Christmas Radio
[high] [low]
Last update:

FFC Quest: Asymptotically Approaching

I think that I'm getting pretty close. From last time, I determined that the raw sugar was too gritty, so I figured that I would try a batch which didn't use any at all. In addition, I decided I wanted to try smaller raisin chunks and a bit more coconut.

I didn't think it wise to replace too much flour with coconut. I replaced 1/8c, and simply added another 1/8c extra. Again, this is shredded, sweetened coconut chopped more fine in a electric chopper.

I also used the chopper to take 1/2c of the raisins and chop them. They went from mostly whole to almost puree suddenly. I was able to stop before they went too far. Raisins are sticky and wet inside and turn into clumps. I mixed them into the wet ingredients, and they distributed well.

Asymptotic Fruit Cookies
Asymptotic Fruit Cookies
  • 3/4c shortening
  • 1c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c Brer Rabbit Molasses (dark)
  • 1 7/8c flour, sifted
  • 1/4c coconut cut very fine
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2c chopped raisins
  • 1/2c raisins

Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and molasses, blend well. Mix in chopped raisins. Add sifted flour, coconut, soda, and salt. Mix well. Integrate raisins and chill. Form into two inch balls, place on a cookie sheet, and flatten balls so they are about three inches wide. Make the center thinner than the edge by pushing your thumb into it.

Bake 8 minutes at 325F. Pull out when tops have cracked but before outside is crispy. Cool briefly on sheets, then move to rack to finish cooling.

I've been experimenting with how to cook these as well, which is why all the pictures have big, small, and medium sizes. For this dough (and my oven), it seems like 325 degrees is the best (original recipe was 375). Much higher and the centers of larger cookies don't cook. In addition, I have to flatten the cookies quite a bit. Even so, I poke the center so it's thinner than the edges so it cooks better. Once they ooze in the oven, you can't tell that I did it.

They taste pretty good, but I can tell that I'm missing a bit of the flavor from the raw sugar. The chopped raisins don't seem worth it, and may actually make the cookies a bit too sweet since it's distributed through the cookie rather than in little raisin-bursts of sweetness.

I'm not certain that the coconut is doing anything. I can very, very rarely taste it. Otherwise I'm not sure what it's doing. I haven't made a coconut-less version yet that I can compare to.

They are chewy and flat like they are supposed to be. I don't think their cracks are quite the same as the original, but I'm not sure that's required.

So, I think the main missing item is getting a bit more of the spicy molasses flavor. I can do this by finding a finer raw sugar (or processing the gritty stuff down) or perhaps using more molasses. I'll have to research what else I'll have to change if I use more molasses.

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.)

Quest for Freihofer's Fruit Cookies

Once upon a time (before they were owned by the fantastically name Bimbo Bakeries) Freihofer's sold fruit cookies. They were a large, chewy cookie with raisins. My Dad loved them and is despondent that he can't find them anywhere. So, I decided that I could try to find a home recipe.

I haven't even been able to find a reasonably good picture of these cookies online. My Dad found nutritional information for the Fruit Cookies, which contained the ingredients. (There's also a picture of the box with cookies in it.)

Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Raisins, Palm Oil, Molasses, Eggs, Water, Invert Sugar, Coconut, Whey, Soybean and/or Canola Oil, Baking Soda, Salt, propylene Glycol, Sulfiting Agents (Preservative).

I'm surprised that it didn't have any cinnamon in it, but my memory of the cookies is pretty hazy. If the list above is complete, there are no "natural flavors" where spices like that might fit.

So I went out to see if I could find a like recipe and came up empty. But I did find a lot of molasses cookies out there. Most are rather close in composition, so I chose one largely at random and made it today as a starting point.

The lucky winner was this recipe from Instructables. I often make cookies by feel, but in the interest of science I followed the recipe to the letter until baking.

These cookies do have spices in them: cinnamon, clove, and ginger. Again, though, I was just looking for a starting point and the pictures looked like a promising match.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  1. Combine dry ingredients
  2. Combine wet ingredients
  3. Stir in dry to wet
  4. Cool in fridge
  5. Roll into balls
  6. Cook on lightly greased cookie sheet
  7. 8 to 10 min @ 350
  8. Cool on pan for 5, rack for 5.
Ginger Molasses Cookies, as specified by the recipe

The first part of the batch, I rolled into 1 1/2 inch balls (like the size of buckeyes/barf balls). They took just short of 10 minutes. They didn't spread a whole lot and so were smaller than the target (and the Instructable). They were soft, but not chewy. The ginger and clove were forward, but they weren't particularly spicy. They were also fantastic with a glass of milk. They'd make a great holiday cookie.

The second part of the batch, I made the cookies larger. A big heaping tablespoon of dough. I also pushed some raisins into each one. They weren't done at 10 minutes, and at 12 they started to brown a bit so I took them out. After cooling for a bit, it was obvious that they weren't entirely cooked. (Also, pushing raisins into the top just doesn't work out well.)

With currants and raisins. Om nom nom.(The sad, undercooked batch is in the back.)

For the last part, I mixed in currants and some raisins to the dough before making the cookies. I made them the same size as the second part. At 11 minutes, they seemed done but I waited a bit longer. At 12 minutes I pulled them out, and they looked a bit overdone on the outside. Still tasty, though.

OK, so this recipe fails on nearly every level. The cookies were cake-y and soft rather than chewy. I knew the spices would be wrong ahead of time, but this clinches that certainly no ginger or cloves were involved. Next batch, I have to decrease the soft and trade it for chewy. This may be as straightforward as decreasing the amount of baking soda.