Sticky, sweet molasses gives these cookies their dark color and delicious flavor.
HEAT AND LINE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
WHISK DRY: In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.
WHISK WET: In large bowl, whisk melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add molasses, egg yolk, and vanilla and whisk until well combined.
MIX: Add flour mixture and use rubber spatula to stir until no dry flour is visible and soft dough forms.
ROLL AND COAT: Place sugar in shallow dish. Use your hands to roll dough into 12 balls (about 1 heaping tablespoon each). Place dough balls in dish and roll to coat with sugar.
PRESS: Place sugar-coated dough balls on parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving space between them. Gently flatten each ball.
Sugarcane! Molasses comes from the same place most regular white granulated sugar does: the tall, thick grass called sugarcane. Molasses is made by boiling sugarcane juice into a sweet, sticky syrup. It can be boiled just once to make “mild” or “light” molasses, twice to make “full” or “dark” molasses, or three times to make “blackstrap” molasses. You can use light or dark molasses in this recipe, but don’t use blackstrap molasses here—its flavor is too bitter and intense.