Molasses and rum
They go together like peanut butter & jelly. No, more like peanuts and peanut oil. Actually, they’re like cows and methane. (I’m going to stop now…you get the idea). One produces the other. And both are made from sugarcane juice, which is itself a byproduct from refining sugar. Molasses comes from repeated boiling of the juice until it’s a dark, viscous liquid (“You’re slower than molasses in January!” is an epithet I’ve heard uttered). Rum can be made from either distilling molasses or the sugarcane juice directly. And molasses is the key ingredient to one of my favorite treats…homemade molasses cookies!
The importance of Rum
Rum plays an important role in American history. Did you know that there was a disaster called the Great Molasses Flood in 1919? I didn’t until I moved to Boston (I’m not making this up…you can google it for the details). Rum was also part of the Triangle Trade between New England, Africa, and the Caribbean in the 18th Century (a shameful part of history, to be sure). Molasses was a very important commodity for quite a while. (Ok, I’ll stop the economic history lesson here before I really start going overboard, because you know I can…)
(Is there a point to this?)
Ahem…I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve started baking items that I’ve paired with the whisky expressions at tasting events. Coming up with what food to pair with what whisky takes a bit of creativity and my knowledge of how the dram sits on my palate informs me on what flavor I want to highlight. This week I’m preparing another set of pairings for a tasting event pour list (actually, as you read this post the tasting has happened already, but not yet as I write it). Anyway, Gordon’s in Waltham is presenting/presented a seminar called Springbank Oak Exploration Seminar. One of those drams will be/was a rum finished whisky that I will pair/paired with my homemade molasses cookies. Here’s how Holly Seidewand, Gordon’s whisky specialist, put it:
Springbank 19 Fresh Rum @ 55.7% ABV
Molasses cookies…the deep flavors of brown sugar, molasses, and warm spices are combined in this cookie, then dusted with powdered sugar for a rich treat
(Oh, this time thing is getting ridiculous! I’m just going to write in the present tense and you’ll just know that you’re in the future from me) (oooohhh…you’re a time-traveler!)
Let’s pair up!
See? See? Since rum and molasses go so well together, the flavors of the cookie should really highlight the rum notes in the expression. Also, since whiskies have usually started their aging process in oak barrels, the warm spices from the cookie (like cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla) echo those flavors imparted into the whisky from the oak barrels.
So enough about why I paired the two…let’s talk about the cookie itself. The recipe I used is from the Outlander Kitchen website, Theresa Carle-Sanders wonderful ode to the food of Outlander. She has so many incredible recipes that, while inspired by 18th Century Scotland and America, are thoroughly modern in their ingredients and preparation. If you haven’t been to Outlander Kitchen, I highly recommend that you stop by for a visit. These cookies are soft and chewy, with the rich, dark molasses melding with the spices to practically melt on your tongue. They’re also super easy to make!
Homemade Molasses Cookies
from Outlander Kitchen
Makes about 2 dozen
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup butter, melted
- ⅓ cup light or fancy molasses
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, unpacked
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- Move the racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375℉. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cardamom, and cloves until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the melted butter, molasses, granulated sugar brown sugar and egg until smooth. Add the flour to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic and refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.
- Scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and roll in the powdered sugar. Knock off the excess sugar and arrange on the baking sheets, flattening each ball slightly with your fingertips.
- Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracked, 8 to 10 minutes. Store in an air-tight tin for up to 5 days.
I love the idea of complementing and contrasting the flavors of whisky and food…homemade molasses cookies and rum-finished scotch is a good place to start. The challenge to come up with appropriate pairings is real, but it’s creative and fulfilling also. Have you made an interesting pairing that you’d like to share with the group? You don’t have to raise your hand, just leave a comment below. Now I’m off to go to the pairing. Maybe I’ll run into future me!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!