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Playing Ruth Moulton's Spice Balls

“My sister and I were introduced to baking by our paternal grandmother Ruth. Together we made bread from scratch, zillions of cookies and all kinds of pies. (It was Granny who turned us on to the joys of pie for breakfast.) This recipe was one of Granny's signatures. She made loads of spice balls all year long but especially during the holidays. I have embellished Granny's cookies a bit by rolling them in chopped crystallized ginger in honor of my Mom, who was a huge fan of anything ginger. (One note: Even though these are called “balls” they don't cook up as balls so don't be disappointed when the cookies come out flat.)”


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger


Serves: about 3 1/2 dozen


Combine the butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and salt onto a piece of parchment. Add mixture to the butter in two batches, beating until just combined. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours or until quite firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a pie plate and spread the chopped crystallized ginger out on a large plate. Working in batches of about a dozen at a time, shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll first in the ginger, pressing the ginger pieces gently into the dough (the ball should only be sparsely covered with candied ginger, do not coat it completely) then in the sugar, rolling to coat the ball all over with the sugar.
Arrange the balls 2-inches apart on parchment paper-lined sheet pans and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes or until barely golden but still soft. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring to a rack to cool.


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