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It’s been a while since the last round of Sunday night cookie blogging, and since I was nowhere near energetic enough to attempt any confectionary pursuits tonight, I decided to revert to one of my favorite cookies, the molasses spice cookie. Soft, chewy, warm with cinnamon and sharp with ginger, this cookie seems to please nearly everyone, and as an added bonus, the recipe I use most often is a snap to put together at the last minute because you melt rather than soften the butter.

The original recipe, from The Village Baker’s Wife, is fabulous on its own, but that doesn’t mean I can be trusted to leave well enough alone. I’ve been tinkering with it in various ways since the second batch, when I added crystallized ginger bits, and this time, I decided to push it even further. A while ago, I wondered what would happen if I added Chinese five spice powder to ginger cookies, and was pleased enough with the results to increase the amount this time from a very conservative 1/4 teaspoon to a full 1/2 teaspoon. I was also intrigued by a recipe for Joe Froggers, which added rum to the dough. I was reaching for the rum when I spotted the bottle of bourbon sitting next to it, and suddenly thought that would work even better with the five spice, since it’s more assertive.

The product of all this tinkering was an even better molasses cookie, with an exotic complexity from the additional spices and a lovely aroma from the bourbon, which does play exceptionally well with the ginger and star anise. Next time, I will probably add even more ginger, of both the powdered and the crystallized variety, because nothing is ever gingery enough for me, but I think the five spice/bourbon combo is a keeper.

Five-Spice Molasses Cookies
Makes approx. four dozen

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 tablespoon bourbon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crystallized ginger bits

1/4-1/2 cup raw or turbinado sugar, for coating

Preheat the oven to 375 F, and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Melt the butter and place in a large mixing bowl, allowing it to cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the granulated sugar, molasses, egg, and bourbon, and mix well. Add the sifted dry ingredients and stir until barely blended, then stir in the crystallized ginger. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 15 minutes.

Place the raw sugar in a small bowl or plate. Scoop out the cookie with a tablespoon-sized scoop and roll into one-inch balls, coating each ball with the raw sugar. Place the coated balls two inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake 9-10 minutes, allowing the cookies to cool on the sheets for several minutes before removing them to a rack.

Notes: I would think that you’d want a good-quality bourbon here, with enough spicy undertones to compliment the spices in the cookie. Since His Lordship is picky about his bourbon, we keep the top-shelf stuff around anyway.

I keep the Ginger People’s crystallized ginger baking bits around for cookies and the like, since it’s easier than chopping bigger chunks of ginger, which tend to try to glom back into a mass rather than distributing evenly into the cookie batter. If you can’t find the baking bits or don’t want to bother with an additional product (and I’d hardly blame you), it would be a good idea to finely chop the larger chunks and then toss them in a bit of extra sugar so they’ll separate into discrete bits.

If you don’t have raw or turbinado sugar, you can use an additional amount of granulated sugar for dredging, but the bigger crystals add a really lovely glittery quality to the finished cookies, as well as a hint of crunch.

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