I happen to be somewhat of a people pleaser. I made chocolate chip cookies again recently, since they were such a hit with my folks. My dad actually asked me after the first batch was all gone when I’d make them again, so I did; except they were now a problem. My mom came to me, holding a cookie, asking me why I didn’t make them without chocolate chips. I almost cried out in shock and dismay at that suggestion. If I’m making chocolate chip cookies, they’re gonna have chocolate chips (or chunks, in that case). They’re not called chocolate chip cookies by chance, you know. I explained this to her, to which she responded with an eye roll and then left the room, with cookie in tow. I started thinking about it, and decided to appease her the next time I hit the kitchen.
Making chocolate chip cookies sans chocolate chips sounds easy enough, right? I mean, why not just make the recipe and leave out the chocolate chips? No, as that is not how I roll. What she wanted, essentially, was a soft sugar cookie. I’m not exactly fond of soft sugar cookies, as they taste like sugar coated butter to me (which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on the day and who you ask). I also thought about making snickerdoodles, because of their hint of spice, but opted out of those for the same reason. The main difference between chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies, besides the presence of chocolate chips, is that chocolate chip cookies require brown sugar. I wanted brown sugar cookies, and this was what I set out to make.
I love to use brown sugar in any recipe where it won’t be too noticeable. There’s just a certain warmth and chewiness you can’t get from regular white sugar. Brown sugar’s identifying characteristic is its brown color, which comes from the addition of molasses during processing. It’s also the reason why it’s soft. I had been burning thorough my brown sugar recently, so I took matters into my own hands. Brown sugar is actually really easy to make at home. All you need is white sugar, and molasses. Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to each cup of white sugar; more if you like a darker brown sugar, and mix. It’s really that simple! I started mixing it with my hand mixer, but hardware like that isn’t really required. I ended up blending in the rest of the molasses with a fork, which works a lot better and requires less clean up. Homemade brown sugar is a bit darker by comparison to the store bought stuff, so do not be alarmed.
Now, let’s talk storage. Brown sugar is moist by nature and it needs to stay that way. There are tons of stuff on the market to help keep your brown sugar soft, but I have an even easier one that doesn’t require a special purchase; a slice of bread! Just place your brown sugar in an airtight container with a slice of bread, and it’ll stay soft and moist for a couple weeks. Brown sugar is like the vampire of the baking world, as it feeds off the moisture in the slice of bread; sucking it all out in order to stay soft
and sparkly. After a while, the slice of bread gets super stiff and kind of feels like a slice of toast. Replace the slice of bread periodically so the sugar won’t harden. If it does, cover the sugar with a damp paper towel and microwave in 30 second intervals until soft.
Back to the cookies. These cookies, from the fabulous Joy at Joy the Baker, are like a cross between a chocolate chip cookie (without chips) and a snickerdoodle. It has the brown sugar taste and chew from the chocolate chip cookie, and the spice and softness of a snickerdoodle. It also reminded me a lot of gingerbread cookies, which is awesome considering I don’t want to wait another seven months for a ginger flavored cookie. Anyway, these are amazing. The brown sugar kept the cookies soft and chewy, and the addition of cinnamon added that bit of spice that made them feel extra warm and fuzzy. Then, there’s that little kick in the back of your throat from the hint of ginger that sort of creeps up on you. I ended up switching out half of the flour for some whole wheat flour, which added a little nuttiness (and health?) to the cookie. All in all, it’s a lovely and tasty rendition of a sugar cookie, with just the right amount of spice to shake things up a bit. As for my mom? I didn’t hear a word from her this time, and the cookies were gone within days. I’d say I did pretty well this time 😉
Brown Sugar Cookies – adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- Preheat oven to 350F, and place your oven racks un the center and upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.
- Place butter and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and using a hand (or stand) mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed for one minute more.
- Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until the dough begins to come together and the flour disappears. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula. Once all the flour is thoroughly mixed in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, dollop balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will last, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 5 days (if they last that long).
- Not in the mood to make brown sugar by hand? Use your food processor! Just add the sugar and molasses, and blend!