It's been a while since I've been guilty of an overt "Americanism." Honestly, people don't even think I'm from the States off-the-bat anymore. But a recent trip to the grocery store reminded me that I'm still very much a foreigner in this country.
With Autumn plowing its way into the city, I'd been craving molasses cookies - heady, spicy, deep molasses cookies - the sort I used to make as a kid called "Christopher Columbus Cookies" from a children's cookbook with an American holiday slant. So, with a more PC recipe in mind that I'd spotted in the LA Times from the Model Bakery in Napa Valley, I headed to the store for the necessary ingredients. The basics were all easy, but I eyed every inch of the sugar aisle for molasses before approaching one of the workers for help.
"Do you have molasses?" I asked the first uniformed girl I saw.
"Umm, we should, let me go check." (Usually code for: I'm going to make a quiet exit and never come back).
I waited around for a bit. Looked at the honey. The syrup. No. No molasses.
"Do you have molasses?" I asked the next uniformed person I saw.
"It's kind of like a syrup."
She showed me the maple syrup, the Lyle's Golden Syrup (for the Brits' Golden Sponge Cake), but there was no molasses in sight.
Finally the first worker came back (Wow!)
"They say it's not called that anymore."
"It's called treacle."
"Treacle? Of course! I should have known!"
I mean, treacle - straight from the doormouse's speech in Alice in Wonderland. How had I overlooked it?? Since there it was - Lyle's Black Treacle - right next to Lyle's Golden Syrup. And although it's not *really* verbatim molasses... it would do. I promptly thanked the girl and removed two tins of the stuff.
As I was in the process of scurrying away with my treacle, I heard a girl with a distinctly American accent ask the same worker "Where are your chocolate chips?"
"Let me go check."
But this time I knew the answer and turned to the tall bright-eyed blond American with her chocolate chip cookie craving and said, "I haven't seen any chocolate chips in the UK outside of the specialty shops carrying American imports. You just have to buy a bar of chocolate and chop it up."
"Oh wow!" she said in her oh-so-nasal Californian voice "That's SO funny? Right?"
Is it? I shrugged, wondering a little why I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to agree, "It's the UK."
I left her to contemplate this, and with my cute tins in tow, I went home and made molasses cookies with treacle. I even added some chopped up Green & Black Spiced Orange Dark Chocolate for good measure. (Unconventional, perhaps, but highly recommended - they turned out divine).
The recipe follows (personally, I thirded it!)
Model Bakery Molasses Cookies
4 ½ sticks (2 ¼ cups) butter
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup dark molasses
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
8 cups (2 pounds) pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoons each: baking soda, salt
1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon each: cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger
½ cup crystallized sugar, or more as needed
Beat the butter and sugar in a medium bowl with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Beat in the molasses and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger in a separate bowl. Beat the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients, a little at a time, until fully incorporated to form a dough. Cover; refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the dough into balls with an ice cream scoop. Roll each ball in the crystallized sugar; place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between each cookie. Bake until lightly golden and set, 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.