Adapted from "Betty Crocker's Cooky Book" by the Betty Crocker Editors and Eric Mulvany
Makes:About 40 cookies
This old-school recipe from Betty Crocker is an easy, ideal holiday cookie. It has the classic wintry flavors of molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and is virtually self-decorating: As the balls of dough bake, they flatten and crack open on their own, making a pretty exterior without the need for icing or cookie cutters.
What to buy: There are various intensities of molasses available, from light to blackstrap. Dark (sometimes marketed as robust) tastes best in this recipe.
Sanding sugar is sometimes labeled pearl sugar and can be found in gourmet grocery and cooking stores. It will give a bright sparkle to these cookies.
1/2 cupcoarse-grained sugar, such as Demerara or turbinado, or white sanding sugar
Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt together in a medium bowl to aerate and remove any lumps; set aside.
Place the shortening, brown sugar, egg, and molasses in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until combined and smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined and a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the dough is well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
When the dough is ready, heat the oven to 375°F and arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Place the coarse-grained or sanding sugar in a large dish and spread it into an even layer. Form the chilled dough into 12 (1-inch) balls (about 1 tablespoon each) and place them in the sugar (do not roll them in the sugar though). Press gently on them so that the sugar adheres to the bottoms. Place the dough balls sugar-side up and 2 inches apart on 1 of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat to fill the second baking sheet. (Chill the remaining dough.)
Bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the edges of the cookies are set but the tops are still a little soft, about 5 to 6 minutes more.
Place the baking sheets on wire racks and cool for 5 minutes. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough (you can use the same baking sheets and parchment paper while still warm).