Food Columnist Judi Leaming finds two reasons to celebrate this week: National Molasses Bar Cookie Day and the founding of the Hershey's Chocolate Company.
There are two reasons to celebrate this week: Feb. 8 is National Molasses Bar Cookie Day and on Feb. 9 we will certainly want to applaud the founding of the Hershey’s Chocolate Company. I have to admit that my initial thinking was to forget about molasses and indulge in a major testing of all recipes chocolate. In fact, I had to do some research to discover what a “molasses bar” actually is. I’m such a devoted Hershey’s chocolate bar fan (with almonds, please!) that my first thought was that a molasses bar must be a type of candy, too.
However, my research quickly led me to realize that molasses bars are actually those cookies that I used to ignore whenever possible because I thought they were too healthy. My maturing palate has now developed a definite liking for molasses and I feel smugly healthier when I’ve eaten anything that contains molasses.
Molasses is a syrupy by-product of processing sugar cane (or beets or grapes) into sugar. According to a brief article on Wikipedia, “The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or sugar beet, the amount of sugar extracted, and the method of extraction. Sweet sorghum syrup is known in some parts of the United States as molasses, though it is not true molasses.”
Depending on where you shop, you’ll find either Grandma’s brand or Bre’r Rabbit brand molasses, both products of BG Foods. According to their website, Grandma’s Original (gold label) molasses is the highest grade, purest molasses that they distribute. If you cannot find this brand, the Bre’r Rabbit Mild Flavor Molasses is a good substitute. Avoid using blackstrap molasses as this has a less sweet, more bitter flavor.
If you are intrigued by historical trivia, I urge you to check out http://www.3ammagazine.com/short_stories/non-fict/truetales/molasses.html to learn more about the Great Molasses Flood in Boston that took place on January 15, 1919 – the very day that my dad, Nelson Forney, must have been celebrating his 4th birthday.
My intention was to offer you three different molasses bar recipes but Molasses Magic Fruit Bars tasted so good and were so incredibly fast and easy to prepare that I didn’t need to test any more. Instead I’ll share with you two other types of molasses cookies and if you want to celebrate Hershey’s anniversary you can go buy a Hershey bar!
Molasses Magic Fruit Bars
1/2 cup shortening, melted and cooled to room temperature*
1/2 cup Grandma’s Original molasses**
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup seedless raisins
Melt shortening and let cool to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees if using a metal pan or 350 degrees if using a Pyrex pan. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish. Place shortening in mixing bowl and beat in molasses and eggs to mix. Beat well then mix in flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Fold in nuts and raisins and pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into bars.
*Recipe was tested using Crisco butter-flavored shortening. It is important to melt this over low heat.
**If you’ll spray your measuring cup with non-stick shortening, it will be much easier to get the molasses out of the measuring cup.
Molasses and Peanut Butter Cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup Grandma’s Original molasses
1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses, peanut butter and eggs; blend well. Mix remaining ingredients together and then mix into the molasses mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about 30 cookies.
Magic Molasses Cookies
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Grandma’s Original molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
In a large mixing bowl combine butter and sugar; beat until well-blended. Add molasses and egg and continue to blend. Combine flour, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice and stir to blend. Add to molasses mixture; mix well. Chill dough for one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick shortening. Shape chilled dough into 1-inch balls, roll in additional granulated sugar and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake in upper part of preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until set. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing to wire cooking racks. Stir in airtight container. Makes about three-dozen cookies.