Kristina’s Molasses Crinkles

molasses crinkles

I couldn’t believe the cookies were made with shortening. I’m an all-butter kind of girl. Until a week ago in fact, the thought of shortening, a product I reserved solely for seasoning cast iron skillets, sort of repulsed me. Until a week ago, I also would have told you I could detect the difference between a cookie made with butter and one with shortening. I mean, it’s a rookie skill, right?

So I thought. My cousin Kristina makes the very best molasses cookies I have ever tasted. And they’re not just the best molasses cookies ever; they’re one of the best cookies ever. Last December when I received Kristina’s recipe in the mail and discovered that her legendary molasses crinkles were made with shortening, my earth sort of shattered. I would have bet money they had been made with butter.

But perhaps this was an opportunity, I thought. I would substitute butter for the shortening and then blog about the nearly perfect cookie I had perfected with butter. But once again, my earth shattered. The cookies I prepared with the butter-for-shortening substitution were terrible. The texture lacked the softness and chewiness of Kristina’s, and the flavor, perhaps tarnished by over baking, was just not as I had remembered. Did Kristina in fact use shortening in her cookies? I was still in disbelief.

It was time for me to try shortening. And since I was venturing into the realm of repulsive ingredients, I thought why not try something truly repulsive? This past spring, a friend in CA introduced me to a little product called buttered-flavored shortening, an ingredient she had used in a batch of phenomenal chocolate chip cookies she was so graciously sharing with me.

Butter-flavored shortening. I mean, it doesn’t get much more repulsive than this. Have any of you ever opened a can of this stuff? Have you seen its color? Have you smelled it? Have you ever tried washing it off your hands? Have you reviewed the ingredient list? It’s filled with all of the worst sorts of things — fully and partially hydrogenated oils, mono and diglycerides, to name a few. It’s a list that might appear in Michael Pollan’s worst nightmare. Butter-flavored shortening. Truly, it doesn’t get more repulsive than this.

I couldn’t help but wish my butter-flavored-shortening molasses crinkles to fail. As they baked, I kept thinking, there’s no way my adorable cousin Kristina could use such a vile product. No way. But when I pulled from the oven a pan with nine perfectly golden domed mounds crinkling up at me, I began to believe. And then, after they cooled and I took a bite, and the soft and chewy texture was just as I had remembered, and the flavor, too, was buttery and not at all artificial tasting and spiced with those wintry flavors of cinnamon and cloves, I was convinced. These were Kristina’s molasses crinkles. I had never been so happy to have such a vile product in my pantry.

I had to call Kristina to discuss. “So Kristina,” I said when she answered the phone, “your molasses cookies and I have been on a long journey together, and I’ve finally accepted that you do in fact use shortening, right?”

“Shortening?” she replied. “No, I always use butter. I don’t know what shortening is.”

I had to laugh. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What had gone wrong the first time I had attempted Kristina’s recipe? Was it just a terribly off day for me in the kitchen? And had I now gone crazy to welcome to my pantry such a product as butter-flavored shortening? What was going on? All of a sudden I heard myself trying to convince Kristina of the virtues of butter-flavored shortening. Kristina, rightly so, would hear nothing of it.

So where does that leave us? Well, I’m afraid, the conclusion to this long-winded post is that my quest to create Kristina’s molasses crinkles continues. The above- and below-pictured cookies were in fact made with butter-flavored shortening and truly were delicious. That said, I know my cousin’s cookies are better, and as soon as I can, I am going to make another batch of each — Kristina gave me some tips, which I enclosed below — and do a side by side comparison.

In the meantime, I guess I’m just going to have to embrace the repulsive yet remarkable ingredient that has entered my pantry. Butter-flavored shortening is here to stay.

molasses crinkles

dough balls

sugar coated dough balls

Molasses Crinkles
Source: Cousin Kristina via Betty Crocker’s Best Cookies
Yield = about 27 cookies

3/4 cup butter-flavored shortening (See notes below for Kristina’s variation made with butter)
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (table salt as opposed to kosher)
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
granulated sugar

1. Mix shortening, sugar, egg and molasses thoroughly. (I used a stand mixer, but you probably could mix this batter by hand.) Sift (I whisked) all of the dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until combined. Chill. (A time wasn’t specified, but I would imagine one to three hours would suffice. I chill the dough and bake off six to nine cookies at a time — the batter will stay good for days.)

