My mom has a thing for libraries. Ever since I can remember, the library has been presented to me as a much-frequented and much-adored building of worship. Whenever we traveled to another town, my mom gravitated toward the local library. Whenever there was a rainy day during my childhood (or a sunny one, or a snowy one, or a partly-cloudy one) my brother and I were often toted along toward…you guessed it…the library.
I guess all that library-loved rubbed off onto me, because I was an avid reader from an early age. During our library visits my mom would find five-year-old me hidden away at the end of an aisle, legs splayed out in front of me as I flipped through book after book after book. Some of my most favorite children’s books were the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. I can still remember their colorful gingham covers, the paperbacks soft and smooth on my small lap. I read all about Laura and her family living in the big woods of Wisconsin, moving to the wide-open prairie, and having all sorts of pioneer adventures. I was enthralled with the idea of riding in a covered wagon, churning butter by hand, and having only one bath a week! And of course, I loved their good old bulldog, Jack.
Christmas in the Big Woods was possibly my most treasured Laura Ingalls Wilder book. I was as much a Christmas fanatic as a book fanatic, and I must have read that story a thousand times. The doll I received as a Christmas present in 1999 was named Charlotte after Laura’s own Christmas doll. I remember being disappointed that my candy canes weren’t straight and rectangular like the old-fashioned “peppermint sticks” in the book, and I used my own thimble to trace “frost pictures” on the window just like Laura and her sister, Mary. I was also entranced with the idea of the molasses candy depicted in the book. “Pa” would bring in a giant tub of snow from outside, and the girls would heat up molasses and pour it onto the cold snow to make beautiful, edible shapes. Since then, molasses has been a very “pioneer-y” ingredient to me.
These soft gingersnap cookies seem just like something Laura and Mary would have made. They’re simple, lightly-spiced, not-too-sweet, and full of rich flavor from the key ingredient (molasses). Being me, I couldn’t resist kicking them up a notch by adding a Hershey’s hug to each cookie, and I’m glad that I did. The milk and white chocolate pair wonderfully with the warm spices, and I could never say no to pretty swirls. I made these cookies before Christmas, but they’d be great at any time of the year! You’ll feel just like Laura Ingalls Wilder as you bake them…and whether or not that’s a good thing, I can’t quite say. But it sure was for me. 🙂
Gingersnap Kiss Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
3/4 cup butter or shortening (I like to use 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup shortening)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 & 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
3 dozen Hershey’s hugs (or kisses), unwrapped
In a large bowl, cream together the butter (or shortening) and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and egg, scraping down the sides as needed.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until combined. Cover the dough and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets; set aside. Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and coat with granulated sugar. Place 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are set. Immediately press an unwrapped candy into the center of each cookie. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack.
(Recipe adapted from Red Checkered Picnics)