3 1/4 C. all-purpose white flour, plus more if needed
2 t. ground ginger
3/4 t. ground cloves
3/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. baking soda
Generous 1/4 t. salt
1 C. light or dark molasses
3 T. light or dark rum
3/4 C. plus 2 T. vegetable shortening
3/4 C. packed light brown sugar
About 1/4 C. sugar, for topping
In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the molasses, rum, shortening, and brown sugar until very well-blended and smooth. About 2 minutes. Beat in half of the flour mixture until evenly incorporated. Vigorously stir or beat in the remaining flour mixture until evenly incorporated. If necessary, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour to make dough slightly stiff, but not at all dry.
Divide the dough into thirds. Place each portion between large sheets of wax paper. Roll out each portion of a scant ¼ inch thick; check the underside of the dough and smooth out any wrinkles that form. Stack the rolled portions (paper still attached) on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1½ hours or up to 8 hours, or freeze for 45 minutes to speed chilling.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray.
Working with one portion at a time and leaving the remaining dough chilled, gently peel away, then pat one sheet of wax paperback into place. Flip the dough over, then peel off and discard the second sheet. Using a 3 to 3 1/4-inch fluted or plain round cutter, cut out the cookies. (If at any point the dough softens too much to handle easily, transfer the paper and cookies to a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until firm again.)
Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Very generously sprinkle the cookies with sugar. Reroll any dough scraps. Continue cutting out the cookies until all the dough is used.
Bake the cookies, on sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 9 to12 minutes, or until almost firm in the centers and just barely darker at the edges. (For crunchy-crisp cookies, overbake slightly; for less crisp cookies, under bake slightly.)
Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.
Yield: About 30 cookies.
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