Ginger Molasses Cookie

So there’s a certain giant mega-corporation coffee chain near our office. I’m sure you know the one – it has a fishy logo. Because it’s the only place near our office, we go there ALL THE TIME. And I’m kind of in love with their giant ginger molasses cookies. But they’re a million dollars and I just KNOW that the reason they’re so chewy and amazing is because they’re filled with all sorts of ick. And there’s probably some form of addictive substance in them (other than sugar, I mean), because I don’t even LIKE cookies and I can’t resist these. And I just found out TWO DAYS AGO that the place near work has discontinued the darned things.

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So it’s been a quest of mine to re-create the recipe on my own. Turns out I’m not the only one who has tried. Most of the recipes I found seem to be taken from the same source and have mostly the same ingredients, so I picked this one from Food.com. Forgive my crappy photos – it’s a weeknight in the winter in Canada so it’s dark. Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Then grab your ingredients.

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Whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Next, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 3/4 cup butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar. I didn’t have dark brown so I went with regular brown. But the darker your sugar, the darker your cookie.

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Scrape down the mixing paddle and the sides of the bowl and crack in 1 large egg. Pour in as well 1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses. I used fancy grade molasses, because that seems to be what you can get in Canada. Not sure what the difference is.

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Give that a good beating until it’s smooth.

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Now, slowly add in your flour mixture while beating on low speed. Keep mixing until the dough forms a cohesive mass – it’ll be super thick and you’ll have to scrape things down occasionally to ensure good mixage.

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Now grab your cookie dough, and your baking sheets, and a shallow dish or plate. Tip about 1/3 cup granulated sugar onto the plate and spread it around. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the dough (I’m not kidding, these things are huge), roll it into a ball, and roll it in the granulated sugar before placing it on the baking sheet.

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Do that five more times for the first sheet, spacing them far apart (they spread). Do the other six on the other baking sheet (yeah, this recipe only makes 12. If you’re not insane and you’d like a smaller cookie go ahead and do that).

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Next, wet your fingers and press down on each cookie ball to flatten it slightly and dampen the sugar coating. Shove one baking sheet in the fridge and the other in the oven.

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Bake each sheet, one at a time, for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until the cookie is an even brown and is mostly solid in the middle. Let those giant suckers cool on the baking sheet.

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I’m not sure if they’re *quite* the recipe I was looking for – I might add more ginger and more molasses (or maybe my ginger is just a little old). But they’re really good nonetheless!

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The From-Scratch-iest Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Some day I’m gonna be super hardcore, growing my own pumpkins in my magic pumpkin patch and harvesting my own gluten-free flour from the enormous gluten-free flour tree on my massive acreage. Until then, however, I will acquire all my ingredients from fairies, just like everyone else. Or the grocery store. Whichever is more convenient.

Still, there’s a certain satisfaction to be garnered from taking a thing from the absolute start to its completion. For me, for now, that means making things as from scratch as I possibly can. And for this particular recipe, that means pie crust from scratch and pumpkin that I slaughtered and roasted myself. Don’t question my wording on that. Have you ever cut up a pumpkin? Yes, “slaughter” is appropriate.

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Let’s start with that, shall we? Look at these beautiful pumpkins. These are NOT carving pumpkins. They are sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, specifically grown for their tender sweetness and exactly the sort of thing you want to dismember and roast for this pie.

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Give them a good washing to remove any dirt.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a nice big rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.

Decapitate your pumpkin by gently sawing off its stem.

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Cleave the pumpkin in two vertically.

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Eviscerate your pumpkin by scooping out the seeds and guts. You can wash and dry the seeds for roasting later on. They’re very good for you but may make you a little gassy. Just sayin’.

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Brush the fleshy surfaces of the pumpkin with vegetable oil. If you’re roasting this pumpkin for savoury purposes, then you would probably dust it with salt and pepper as well, but we’re using it for un-savoury purposes (as in, sweet, not nefarious), so you probably shouldn’t do that.

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Place the pumpkin halves face-down on the baking sheet and let that roast for about 45-60 minutes (depending on your pumpkin size). If you want this whole thing to go faster, then cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces.

