Other people’s recipes: Joanne Chang’s Ginger Molasses Cookies

On Monday and Tuesday, I passed around a list of about 40 baking recipes to my coworkers, and asked each one to nominate the top three things from the list that they’d like to see. Strangely enough, the two most popular requests were both recipes from Joanne Chang’s Flour (Chronicle Books, 2010) — strange not because there’s anything wrong with those recipes (I wouldn’t have included them if there were) but because both recipes are top sellers at Chang’s Flour Bakery-Cafe, which is two blocks from our offices. The most popular request was “Midnight Chocolate Cake”, a monstrously high-calorie layer cake that I will have to be feeling really good about myself to make, but the second-most-popular request was simple, easy, and (for Chang’s confections) relatively low-calorie: “Ginger Molasses Cookies”. (That’s pp. 116–117 of Flour if you’re following along at home.)

I originally had been planning on only doing this baking on weekends — long holiday weekends for the more complex things — but given the simplicity of this recipe, and the fact that it required no ingredients to be purchased, I decided I would just go ahead and do it. Who doesn’t like a good ginger cookie? (Little did I know that most of my co-workers would be off at a staff retreat the day I planned to bring them in!) So this is how I did it:

Mise en place
We start with the mise en place, of course. For a recipe this simple, I often find it easier to simply build the recipe in the mixing bowl rather than elaborately pre-measuring everything into mise cups, but I always like to make certain that I have enough of the basic ingredients before I get too far into the recipe. The recipe doesn’t use all that butter (only a stick and a half), but I know two sticks is enough, and likewise the molasses, baking soda, and spices. Speaking of spices: I used true cinnamon for this recipe rather than cassia, in keeping with Chang’s preference for subtle spice flavors, although that may be undermined somewhat by the strong China No. 1 powdered ginger.

Wet mixture and dry ingredients
The construction of the dough couldn’t be simpler: melt the butter, let it cool, stir in the sugar, molasses, and egg, and then mix the dry ingredients in. Of course, I’ll sift the dry ingredients together and then use a whisk to ensure they are thoroughly combined before adding them to the wet bowl.

Completed cookie dough ready to be refrigerated
Once the dry ingredients are mixed into the wet, the dough is done and ready to be formed — but Chang recommends letting it sit overnight, or up to three days, in the refrigerator, and I saw no reason not to follow that advice, which is now standard for many bakers anyway. So I transferred the dough to a smaller bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and refrigerated it until the following evening — somehow successfully managing to not eat any of the dough in the interim! I weighed the dough out at this stage, and it came to almost exactly 800 g. (A good thing, too, since that is nearly exactly how much mass went in, and I wasn’t planning on challenging any of the laws of physics in this baking project.) The stated yield of this recipe is 16 cookies, so that worked out almost perfectly: each cookie would start with 50 grams of dough.

Dough balls coated in sugar, ready for baking
So on day 2 I took the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for a while. Chang says to portion the dough a quarter-cup at a time, so I got out my #16 disher. The dough balls are coated in granulated sugar before baking, so I put a quarter-cup of sugar in a small bowl and put the whole thing on my scale, which allowed me to verify my portion sizes. I found that the disher made balls that were about 20% too large — a #20 disher would probably have been closer to the mark, but I settled for only partially filling the scoop and reshaping the dough in my hands before rolling the balls in the sugar. Since my new scale can deal with negative numbers, I was able to work out that each dough ball picked up about 3.5 g of sugar. I laid out the dough balls on two cookie sheets, which I baked, one sheet at a time, for 17 minutes in a 350°F (175°C) oven, turning the sheet around halfway through the cooking time.

Cookies hot from the oven
Hot from the oven, the freshly-baked cookies look like this — I think they’re spread out a bit more than the ones at Flour, but they are have the right crackly top, at any rate. You can see that I’m as lousy as ever at laying things out in straight lines….

Cookies cooling on rack
The eagle-eyed will count the cookies on the cooling rack and note that there’s one missing. Did you really think I could or would resist having one for dessert? The remaining 15 will go into the office tomorrow (as I write this) and I’ll probably have one or two more. Luckily, I kept the list of who requested what, so I can make sure they won’t go disappointed even if they go on the staff retreat while I’m in the office advancing.


Based on 50 g uncooked dough coated wuth 3.5 g sugar. You could make them smaller by as much as 20% (10 g), which would increase the yield to 20 cookies.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cookie
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 224 Calories from fat 81
% Daily Value
Total Fat 9g 13%
 Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 34mg 11%
Sodium 130mg 5%
Potassium 96mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 11%
 Dietary fiber 1g 3%
 Sugars 21g
Proteins 3g 5%
Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 9%
Calcium 2%
Iron 3%
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