sneak peek of the scene where Natalie serves the cookies to Colonel Levi Maish:
...Natalie returned, her hair freshly combed and free of the hat, bearing a tray with two glasses of water and a plate of dark cookies. That she carried the refreshments herself surprised him. He'd expected her to fetch a maid for the task.
"Harriet baked a batch of molasses cookies yesterday," she said, setting the tray on a small table. Settling on the sofa, she looked up at the men. "She's a master at turning the simplest ingredients into something quite delicious. Please, help yourselves."
Banks looked like a kid, all big-eyed and licking his lips, but he kept himself in check, waiting for Levi to give permission to indulge in the sweets. When Levi gave a nod, the corporal snagged a large cookie, grinning.
Civil War Molasses Cookies
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup molasses
2 ¾ cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Cream together shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Heat oven to 375 degrees and roll dough out to ¼”. Cut out cookies with a round cutter. Bake for 10 minutes.
Enjoy the cookies AND the book!