Great recipes have a history. A way of connecting us to another moment in time. Sometimes it's a moment we only dream about, and other times it's a moment that is very real. That's where my dear friend Bonnie comes in. If I didn't have a picture or two to prove it, I might have thought she was my imaginary friend at a time when I so desperately needed one.
We met when we were both young reporters at a newspaper in a dying mill town on the Columbia River. We found a sense of camaraderie in that we were both there just for the job, she sneaking away to Seattle every weekend by train to see her boyfriend and me back to the town 40 miles away where my then-fiance and I had rented a little house.
We had mid-day lunches and after-work drinks. She loves to travel, is a fabulous writer and enjoys cooking and food. Seth and I celebrated a Fourth of July in her little apartment with her and her boyfriend. And she spent an entire night devoted to me and Seth, picking us up at the airport at about midnight after our wedding, and then turning around and driving us there once again at about 6 a.m. the next day. After about a year working together we went our separate ways. She started a fantastic journey with her husband that started in Iowa and has landed them in Amsterdam. We've kept up over the years through email and Christmas cards, and this spring, I am so excited for her that her first book will be published.
One day while we were both working at that little newspaper, she brought in a plate full of molasses cookies and set them on the table next to the staff mailboxes, where we put anything that was a free-for-all. She called them Aunt Joan's Molasses Crinkles, and with one bite I was in love. I'd never had a molasses cookie before, and I loved the gently sweet crunch. She gave me the recipe, and I made them that same year. I was so proud of myself for making a cookie other than the ubiquitous chocolate chip.
I still like to make this cookie at the holidays. I made about six dozen of them recently to take a neighborhood children's choir event. While I rolled the dough into balls and tossed them in sugar, I thought about Bonnie. I wondered what she was doing all the way in Amsterdam. I doubt that Bonnie and I will ever work in the same cubicle farm again or live in the same city even. But that's OK with me as long as we continue to write to each other. And I'll make her Aunt Joan's Molasses Crinkles every Christmas, always remembering how fabulous it is that I have this little recipe to connect me to a friend, no matter where we're at in the world, and maybe she's making one of my recipes and thinking the same thing.
Aunt Joan's Molasses Crinkles
¾ cup shortening or unsalted butter (shortening for softer cookies, butter for slightly chewier)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar to roll cookies
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream shortening (or butter) and brown sugar. Add egg and molasses; mix well. In a separate bowl, sift together remaining ingredients. Blend dry with wet and refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Once the dough is chilled, hand-roll it into nickel- or quarter-sized balls. Roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat, then place on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.