Rose Levy Beranbaum's Molasses Sugar Butter Cookies

November 29, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Rose Levy Beranbaum received a recipe that made a molasses cookie with an ideal chewy-crisp texture—but because it called for shortening, it lacked the rich, full oomph of butter. Simply swapping butter for shortening isn’t always as straightforward as it seems: While shortening is all fat, American-style butter typically has 15% water. With extra moisture, the chew fades, the handsome cracks disappear. Rose simply bubbled the extra water away on the stovetop, as you do when you’re clarifying butter. Then, while she was at it, she kept going to brown the milk solids and make brown butter, because there are very few instances where this isn’t an improvement. Adapted slightly from Rose's Baking Basics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).Genius Recipes

Makes: twenty-four 2 3/4-inch cookies
Prep time: 1 hrs 30 min
Cook time: 30 min


  • 150 grams or 10 1/2 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 38 grams or 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (35 ml) or 3/4 large egg
  • 204 grams or 1 3/4 cups minus 1 tablespoon (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) bleached all-purpose flour
  • 8.2 grams or 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 125 grams or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 60 grams or 3 tablespoons (45 ml) light molasses, preferably Grandma’s brand
  • 24 grams or 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, for rolling the dough balls (see Baking Pearls)
In This Recipe


  1. CLARIFY AND BROWN THE BUTTER: Have ready by the cooktop a 1 cup glass measure with a spout. In a small heavy saucepan, on very low heat, melt the butter, stirring often with a silicone spatula. Raise the heat to low and boil, stirring constantly, until the milk solids on the spatula become a deep brown. Immediately pour the butter into the glass measure, scraping in the browned solids as well. Allow the browned butter to cool to room temperature, or no higher than 80°F/27°C (see Baking Pearls, below).
  2. Into another 1 cup measure with a spout or a small bowl, weigh or measure the egg. Cover with plastic wrap.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
  4. MAKE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the browned butter with its solids, the sugar, molasses, and egg on low speed for 1 minute.
  5. Add the flour mixture. Start mixing on the lowest speed to moisten the flour. Raise the speed to low and beat for 30 seconds.
  6. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it in half (about 281 grams each). Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm enough to handle (see Baking Pearls).
  7. PREHEAT THE OVEN: Thirty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack at the middle level. Set the oven at 375°F/190°C.
  8. ROLL THE DOUGH INTO BALLS: In a small bowl or large custard cup, place the sugar for rolling the dough balls. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator.
  9. Measure the dough into a 1 1/2-inch diameter cookie scoop and level it off with a small metal spatula, or scoop out a heaping tablespoon (23 grams). You will get 12 pieces of dough. Roll each piece in the palms of your hands to form a 1¼ inch ball.
  10. Roll each dough ball around in the bowl of sugar to coat it well. Set the dough balls a minimum of 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.
  11. BAKE THE COOKIES: Bake for 4 minutes. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet halfway around. Continue baking for 4 to 6 minutes. Cracks will appear on the surface, but the inside will look slightly underbaked. When gently pressed with a fingertip, the cookies should still feel soft in the middle. (Baking longer will result in a darker looking and crisper cookie throughout.)
  12. COOL THE COOKIES: Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 3 to 5 minutes, until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack for cooling. Use a thin pancake turner to transfer the cookies to another wire rack. They will firm up as they cool, with a crisp surface and soft chewy interior. Shape, bake, and cool the second batch.
  13. STORE AIRTIGHT: room temperature, 7 days; refrigerated, 2 weeks; frozen, 3 months.
  14. BAKING PEARLS: If the browned butter is used at a higher temperature than 80°F/27°C, the cookies will not expand to 2 3/4 inches and will not form cracks. They will also require another 2 minutes of baking.
  15. It is essential to clarify the butter for these cookies, because just melting the butter will result in a thinner cookie that doesn’t bake through. Use grade AA butter; lower-quality butter (containing more water) will result in a lesser amount of browned butter. You will need a total of 110 grams/½ cup plus 1 tablespoon/133 ml browned butter.
  16. Superfine sugar will give the finest, most even crunch to the surface of the cookies, but if desired, turbinado sugar can be used instead for more sparkle.
  17. Refrigerating half the dough while you shape the first batch keeps the remaining dough cool, which prevents the baking soda from activating and ensures that the cookies will be uniform in size and shape. The time it takes to roll the remaining twelve dough balls is about the same as it takes to bake the first batch.
  18. The raw dough freezes nicely; however, if the dough is not baked on the same day as mixing, the cookies will be slightly larger, flatter, and darker in color.

More Great Recipes:
Cookie|American|Molasses|Serves a Crowd|Bake|Freeze|Make Ahead|Winter|Dinner Party|Friendsgiving|Christmas|Christmas Eve

Reviews (13) Questions (2)

13 Reviews

Barbara December 11, 2018
These were delicious I weighed all ingredients, but I think that next time I will measure the baking soda because my scale doesn’t do fractions of grams. They turned out picture perfect as well as being wonderfully complex and delicate in flavor.
andi December 9, 2018
Is it possible to make the dough with a food processor if you don't have a stand mixer?
Kristen M. December 10, 2018
I haven't tried it myself but I think that should work fine, especially since you're not going for a fluffy creamed butter/sugar mixture here (the food processor tends to make denser creamed mixtures than a stand or hand mixer would).
Olivia G. December 4, 2018
These cookies are amazing! I've only just taken the first batch out of the oven and waited about 5 minutes before tasting. Still warm they are crispy but chewy and absolutely perfect. Thanks so much for the recipe!
Shel December 3, 2018
I’m confused and curious about the baking soda refrigerator instruction because while baking powder is heat activated, baking soda isn’t, I thought. I thought bicarbonate of soda is only acid activated.
Rose L. December 4, 2018
Shel, flour contains a small amount of acidity and moisture which causes the baking soda to activate slightly. baking soda added to a recipe always results in more browning. i wondering this myself many years ago and researched it. it never occurred to me that flour, which seems dry, might indeed have moisture locked into it so to speak.
Gammy December 2, 2018
These look delicious! Is it possible to incrementally increase all the ingredients by 1.333x to be able to use the entire large egg rather than the 3/4? The spices would be a guesstimate, but I think with all other measurements in grams everything else would scale up nicely and you would end up with 30 cookies instead of 25.
Rose L. December 4, 2018
absolutely yes! i didn't do that only because i thought people would freak out to see odd numerical amounts! bravo for the thought!<br />
Nancy H. December 1, 2018
just had my first taste and they are wonderful! Followed your recipe pretty much to the letter and your description of crisp outside, chewy inside was bang on! Thanks Rose! Will check out your book for sure!
samanthaalison November 29, 2018
Not a comment about the recipe, but about the format. Because the main image is a video, when I use the "Pin It" button I don't get an option that actually shows the cookies.
Sandra November 29, 2018
The button to print doesn’t work.
Candy S. November 29, 2018
I just selected the Print button and it worked just fine.
Kristen M. November 30, 2018
Thanks for noting this, Samantha! I'll share with our engineering team. There are still some recipe photo behind the scenes (they're what will show up in recipe search and other pages on the site), so hopefully there will be a good way to make this recipe more Pin-able!