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When the pumpkin is done the whole thing can be stabbed easily with a sharp knife.

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While that is baking, try to figure out how to scrub the residue off your hands. It’s harder than you think.

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Let the pumpkins cool a little bit so you don’t burn yourself, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skins.

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I ate some toasted pumpkin seeds while I waited for the pumpkin to cool a little bit more.

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I puréed the pumpkin flesh in a food processor to make it extra smooth.

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Because fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned pumpkin, you might want to drain it a bit. These mesh bags are actually for picking produce at the farmer’s market, but they’re also perfect strainers for thick substances like mashed pumpkin.

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I ended up with about 4 cups pumpkin goo, which is pretty much exactly what I needed for two pies. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days before I made the pie.

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Now for the crust, which I prepped the night before I made the pie. Gluten-free pie dough still needs to rest, just the same as regular pie dough, so that the flour can absorb all the liquid properly. This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, makes one pie shell bottom, so I did it twice.

As with regular pie crust, you still want all your ingredients to be ice cold when you work with them, and you want to handle them as little as possible.

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Start by whisking together 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 2 teaspoons castor/superfine sugar in a small bowl.

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As well, assemble a small pitcher of ice water. Cube 1/2 cup cold butter and put that in a bowl as well. Finally, crack 1 large egg into another bowl and scramble it a little. Shove the water and the egg into the fridge and the butter and flour into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

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When you’re ready to go, dump your flour and your butter into the bowl of your food processor.

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Pulse the dough until the butter forms little pea-sized crumbs.

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Tip in the egg, as well as 1-2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough clumps together.

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I would err on the side of less water as opposed to more. In this batch I think I added 2 tablespoons water and you can see it’s very sticky (gluten-free dough will be stickier by nature, but not this sticky).

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So the next time round I used less water and got this more crumbly dough.

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Squish your dough into a patty and wrap it in plastic. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably three hours, at best, overnight.

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When you’re ready to roll (literally), place a piece of waxed paper on your work surface and lightly dust it with gluten-free flour. Plop your dough patty down and dust that with flour as well.

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Place another sheet of waxed paper over top and carefully use a rolling pin to spread out your dough. Work from the inside out, and flip it over and lift up the waxed paper as often as possible so it doesn’t stick in weird wrinkles.

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When you’re ready to plop the dough into your 12″ pie pan, remember that the dough will stick more to the waxed paper than regular dough, so you might want to chill it a bit beforehand.

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Trim and crimp the edges as usual and chuck it back in the fridge.

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If you’re only making one pie, then halve the ingredients for the filling, but if you’re making two (because really, why not make two?), then here’s how you do it. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups pumpkin purée, 3 300mL cans sweetened condensed milk (900mL total), 4 large eggs, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Nice and smooth and sweet!

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Pour the filling into your two shells and carefully shove them into the oven (preheated to 425°F) on the same rack, if possible. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 35-45 minutes.

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They will be done when the middle is almost set and you can jab a knife into the filling about an inch from the crust and it comes out clean.

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Set those on a rack to cool completely, then EAT!

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Spider-Man Spice Cake

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A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law Ryder winged a banana coffee cake that had me drooling — alas, Rusty refused to share.  So when the Pie requested a spice cake for his birthday I figured I’d wing something similar of my own devising (it’s actually his birthday today, but we celebrated on Saturday).  For the basic cake, I used this one from Dinner with Julie, and it’s excellent.  As for the rest … well, you’ll see.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and butter two 8″ round cake pans.

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In a bowl (or a measuring cup, as I prefer), stir together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 1/4 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, and keep beating.

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Stir together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

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Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar, beating on low speed. If you don’t beat on low speed you will get flour in your face. Consider yourself warned.

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Add in half the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.

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In a separate bowl, mash 2 large ripe bananas.  In another, mix 2 tablespoons instant coffee in with 1/2 cup water (or cold coffee as I used here) and 1/3 cup Nutella (or hazelnut spread).

