Ginger-Sorghum Cookies

Gluten-free sorghum might be getting trendy today, but it has been on American tables since Abraham Lincoln's time.

Jewish Week Online Columnist
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Who knew that gluten-free would become so trendy? True, gluten is a real concern for people with Celiac disease. But many of us without a diagnosis have also discovered that we also feel better after cutting down on bread, pasta and other products made with wheat, rye and other grains.

Which brings us to sorghum, a gluten-free grain that’s about to get very big—but has actually been around for a while. It comes in the form of a delightful syrup that’s buttery, pleasurable on the palate and—bonus—a rich source of iron, potassium, calcium and antioxidants. I use the Golden Barrel brand, supervised by the Orthodox Union, instead of maple syrup on my morning oatmeal. It gives a rich flavor to homemade baked beans and barbecue sauce. Swap it one-for-one if you’re using honey, maple or molasses in baked goods like quick breads and cookies. (Sorghum syrup can inhibit the rising action of baking powder, so don't use it in your recipes that call for baking powder.)

For all its “newfound” popularity, sorghum was beloved in this country for centuries, especially in the South and Midwest where it is grown, but was knocked off the map in the mid-19th century when refined white sugar became much cheaper and widely available. President Abraham Lincoln loved it. Indeed, the sorghum-laced ginger cookies his stepmother baked were immortalized when Lincoln mentioned them during one of his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas. Here’s a President's Day recipe that will make cookies similar to the ones that came up in the debate.

Ingredients: 
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup sorghum syrup
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Recipe Steps: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the shortening, coconut oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and sorghum syrup and beat until well blended. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and beat until the dough is well blended, smooth and uniform in color.
Roll dough into small balls about one inch in diameter, then roll dough balls in the remaining sugar to coat the surface. Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing one inch apart. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until the cookies have spread and are flat and crispy, with lines on the surface. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.