Given of the appearance of these warm, spicy cookies you might assume that I love fall, and I am eagerly anticipating crisp mornings, changing leaves, and the beginning of school. However, while these cookies would not be out-of-place nestled beside a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a juice squeeze box, I have to make a confession.
I hate fall.
Fall is the season that people who don't really like to be outside claim to love. They don't love summer, because it is virtually a crime against nature to hide from the outdoors in the air conditioning when the warm air is like a welcoming, sunny embrace and the sky makes a better ceiling for your world than any house.
They don't like winter because of the bitter chill that even cuts you when you turn the heat up (and truthfully, I don't know how ANYONE really likes winter, unless they ski...Christmas was invented to make winter palatable).
They don't like the hesitating, joyous toddler-like steps of nature in the spring, yearning for new life...this again demands you come outside...so people who hide from the outdoors say they like fall by default.
Admittedly, the nicer days of fall can be quite memorable. And I love the smell of fall. (Alas, the smell of burning leaves are a distant memory because they are illegal fire hazards, much like the satisfying clinks of closing a metal lunchbox, which are now banned because they can be used as deadly weapons). But nice fall days can be counted on your fingers and most of fall usually alternates between soggy cold damp evenings when it's too warm to turn on the heat and too cold to go sleeveless...and warm afternoons that taunt you with the dying promise of summer.
Fall for me is a season where there is a chasm between the real and the ideal. I am a summer girl: I like the confidence of good weather, running outside, and the fact that the heat and beauty of nature pushes me to take new risks with my body and life. Summer commands your attention and challenges you, fall encourages you to hibernate, and the dreary weather provides you with constant excuses not to move forward...
The difference between the real and the ideal is also manifest in the promise of school, which also begins around this time. I'm old enough so that I was able to pick my own garish school supplies, and didn't go with my mother to K-Mart armed with a list written by a Monk-like superintendent of wet wipes and mandatory black notebooks. I loved buying a yellow Snoopy lunchbox, glitter pencils, a Trapper Keeper with a horse on it, and a Garfield notebook. But by October, the Keeper was a snarl of half-done homework and I was once again reading unassigned Judy Blume books behind my math textbooks, paying no attention to the teacher in front of the chalkboard.
I remember I was one of two kids who could read when she was in the first grade, and my teacher would give me thick collections of stories to read and give reports on--I would read the book in an evening (the texts were far below my level) and my teacher never believed that I could read that fast and still put addition marks on the wrong side of equations. If I was a school, my motto would be: "Disappointing and confusing people for 37 years and counting." I wonder how you say that in Latin?
Fall in my area is also hurricane season, and I am not-so-eagerly anticipating the coming of Hurricane Irene as I write this.
While your oven still works, make these and give them to your children in their safe, approved soft nylon lunch sacks. They don't contain nuts, and they are made with whole wheat flour and are relatively low in sugar. Or serve them as an after-school snack. Please, don't serve your kids creamed spinach like my mother used to when I came home from school, or cut-up carrots and celery. That makes the fall even worse.
Chewy Whole Wheat Molasses Cookies
yields approximately 28-30 cookies
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon allspice)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or paprika
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons soft unsalted butter (1 and 1/2 sticks)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown or white sugar for topping
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Sift flour, baking soda, spices, and salt
3. Cream butter and sugar together, add egg yolk, molasses, and vanilla. When well-incorporated, scoop flour mixture into the wet ingredients
4. Scoop batter into 1-tablespoon servings, roll in a bowl filled with the additional sugar
5. Leave as 'balls' (no need to flatten) and bake for 11-12 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Cookies will be soft. Do not overbake. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets, then remove.