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Divide your batter in half and mix one with the bananas and the other half with the coffee.

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Pour into your prepared pans in bits, and give it a bit of a swirl with a fork to combine but not fully mix.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until solid on top and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Set those aside to cool completely.

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While that’s on the go you can make this truly amazing icing.  It might be my new favourite. I doubled it from the original to enable me to do what I had to do and only had a little bit left, but I’ll give you the real proportions here.

In a small saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat.

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Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until it gets all nice and foamy, and when you look beneath the foam the butter has turned the colour of caramel (this is, of course where the colour in caramel comes from).

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Pour that into the bowl of an electric mixer together with another 1/4 cup butter and set that aside for now.

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In the same saucepan, still over medium, combine 1/4 cup half and half cream with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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Dissolve the sugar in the cream and keep stirring.

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Remove the mixture from the heat when it gets smooth and foamy, like this:

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Pour that in the mixer bowl too, and let the whole thing cool a bit.

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Slowly mix in 2 cups icing sugar, give or take, until you achieve a consistency that you like.  Now, if you’re a normal person, you can go ahead and just ice your cake to your specifications and enjoy it for what it is.  Me? Nope.  I had to go and make a Spider-Man themed cake for my husband, because I like him a bunch.

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So I divided up the icing into four batches.  One was my control, and would go in the centre between the two halves of cake.  The others were getting dyed with gel paste food colouring.

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I like to do this in glass containers because then I can look through the bottom to see what I’ve missed.  Glass is also way less likely to stain on you.

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The finished concoctions.  Euch.

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Here’s a trick I learned on the internet somewhere for when you need to pipe different colours of icing and don’t want a huge mess.  Not that I’m capable of doing anything neatly.  But anyway.  Plop your icing onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

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Roll the ends of the plastic wrap together, making a tight seal.

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Keep rolling until you run out of wrap to roll.

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Grab the ends of the wrap and swing them around so the icing twists further into a tight little sausage.  Because it was hot as Hades’ hoo-ha in my kitchen I chucked these little sausages in the fridge while I put the cake together.

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Icing in the middle …

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Now you take your sausage of icing and tie a knot in one end of your wrap.

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Then you shove the other one into your icing bag and cut off the end.  Screw on your tip and ice as usual.

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At the end you just pull out this wizened piece of plastic and you are good to switch!  No fuss no muss!

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I think I put too much icing sugar into my icing, so I ended up pressing the top part on with my fingers.

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Then I piped on the best approximation of the Spider-Man logo that I could do with my unsteady hand.  Not bad!

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Ham with Spiced Apricot Glaze

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We cooked this up for Easter dinner last weekend and it was so easy and delicious I think I’m going to have to do it again sometime soon.  It came from the most recent issue of the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine. This recipe is aimed towards a bone-in ham that is about 7-8lb (3.1-3.8kg).  Mine was 5.3kg so I just doubled the amounts.  It’s not an exact science, after all.  The only ham we could get this size happened to be precut in a spiral, but I think you’ll probably have better results if you use an uncut ham.

Apricot Glazed Ham 1

Preheat your oven to 325°F and take the net and plastic off the ham.  Mine also came with a honey glaze that I discarded. Line a roasting pan with foil such that there’s enough hanging off the sides to completely cover the ham.

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Set the ham in the pan, fat side up.

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Trim off the excess fat.  This was a little harder to do with a spiral cut ham.

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Score the ham in a diamond pattern, sprinkle liberally with pepper, and then jam whole cloves into the diamond criss-crosses.  Or, if it’s already cut, wedge the cloves between the slices.

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Wrap the foil around the ham and seal the edges.  Bake for about three hours (or 15 minutes per pound), until a thermometer inserted into the ham (but not touching the bone) reads 140°F.

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When that’s nearly done baking, grab a small saucepan and mix together 3/4 cup apricot jam, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon ground ginger.

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Heat the jam on low until it’s melted and bubbly.

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Open the foil on your ham when it’s ready and cover it with glaze (don’t forget to remove the cloves!).  Continue to bake, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes, until the glaze is starting to caramelize.

