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Orange Spice Molasses Cookies

If you're baking a batch of holiday cookies, says Jessie Price, food editor at EatingWell magazine, there are ways to make your favorites healthier.

Start by replacing up to half of the butter, margarine or shortening with heart-healthy oils, such as canola or olive oil.Fruit purees, such as applesauce, pear butter and even canned pureed pumpkin also can be used to replace fat.

You can reduce the fat in a cookie recipe with such nontraditional ingredients as nonfat yogurt, buttermilk or fruit juice, all of which help keep baked goods moist. Use 1 to 4 tablespoons of any of these liquid ingredients to replace up to 4 tablespoons of butter or other solid fat.

These cookies are one of the award-winning entries in Eating-Well magazine's annual cookie contest.

How to make them

Makes 40 cookies


For the rolling sugar:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

For the cookie dough:

11/2 cups rolled oats

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1/2 cup light or dark molasses

7 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

11/2 teaspoons cinnamon

11/2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

21/4 cups whole-wheat flour


Heat the oven to 375 F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

To prepare the rolling sugar: In a food processor, pulse the sugar and orange zest until well combined. Transfer to a shallow dish.

To prepare the cookie dough, in a blender, grind the oats until they are reduced to a fine powder, about 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high to beat together the butter and granulated sugar for 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and orange zest, then beat for another 2 minutes.

Add the molasses, applesauce, egg yolk, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper and salt. Beat on medium-high until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.

Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the ground oats. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on medium, slowly add whole-wheat flour. The dough will be moderately sticky.

Using a slightly rounded tablespoon of dough, roll into balls, then roll in the rolling sugar to coat. If necessary, wet your fingers to help roll without sticking. The zest will make the mixture slightly wet and it will clump. Lightly brush off any excess so that just a thin coat remains on the cookie. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Working in batches, bake the cookies until the edges are set and the tops are cracked, but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 8 minutes. Serve warm or transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Nutrition information per cookie (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 85 calories; 2 g fat (1 g saturated); 9 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 48 mg sodium.

Healthier ingredients make holiday snacking a little less guilt-ridden. - AP