2. Heat oven to 375ºF. Roll dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (I portion my dough into 7/8-oz (28g) balls using my Salter digital scale.) Dip balls in sugar and place sugared side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle each with two or three drops of water. (This is sort of awkward — I dipped a fork in a cup of water and sort of pulled water from the glass to sprinkle it on top… if that makes any sense. Kristina in fact skips the water-sprinkling step.) Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheet pan before eating.

Notes: Kristina uses butter in place of the shortening. She also uses a little bit less flour but didn’t give an exact amount — so maybe do a scant 2.25 cups or a heaping 2 cups. She also bakes the cookies at 350ºF for about 8 minutes.

molasses crinkles

19 Comments

  1. I use butter-flavored Crisco in chocolate chip cookies, with the best results. I’ve been told that I make the best cookies, and I’ve never been able to reproduce those results with butter. The product is vile, but it’s not like I’m making chocolate chip cookies more than a few times a year… so I don’t feel too bad about having a few sticks of it banging around the pantry. :) These cookies look great!

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  2. Ali, I have a batch of molasses cookies ready to bake off in the fridge and they were made from butter. I’ll report in as to whether they taste good or not. Your cookies are beautiful!

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  3. I fully support shortening, and as I’ve mentioned, we always used to make cookies with shortening back in the day in good ol’ Kansas, they make for gooey deliciousness!

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  4. Oh, this is one of my favorite cookie recipes, I’ve been making it since I was a kid. I’ve always made it with butter, like your cousin, but it’s interesting to see that your shortening version seems to produce much thicker, puffier cookies. Mine are generally pretty flat (but still delicious). I’ll have to try butter flavored shortening next time I make these!

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  5. I’ve never used shortening before, and honestly I kind of feel the same way as you do about it. Good luck on your quest in perfecting this recipe though! Even as they are, they look yummy!

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  6. this made me laugh out loud. I love the debate going on in your head – amazing cookie v. evil shortening. And I’m glad to see that the cookie won! Granted I’m not a fan of shortening and don’t even know what the shortening container looks like or where to find it in the market, but I’m sure my southern in-laws could help me out there. Anywaaaaay, I definitely want to try these, but I’ll probably try the butter route, and I’ll be sure to let you know if I have any success. still giggling.

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  7. I found this post funny. I too am repulsed by the idea of shortening or buttered flavored anything. I can’t eat movie theater popcorn for that reason. But, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect molasses cookie that I remember from childhood. I want to try these. My pie pastry and chocolate chip cookie secret is always to refrigerate 24 hours before baking. Not sure why it matters but it does, especially cookies, so they are never flat and always soft. I will try these and come back and let you now. I would do anything for one of those cookies.

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  8. I just found some of your blog on Pinterest and I’m in love with your pictures! My friend pinned your blueberry cake and I cannot wait to try it!

    I had this same experience making these new sugar cookies the other day. I NEVER cook with shortening. I think we’ve had the same old can in our pantry for the last 5 years… but this new recipe I found used it and I swear they were the best sugar cookies I’ve ever made. I’m giving the shortening a chance…or maybe just for the holidays

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  9. I enjoyed this post. I too am a baker and totally repulsed by shortening. I actually have a cookbooklet published in 1890 or so by the Crisco Co. and they use it in EVERYTHING and say how it is the most amazing new product ever invented for the home cook.

    Recently I read somewhere why shortening is used in baking cookies and why it is so different than butter and NEEDED for certain recipes.

    Shortening has a much slower melting point so the cookies remain soft, chewy and don’t spread out. Butter makes cookies crisp, crunchy and flatter than those made with shortening.

    I started using non-hydrogenated shortening in recipes calling for it and it works well.

    Happy New Year!

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  10. This is a similar recipe to a ginger molasses cookie I make. I’ve never used shortening in them though that is what the original recipe calls for. I use – wait for it – soft, olive oil, non-hydrogenated margarine. And they are amazing cookies. People can’t get enough of them. You can’t handle them too much when rolling them out, but the substitution works fine. And they are way healthier than using shortening.

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  11. Oh myyyy!!i m falling in love with you instantly!i found you in pinterest and totally wondering why i just found you!i would love to give this a try!

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