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Tent the foil over the ham to keep it from drying out and let it stand for another 15 minutes before carving.

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To carve a spiral ham, simply twist the knife at the bone to separate the ham, Then cut along the sinew lines for clean slices. I love apricot jam.  And this just gave me another reason to love it more.

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Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams

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For some reason I still don’t understand, I volunteered to do some baking for prizes to give out at the Pie’s final video game tournament before we move.  Because the group is called Newfoundland Fighting Jam, the Pie and I thought it would be funny to make up some Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.

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You may have heard of jam jams.  From what I understand, the general version is a round sugar cookie sandwich with jam in the middle, where the top cookie may or may not have a hole in it.  The Newfoundland version of this uses a softer molasses cookie.  If you don’t want to make your own you can order some from Newfoundland’s own Purity Factory.

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Of course, because we can’t leave well enough alone, we had to mess with the recipe a little bit, and we used our ninjabread cutters to make the cookies.  Keep in mind that below is a doubled recipe, so unless you want a million cookies, I suggest you cut it in half.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening (both at room temperature).

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Cream those together in an electric mixer with 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (the darker the sugar, the fluffier your cookie will be, due to the high concentration of molasses).  Beat the crap out of those ingredients until they’re super fluffy.

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Now beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before you add in the next one.  If you want to halve this recipe, I would use one egg plus the yolk of another.

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Add in 1 cup molasses (fancy or whatever, whichever intensity of flavour you prefer) and 3 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Look at that silky, creamy molassesy goodness.

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In a separate bowl, sift together 6 cups all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger.

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Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients until you form a nice soft dough. And I mean really soft. Resist the urge to add more flour. The squishier your dough is now, the squishier your cookies will be.

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Split the dough into 4 parts (2 if you’re halving it) and chill it for at least an hour. Two is preferable. And you want to have all your working surfaces, tools, hands, etc., as cold as possible while you’re working with it.

When you’re ready to go, preheat your oven to 350°F, line some baking sheets with parchment paper, flour a work surface, and get your rolling pin handy. And you’re going to need a lot of flour. Like for the work surface, for your pin, for your hands, for the dough … It’s tacky stuff.

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Working with one part of your dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator, roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness (or about half a centimetre, if you’re feeling metric), and cut it out with your cookie cutters.  If you’re doing a circular cookie, some jam jam aficionados like to cut a small hole in the top cookie for the jam to poke through, but that’s up to you, my friend.

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If you’re making something other than circles or symmetrical shapes, remember to flip your cutter over so you can make a top and bottom to your cookie.  Our ninja cutters had a duller edge on top, so it made it a little harder, but we persevered.

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Eventually we developed an easy system, but it took a bit of time. You will probably sort something out yourself.

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If your dough gets too soft, huck it back in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.

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Bake your cookies, rotating the pans halfway through and keeping a close eye on them, for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your cookie.  You want these babies to be nice and soft, so make sure to pull them out before they get too brown.  If they don’t look done yet, don’t worry — they will continue to cook on the baking sheet.

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Spot the corgi for bonus points!

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then take a wodge of your favourite jam (I used raspberry here, but you could go full-Newfie and use partridgeberry or bakeapple if you want to be truly authentic) and spread it thinly on the bottom of one of your cookies. These ones used about a teaspoon of jam per cookie.  Press that cookie’s pair on top of the jam and then heave the whole batch into a warm oven (like 250°F) for a few minutes to make the jam all cement-y.  This also warms up the cookies again and makes them soft so you can do a little bit of repair work if any of them got bent too out of shape.

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TADA.  Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.  A mouthful to say.  A mouthful to eat.  A win-win situation for everyone!

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I made this up after doing a bit of research, and my main inspiration for ingredients came from these four down-home recipes, in addition to my own family recipe for Molasses Gems:

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Missing the Rock: Jam-Jams

Salt Junk: Jam Jams Cookies

Mmm…ade: Newfoundland Jam Jams

Rock Recipes: Soft Molasses Cookies or Giant Jam-Jams

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