In the weeks before Christmas my pantry begins to fill with cocoa powders, sugars, molasses, and spices, my fridge fills with pounds of butter, blocks of shortening, and dozens of eggs. And then it begins. Holiday Baking. Four weeks of doughs and batters, mixing, melting, rolling, piping, icing, and...tasting. It's a production, certainly, but it just wouldn't be December without a counter constantly full of cooling cookies, and I have to admit, I love every minute of it.
So I'm happy to share one of my favorites with you here. I make these cookies every year, and more often than not, they are the ones I choose to kick off the baking spree. Spicy and sweet, warm and soft, they are an old favorite and will make your kitchen smell like Christmas.
Molasses Raisin Gems
(The original source of this recipe has been long lost - I received this version from my mother, but if anyone knows the origin of this one, please let me know and I'll be sure to give proper credit)
3/4 Cup vegetable shortening
1 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 Cup molasses
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Cup raisins
Turbinado sugar for rolling (approximately 1 Cup)
Beat shortening and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the molasses and egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt in a separate bowl and gradually add this mixture to the shortening mixture. Add the raisins to the dough using a wooden spoon to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 1/2 an hour or until well-chilled.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
When dough has been chilled, remove from the refrigerator and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll the balls in the turbinado sugar, one at a time, and place 2 inches apart on greased or lined cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The cookies will appear cracked on the surface and should still be quite soft when removed from the oven. Allow cookies to cool for a minute, then carefully remove them using a spatula, and let cool completely on wire racks.
This recipe should yield approximately 36 cookies, and they do freeze remarkably well.