This year, I was again honored to serve as a judge at the Los Angeles County Fair for some of their baking competitions. The bakers who come to the fair are always incredibly creative and picking out the best recipe is not an easy task. Fortunately, I don’t mind a tough job! One of the contests that I judged this year was the Gold Medal Flour Cookie Contest, where entrants had to make their best cookie recipes using Gold Medal Flour. The cookies were judged on appearance, creativity and – most importantly – taste. The winning recipe ended up being a cookie that is perfect for the upcoming holiday season: Molasses Bourbon Cookies. The cookies taste like the holidays and, while they look pretty, they taste even better.
The cookies are easy to make and crowd-pleasing. They’re quite spicy and that makes them a great choice for October – January baking, though you could certainly make batches all year round. It may seem like there are a lot of spices happening in this cookie dough, but believe me when I say that they all come together to create a cookie that is spicy, but balanced. They taste like the holidays, with a nice blend of sweetness, molasses and spice. I made my cookies slightly smaller than the cookies we were served at the fair and this is reflected in the recipe below. I did this because the filling tends to squish out of a sandwich cookie when you take a bite and smaller cookies seem to contain it a bit better than larger ones. Small cookies also give you the option to eat just one for a small snack, if you’re not craving a lot of sweets.
The cookies are soft, tender gingerbread that have just a hint of bourbon in them. Fortunately, there is more bourbon to be found in the buttercream filling that is sandwiched between the cookies! The buttercream is a meringue-based buttercream, which has a very light texture that is a nice contrast to the dense cookies. It has a nice bourbon flavor that brings out the whiskey in the cookie dough and ties everything together.
Molasses Bourbon Sandwich Cookies
(winner 2016 Gold Medal Cookie Contest, LA County Fair)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 tbsp bourbon
Coarse sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugars, molasses, egg and bourbon. Mix in dry ingredients. Dough may seem dry as you begin to mix, but will come together after a minute or so.
Shape into 3/4-inch balls and roll in coarse sugar. Arrange on baking sheet, leaving about 1-1/2 inches between the cookies to allow for spread.
Bake for about 8 minutes, until cookies are set around the edges. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 3-4 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cooled, pair up each cookie with another of similar size and shape. Fill cookie sandwiches with buttercream.
Makes about 30 sandwich cookies.
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/3 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 tbsp bourbon
In a small saucepan, stir together 3/4 cup sugar and water until well combined. Turn heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Cook until mixture reaches 230-235F on a candy thermometer, about 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, put egg whites, cream of tartar and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk on high until it gets foamy.
When sugar comes to the correct temperature, remove from heat. With the mixer beating the egg whites on low speed, slowly stream the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites. When the sugar has been completely incorporated, turn mixer up to high and beat to stiff peaks. Continue beating until meringue reaches room temperature, about 5-10 minutes. Beat in butter 2 tbsp at a time until it is completely incorporated. Blend in bourbon at low speed.
Store at room temperature until ready to use.