Welcome to a new member of the ginger biscuit family: soft ginger and molasses cookie. I can see the family resemblance to ginger nuts, gingerbreads, ginger snaps and all the other ginger biscuits but this one is tender, cakey and soft with a sugar crunch and a lot of cool ginger heat.
It’s funny how historically inferior food products gain ‘healthy’ reputation over centuries. Flour has turned the full circle: relatively recently the fine, silky white used for the fluffiest, lightest brioches and rolls was prized the highest. Look at it now: coarse, stoneground, full of bran, cracked grains – basically, sweepings off the miller’s floor. And rye; who would ever touch rye a hundred years ago except Russian peasants?
White refined sugar was precious once, sold in ghost-like conical sugarloaves complete with pliers to chip off chunks. It was used sparingly, wrapped in blue paper to better offset the whiteness. Trade and production of cane sugar was subject to vicious taxation and the cause of less illustrious pages of British history. Enough said that the lowest grades of sugar production, i.e. the darkest, were called ‘bastards’ or ‘scum’.
So for centuries you consider what’s whiter, more refined and more labour intense to be better and then it all flips on its head: the dark, crude versions or even by-products are, if not priced higher, then valued for sure. The bastards inherit the Earth.
Sugar has lost its good reputation entirely, the days of its 'radiant energy' recalled with disbelief. But as we now believe in the less refined, less processed and – I daresay – less white, the brown varieties are frowned upon less harshly. Brown sugar, demerara, raw cane and molasses are the lesser of evils.
I have a slight problem with molasses: an undeniably sexier word than treacle, it appears to be actually the same thing. Better known as molasses across the ocean, it’s plain old treacle in the UK. It does give baked goods a lovely smoky flavour which Alison Roman, whose recipe this is, calls ‘adult’. The spice combination is lovely and it makes me want to experiment with fresh ginger in baking for more punch.
But one way or another, let’s not get carried away by all the brown goodness. I’m sorry to say it still is sugar; it will rot your teeth and contains a bucketful of calories. Same as white, in fact. There you go – now reach for the cookie jar…