Everyone is obsessed with pumpkin spice, but to me fall flavor means molasses. It is sweet, but not sickening, it’s toasty and malty and caramelly and Christmassy and comforting. It adds savoryness to sweet foods and sweetness to savory foods and has so much more depth of flavor than any other sweetener.
The most underrated flavor
It is the flavor that makes gingerbread distinctive, far more than the ginger itself, and also a key ingredient in baked beans. I much prefer it over corn syrup or honey in my wheat bread, pecan pie, and even caramel corn. Even so, molasses is rarely considered a flavor in and of itself like vanilla, chocolate, or caramel, but I think that it deserves to be. If you give it a try, this just might become your new favorite milkshake!
How molasses is made
My husband once had a friend of ours completely convinced that molasses is made by mixing peanut butter and honey, just because of where it was stored on my obsessively organized pantry shelves, but this is definitely not true. It actually comes from sugar canes (or sugar beets) and is a byproduct of the sugar refining process. To get the white sugar we all know we should hate, but love anyway, sugar cane (or beet) juice is boiled down until most of the liquid is gone and the sugar crystalizes. When the sugar crystals are removed, a dark, thick syrupy liquid remains, and this is molasses.
We all know brown sugar is so much tastier than white. Molasses is what makes that difference. Brown sugar is made by mixing molasses back into the refined white sugar crystals. In fact, if you ever run out of brown sugar but still have white sugar and molasses in your pantry, you can mix them together to make your own.
Molasses in milkshakes
I was first introduced to the idea of a molasses milkshake by a friend of mine. We became close when she lived in the other half of our duplex, and she later worked alongside me as a cook. She had previously worked at Cracker Barrel, a diner known for their good ol’ Southern cooking. Although not listed on the menu, they will happily make you a milkshake out of other ingredients they have on hand if requested. They used to serve their biscuits with molasses instead of jam and they would use molasses as an optional milkshake mix-in to shake things up. My friend made me a molasses shake one day at work and I immediately fell in love.
Molasses has such a deep and nuanced flavor that you don’t need anything more to make a delightfully complex treat. However, if you want to experiment, here are a few other ideas.
- A pinch of salt goes a long way to elevate any sweet treat, especially something with caramelly notes like molasses has
- The Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking has a molasses shake recipe that uses a splash of lemon juice and a bit of lemon zest to brighten and bring out the molasses flavor
- Adam Ried’s Thoughoughly Modern Milkshakes includes a peanut-molasses shake with equal parts molasses and peanut butter to mimic the flavor of old-fashioned Mary Jane candies
- Go full gingerbread with the addition of ginger and other warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice
- Add graham crackers and toasted pecan for a scrumptious pie shake
This molasses milkshake is perfect for your cold-weather ice cream cravings. The temperature may be cold, but the flavor is warm and cozy!
- 4 large scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
- 2-4 tablespoons Milk - depending on thickness preference
- 1-2 tablespoons Molasses - to taste
- A pinch Salt
- A splash Lemon Juice
- A dash Lemon Zest
- A bit Peanut Butter
- A smidgen Ginger
- A hint Cinnamon, Nutmeg, or Allspice
- A few Toasted Pecans
- A couple Graham Crackers
- Blend all ingredients together.
- Adjust thickness and flavoring according to your preference