Molasses Cookies by Grandma Crahan

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This week is all about my friend Cathleen’s Grandma Crahan.  Once a month I will showcase one recipe that was a favorite dish of someone else’s mom, grandma, grandpa, or dad. I’m all about sharing, plus, you never know when you will stumble upon your new favorite recipe.

When Cathleen told me about her favorite cookies, the one image that stuck in my mind was her describing them as being as big as the palm of her hand.  Image 8I can imagine that being a kid with a cookie the size of your hand would make them your favorite cookies for life.

“So, my grandmother had a very sharp wit and a dry sense of humor.  She was independent and had been a career woman before marrying my grandfather and becoming a housewife.  As a kid, I sensed her independence but didn’t really appreciate her as a person til I Image 7was older and she was gone.  Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, I would walk to her house by myself.  I would spend a few hours and during that time she taught me how to sew and make my own clothing. Afterward, she always had these cookies.”  Cathleen C.

Nope, I was wrong.  It wasn’t the size of the cookies that made them her favorite, but rather the lady who made them.

Plus, they are damn tasty.

When I first got a copy of this recipe, the one concern I had was that it called for 7 1/2 cups of flour.  That seemed like an awful lot.  I thought I’d be making cookies for days.  It’s when I got down to making the cookies that the real concern set in….. there weren’t really any directions for me to follow.  Yes, there was that bit about heating up some molasses with some water, then adding the baking soda until it foamed, but other than that short how-to, I had no idea if I just piled everything in and mixed it, rolled it out, rolled it in balls in sugar, ladled out by tablespoon, stand up, sit down, fight-fight-fight……no idea! So, I did what every good cook would do and took to the internet.  I found a similar recipe (Grandma Crahan’s was better, for sure) and used it as a kind of guideline.  I think it turned out great!Image 2

Get out a small sauce pan and place 2 tbsp molasses dissolved in a little water.  Heat it up til just past warm.  Add 1 tbsp baking soda.  (You’ll note that it just says to add baking soda, but not the amount, because Grandma Crahan is trying to keep her recipe a secret!  I’m on to you, Crahan!)  Stir until dissolved and foamy.

Cream shortening and sugar in mixing bowl.  Add foam mixture and blend.  Next, add 1 1/2 cups molasses and mix.  Incorporate eggs.  Add seasonings.  Image 5And now for the mountain of flour and the cup of buttermilk.  Alternate adding 1/3 of flour, then 1/3 cup buttermilk, 1/3 flour and 1/3 buttermilk, and EVERYBODY NOW…. 1/3 flour and the rest of the buttermilk (or 1/3 cup), whichever makes you happiest.

Once everything was all mixed in, the dough looked like creamy peanut butter frosting.  (Note to self:  make peanut butter frosting). I took two large soup spoons and scooped heaping spoonfuls onto a silpat lined cookie sheet.  Once they were are in a row, I patted them down gently to give them a head start on becoming the size of my palm.Image 4

In the oven they went for 13 minutes at 350 degrees.  Your oven may like 12 minutes, or 15….the way to tell when they are done is that they get a bit crinkly and cracked on top.  Take ’em out.  Let them cool for a few minutes on the sheet, then remove them to a cooling rack.

These cookies are pillowy with a soft molasses and slightly gingery smack.  I had a vision this afternoon, while thinking about how to describe them and I realized that if you take two of these cookies and make a sandwich out of them with vanilla ice cream in the middle, that you might just have found a little bit of heaven on earth.

Thank you Cathleen, for sharing your Grandma’s recipe. This will be the first of the special recipes that I will add to my mom’s little metal recipe box…. with a notation at the top of ‘delicious!’.

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Recipe handwritten by Grandpa Crahan. xo

Molasses Cookies by Grandma Crahan

  • Prep time:
  • Cook time:
  • Total time:
  • Yield: 3-4 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Recipe type: Dessert


  • 1 1/2 c. molasses
  • 2 tbsp. molasses heated up with a bit of water.
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 7 1/2 c. flour


  1. Cream shortening and sugar in mixer bowl.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp. molasses and a little bit of water, then add baking soda. Mix until incorporated and foamy.
  3. Mix into creamed sugar.
  4. Stir in molasses.
  5. Incorporate eggs.
  6. Add seasonings.
  7. Add 1/3 of flour, alternate with 1/3 of buttermilk until completely blended.
  8. Place by large tbsp. on silpat or greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with fingers or back of spoon.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees, until fluffy and slightly cracked on top.
  10. Cool on racks and gobble up!

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1 comment

  1. Cathhleen February 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks Holly for helping me remember the past. They were as good as I remembered. Such a nice way to return to those special moments of my youth! Thanks for sharing, Cathleen