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FFC Quest: Attempts Two and Three

The cookies from last time were excellent even the day after, but they were nothing like Freihofer Fruit Cookies. I got several responses to my attempt, including a lengthy and very useful email from Diane. Wise in the ways of culinary science, she is, and made some suggestions for me to try.

The first thing she mentioned was the invert sugar was probably around because it keeps things moist. As an alternative she suggested turbinado sugar, which I had never heard of (at least by that name). A brand you might know is "Sugar in the Raw". It's also called "raw sugar" in the supermarket. Brown sugar is also hydrophilic, but with the molasses it would might be too strong.

Turbinado Sugar
Turbinado Sugar (by kendalia, on Flickr)

She also suggested that I go with shortening rather than butter because it keeps things chewy. Butter loses a bunch of water when it cooks, and so things made with it get crispier.

Lastly, she addressed the coconut. Since I don't really remember there being coconut in the cookies the idea is that they used it as a binder. So perhaps I could try substituting some for some flour.

That not being enough, she sent me a recipe they use and some possible modifications to it that might make it fit my purposes. With this in hand, I began attempt number two.

Diane's Molasses Modification
(Original molasses cookie from Realty World Cookbook)
  • 3/4c shortening
  • 2/3c sugar
  • 1/3c turbinado sugar (aka raw sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c Brer Rabbit Molasses (dark)
  • 1 7/8c flour, sifted
  • 1/8c coconut cut very fine
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1c raisins

Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and molasses, blend well. Add sifted flour,/coconut soda, and salt. Mix well. Integrate raisins and chill. Form into one inch balls, place on a cookie sheet, and slightly flatten balls.

Bake 8 - 10 minutes at 375F. Pull out when tops have cracked but before outside is crispy. Cool briefly on sheets, then move to rack to finish cooling.

Looks like a plan. And a plan that I was executing quite well until the first step. Not sure what I was thinking, but I replaced all 1c of the sugar with the raw sugar. I knew this was bad as soon as took spatula to the mix and made it irreversible. Rather than throw it all out, I figured that I'd commit and make the cookies anway. IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE!

Shannon's Gritty Mistake
  • 3/4c shortening
  • 1c turbinado sugar (aka raw sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c Brer Rabbit Molasses (dark)
  • 2c flour, sifted
  • 1/8c coconut cut very fine
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1c raisins

Another thing to note is that I couldn't find unsweetened coconut in my useless Safeway. So I used sweetened, shredded coconut that I further chopped with a whirring gizzy. It wasn't near as fine as flour, but it's not visible when you look at the cookies at all. For this reason, and NOT the fact that I also forgot to take out 1/8c of the flour, I used the coconut in addition to the flour.

No, I was not drunk when I made this batch.

The Gritty Mistake

As you might guess from the name I gave it, these came out rather gritty. The raw sugar is very granular (more so that brown sugar) and didn't get any less gritty after cooking. They didn't flatten out much in the oven, so larger ones didn't cook through in the middle. If you actually make them 1" balls (as specified in the recipe) they did fine, once I dropped the oven temperature to 350.

A side-note that our oven is probably the original from the house in the 40s or 50s. So, it's a bit squirrely. It doesn't keep temperature really well, for example. Anyway, temperature settings here are best guess. (The first person to tell me to get a thermometer gets to eat a pound of partially cooked molasses cookie dough. Involuntarily.)

The good news is that these actually reminded me a bit of Freihofer Fruit Cookies (FFC)! The basic flavors seemed right, and I got a hint of the chewiness.

The Molasses Modification

In the meantime, I mixed up the Molasses Modification above and cooked them as well. This time I started with 1" balls, which worked out well. This dough spread much more when cooking, which is good: FFCs were pretty flat. I tried bigger cookies by making 2" and 2 1/2" balls and flattening them down to disks. Almost all of these had a tough time cooking through the middle without the edges getting a little overdone (even with the heat dropped to 325).

Though they are much less gritty than the last ones (which are borderline edible), they are still have a little too much of that feel. So, perhaps less or no raw sugar in the next test.

For the last couple cookies, I added some re-hydrated dried currents. (Steeped them in boiled water for 5 minutes.) I did this because they didn't seem to have enough raisins and I had them handy. Though they taste fine, I think raisins are better. I am considering chopping some of the raisins I put in. My Dad and I remember something like that (though there were definitely whole raisins too).

I occasionally notice the texture of the coconut, and I like it.

The flavor is getting pretty close to what I remember. I will say, though, that I don't remember them terribly well. The real test will be having my Dad try them over Christmas.

So, problems to fix: big cookies that actually cook properly, remove grittiness without losing flavor and chewiness, maybe try chopped raisins.

(One likely side effect of this quest is that I will never want to eat one of these cookies again. Burp.)