Pearl sugar–hands down one of the best Scandinavian inventions ever–is one of the primary reasons why I am proud to be Norwegian.
People know within a few weeks of meeting me (okay, a few days) that I am Norwegian. This is because my heritage is the
excuse reason behind many of the quirks of my personality.
My pale skin? Norwegian. My bizarre love of cold weather? That Scandinavian blood. My obsession with cardamom? A childhood of baked goods filled with it.
My love of pearl sugar? Yes. Norwegian.
I love chewy cookies. I’m not big on raw dough, but an undercooked cookie is my kind of baked good. But every so often even I need some variety in texture. (Check out the cooking lingo I’m learning from Top Chef Desserts!) That is why pearl sugar is genius. It holds its crunch and bright glowy whiteness when baked. And you probably know this, but it is pretty difficult to make a cookie that is crunchy-crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.
That is where substituting pearl sugar for regular sugar is a genius move: you get the undercooked, thick, dense texture, the intense dark-molasses-brown-sugar-cinnamon-cloves-ginger-allspice flavor, and a super-sweet crunch of sugar every time you take a bite.
So until I can visit the fjords and northern lights of my ancestral homeland, I will just make some molasses cookies. I’m pretty sure the history of this recipe has nothing at all to do with my Norwegian heritage, but I don’t care: adding pearl sugar makes them Scandinavian enough for me.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened but still cool
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark molasses
About 1/2 cup pearl sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars together at medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add yolk and vanilla; beat until combined (about 20 seconds) and scrape down sides with a spatula. Add molasses and beat until fully incorporated (again about 20 seconds) and scrape down sides again. Add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl again. The dough will be thick and soft.
Place pearl sugar in a bowl for rolling. Scoop dough by the tablespoon–it’s easiest to use a cookie scoop–and roll completely in pearl sugar, gently pressing to adhere the sugar to the ball of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart (cookies will spread).
Bake about 11 minutes, until cookies are browned and still puffy, with cracks revealing what seems to be raw dough. Remove from oven, place pan on wire cooling rack, and allow cookies to cool on the pan for at least 5 minutes. Do not overbake; residual heat from the oven will finish these cookies off and leave you with a chewy, deliciously underbaked center. After their cooling time, cookies may be removed and cooled to room temperature.