Every Sunday night, I face two problems: one, that my weekly viewing of MASTERPIECE leaves me craving a pot of tea and something sweet to indulge in and two, my baking skills teeter between ‘acceptable’ and ‘possibly edible.’ And while store-bought treats can be delicious, who can resist the homemade confections cooked up by Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Patmore and Victoria’s Mr. Francatelli?

No one, that’s who. 

However, with the debut of our new America’s Test Kitchen Online Cooking Contest, I saw an opportunity. While stubbornly refusing to say farewell to Ross, Demelza, and the rest of the Poldark cast with a holiday weekend binge-watch, I would try my hand at one of the contest recipes. Choosing one out of the three available options was simple: The Soft and Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies would pair perfectly with a fresh pot of black tea. And so with Cornwall’s final season of drama unfolding in the background, I got to work hoping to make Julia, Bridget, and the rest of the America’s Test Kitchen team proud with my limited baking skills.


Dry ingredients on the left, wet ingredients on the right (except the sugar)

In order to get the best possible start, I began with a clean workspace and assembling all of the ingredients. Looking over the recipe, the directions call for mixing the dry and wet ingredients separately, so I grouped them as such before setting up the baking sheets and the sugar-dipping station, as well as preheating the oven.


Staying organized for the best possible chance of edible cookies

Preparing the ingredients proved to be one of the most difficult steps, the softened butter in particular. After taking the sticks out of the freezer and leaving them out on the counter for thirty minutes, they were nowhere near soft. Still determined to make the cookies a success, I couldn’t disappoint the ATK team with my chunky, unevenly mixed crumbs of butter in my cookie batter. But how to soften it?

America’s Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated came to the rescue! Besides recipes, the ATK website has plenty of cooking tips and tricks through Cook's Illustrated, including how to soften butter. The necessary items, a plastic bag and a rolling pin, I had on hand. Putting my faith into the hands of the experts, I didn’t hesitate to place the butter inside the bag and whack it with all of my pent-up, post-Thanksgiving dinner frustration. A calming and affordable way to release stress.


The butter stood no chance against 20 years of knowledge behind America's Test Kitchen

But despite all of my efforts, the butter refused to soften. How could you steer me wrong, America’s Test Kitchen? So I decided to go with a tried-and-true method, cutting the butter into smaller cubes. This worked much better, seeing as the rolling pin method was for refrigerator temperature butter and mine was far more frozen.


Much better!

Setting the butter aside, I then measured the flour, baking soda, and the various spices needed to make a delicious batch of molasses spice cookies. The combination of cinnamon, ginger, gloves, and allspice brought festive smells to the kitchen, though I wondered just how spicy these cookies would be. As someone with a sweet tooth, I had to be sure that the end result would be sufficiently cavity-inducing.


So many different spices went into this recipe

There was no need to worry. With the dry ingredients set aside, I went to work combining the white sugar, brown sugar, butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and molasses in my stand mixer. While the mixer came in handy for the different speeds, I don’t think it was necessary to the success of the recipe. Fellow bakers could likely use a spatula and their own strength to get the consistency required for the batter. 


The white sugar is separate from the sugar set aside at the beginning of the recipe


The molasses is added last

The final touch? Adding the dry ingredients to the sugary molasses syrup. I did this a little at a time instead of dumping in the full bowl at once, only pausing the mixing once after all the ingredients were combined to scrape down the sides of the mixer with the spatula in order to make sure everything had been combined evenly. The end result was a sweet and spicy batter that I had to stop myself from eating before baking.


Finally starting to look more like cookie batter!

Using the tablespoon from my set of measuring spoons, I followed the recipe’s advice in scooping the dough into my hands, forming them into balls, and dunking them in the flat bowl of sugar I’d set aside. When the recipe says the finished dough will be sticky, they mean it! This step takes some time to complete and the dough will stick to your skin, but just picture the delicious end product and keep going.


Unlike refrigerated batter, this was very soft and easy to shape

But this is where I’d amend the recipe: you likely do not need a full half cup of sugar to sufficiently coat the molasses batter balls unless you were making more than one batch of cookies at once. I’d suggest only pouring in one third of a cup of sugar into a bowl and work from that, adding sugar as needed. It also helps to have a spoon on hand to help coat the molasses balls in the sugar.


This was the longest step out of them all. Leave enough time to properly scoop and coat each cookie!

After spacing the cookies evenly on baking sheets, it was time to put them in the oven! While the recipe advises 11 minutes baking time, the sheets needed to be rotated halfway in. So I set a timer for six minutes and used the time to start cleaning the kitchen, if only to keep myself from licking the spatula.


Patience, the cookies are coming!

At this point, I was far too eager to taste the result of my efforts so there are no pictures of the cookies cooling on the cookie sheet for five minutes after they were taken out of the oven. But I followed this step as listed before transferring them to drying racks, where I allowed them to cool completely.

The end result? Chewy and spicy promised, and the perfect accompaniment to a proper cup of tea and hoping Ross and George stop making terrible decisions. Even for a novice baker like me, these cookies looked and tasted great. Try baking them yourself as part of our America’s Test Kitchen Online Cooking Contest and snap a picture of the end result. Send it to us to revel in your superior culinary skills and you’ll be entered to win a set of three America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks!


Served with English tea on Downton Abbey-inspired china (both optional, but in my house we're a bit MASTERPIECE-obsessed)

Finally, these treats pair well with more than just Poldark. Might I suggest a plate of cookies, your favorite cozy beverage, and:

  • Getting a sneak peek at the first trailers for Sanditon and Howards End, coming to MASTERPIECE and GPB in January 2020
  • Laughing at and with Hyacinth, Richard, and the rest of the Bucket (okay, Bouquet) clan’s antics in back-to-back Keeping Up Appearances Christmas specials on Saturday, December 21
  • Celebrating the season with the midwives of Nonnatus House during the Call the Midwife Holiday Special and the premiere of our hour-long documentary, Rich’s Remembered, on Wednesday, December 25
  • Planning your own incredible vacation to England with fellow GPB members! Find out all the details of our To The Manor Born trip, including a full itinerary with visits to Downton’s Highclere Castle and Doc Martin’s Port Isaac, on our website

You may need more than one batch of cookies.