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 (28) Questions (2)

28 Reviews

Mkilfoyle February 1, 2019
Who wrote this recipe? It reads like it was translated from a foreign language. If I was a new baker and didn't know who Rosy was I would never try this. 3/4 of an egg? honestly... a lot of nonsense direction. I know baking requires exactness but this is a cookie recipe not a fine dessert. Mine go in the oven shortly, I'll let you know how they turn out...
Mkilfoyle February 1, 2019
Just took my first batch out and even with a whole egg they came out tasty and look great.. I would have to say that I think the brown butter detracts from the spices in the cookie and maybe isn't necessary. I felt like it confuses the cookie. Brown butter is a great flavor and spice is wonderful but together the mouth feel is questionable.
Jaik December 31, 2018
How exactly is one supposed to get 3/4 of a large egg?? Is it to be scrambled first?
Nancy M. January 1, 2019
By cracking an egg into a small bowl and removing a bit of the white, as she demonstrates in the video.
Janet B. December 28, 2018
Though I am an ace cooking nearly anything else from recipes, I admit I am a novice baker. I was told some time ago that measuring precisely for baked goods was critical as so much depends upon chemical reactions. This recipe calls for the Baking Soda, (obviously a critical element for chemical reactions,) to weigh 8.2 g or measure 1 1/2 tsp. I am stumped. A leveled tsp is less than 3 grams. Please, if these numbers are written as you intended, which ought I to use, 8.2 g or 1 1/2 tsp.
Seashell January 2, 2019
I haven’t seen anyone reply to you. I am curious too! Let me know if you received/found an answer to your question. I am dying to know myself as I haven’t tried this recipe myself as of yet. Thanks! [email protected]
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Hi Janet and Seashell—when it comes to a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe (or other trusted recipe source), going with the grams is always safest and most convenient (fewer dishes!). The maddening thing about measuring spoons and cups is that they can vary by brand, which could explain why your baking soda is weighing less than hers. Or perhaps your scale isn't calibrated—here's how to check: If you ever want to double-check a weight that isn't matching a volume, King Arthur has ingredient weight charts, as Rose has in her books—you can see here that KA shows 1/2 teaspoon at 3 grams, so the closest measurement that Rose's 8.2 grams could translate to is 1 1/2 teaspoons. Hope this is helpful!
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Oops, forgot to include the link to King Arthur:
Janet B. January 3, 2019
Thanks in particular for the King Arthur chart. I used a much more compact conversion chart to check against the measurements I was seeing on my scale. Let me begin by saying 2 important things: this KA chart demonstrates abundantly there is more to measurement than dry vs wet. The range of weights just in the initial grouping of differing sorts of flour is quite boggling. 2nd the difference alone between baking soda and baking powder is daunting. The chart I used was basically wet and dry, and I used the shortcut they had for "flour" (at this point I can see how laughable that is,) to establish how much a tsp of baking soda ought to weigh. As I cannot adjust my scale (aside from 0/tare and mode,), I operate on the assumption that weighing everything I use on this scale creates internal consistency (at the very least.) So as it is a given that a cup of water weighs 8 oz, and on my scale 8oz doesn't hit the mark precisely on a liquid measuring cup, and the variance is about 3% compared to the cup of water on on a scale with dead-on NASA level of accuracy, then everything I use and weigh will be off to the same degree, so the ratios remain correct.
Seashell January 3, 2019
Very, very interesting!!
Mkilfoyle February 1, 2019
I thought this recipe was very confusing. 1 and 3/4C. of flour was way over the gram amount so I stuck to that number. I used 1-1/2 baking soda but I feel it may have been too much. I think I am tasting it in the cookie. You rarely see more than 1t. in a recipe. I felt this recipe was not proofed as written.
Jessica December 16, 2018
I made this with dark molasses (not blackstrap) and granulated sugar (couldn't find either in stores around me) and they still turned out great! :) FYI, the butter took a long time to come to temperature for me (at least 45 minutes).
jabba9 December 15, 2018
Stunningly great cookies. I live at 8500 feet and no matter what, my cookies turn out crisp. Until now! Hoping it's the brown butter secret (removing water from the butter).<br /><br />Thanks!
Sanjana December 12, 2018
Quick question on the butter. Is it 150 g before or after browning? If after, how much should the weight be?<br /><br />Cheers!
Sanjana December 12, 2018
Clearly didnt read the notes. Thanks!
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!