In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to keep things creepy around here before October is over. So far there has been brown butter buckwheat pancakes for Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and thyme, sage and garlic sausages for Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Today we’ve got spicy molasses cookies from Shirley Jackson’s macabre 1962 novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
If you haven’t read this book I would highly recommend either buying a copy of it today and curling up with these cookies to read it, or downloading the audiobook and listening to it (also with cookies). We Have Always Lived in the Castle is narrated by eighteen-year-old Merricat Blackwood, who lives with her older sister, Constance, and her uncle Julian in a crumbling mansion on the outskirts of an old New England town. Constance, Juilan, and Merricat are the only Blackwoods who remain after someone poisoned the rest of the family with arsenic-laced sugar a few years prior. The book is a glimpse in to Merricat’s twisted brain and her strange, isolated life. Like many of Jackson’s novels We Have Always Lived in the Castle explores what it means to be “other” in a small New England community—something Jackson herself experienced while living in North Bennington Vermont, where people were openly anti-semetic and “anti-intellectual” toward her and her husband.
Towards the end of the book, Constance makes spice cookies for Merricat’s dinner as a peace offering. They are Merricat’s favorite, and she lingers over them as Constance lays them out in long rows to cool, filling the kitchen with the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Spice cookies are one of my favorite cookies, especially this time of year. These molasses cookies are the grown-up gingersnap of my dreams, they are dark and deeply spicy and have the perfect crispy chew to them. I like to keep the butter cold and cream it until it’s soft, because it allows you to put them right into the oven without having the let the dough chill at all. It also keeps these cookies looking perfect every single time, which is really satisfying.
Makes 14-16 cookies
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks), cold
1 ½ tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
2 ¼ cups All purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cube butter and add it to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for two minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides. Add grated ginger, molasses, sugar and dark brown sugar and beat on medium speed until soft. Add vanilla and egg and continue to paddle for about thirty more seconds. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix until dough comes together. Roll cookies into even-sized rounds and place on baking sheet (they will spread out, so give them some room), and bake for 10-12 minutes. Place remaining dough in the refrigerator while the rest bake, if the dough gets too warm the cookies will spread too much. Sprinkle baked cookies with sugar, cool on a wire rack, and eat until you hurt.