The most time-tested, tried-and-true cookie recipes are usually the ones that have been passed down to us, often in scribbled handwriting, on grease-stained index cards, from mothers and grandmothers and aunties. As the days grow shorter, and colder, it’s always nice to turn on the oven and whip up a batch of homemade cookies. Butter, sugar, and flour can come together in so many different ways; add a little cinnamon here, a bit of chocolate there, some nuts or coffee or nutmeg, and those three basic ingredients can make thousands of delicious treats, each as different as the next.
We asked our readers for their hand-me-down cookie recipes, and their stories. Our five favorites are below.
Walnut Acorn Cookies Submitted by Lisa Kamer of Framingham, MA. She gets her copies of Edible Boston at Eastleigh Farms, Framingham.
This recipe was given to me by my grandmother who owned her own bakery in the 1950s in Trenton, NJ. She was known as a shrewd businesswoman, which was unheard of in the 1950s! She had a fun side to her and although she did not bake herself she gave me several recipes from the bakery. This one was my absolute favorite.
Recipe: 1 cup melted butter, cooled ¾ cup dark brown sugar 1 cup ground walnuts 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2¾ cup all purpose flour, sifted 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips or chopped
Preheat oven to 375°.
Stir together the melted butter, brown sugar, ¾ cup of the ground nuts, vanilla, and flour until the dough resembles a thick paste.
Using a teaspoon, shape the cookies into the oval of the spoon and slide them on to a baking tray lined with a Silpat or parchment paper and bake until the cookies are slightly brown, about 15-17 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool completely.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until you have a shiny consistency. Dip the ends of the cooled cookies into the chocolate, then dip them in the remainder of the chopped nuts. The cookies should resemble an acorn.
You can use pecans instead of walnuts and change the chocolate to milk, white or a darker variety.
Peanut Butter Blossoms Submitted by Gail Dudley of Manchester, MA. She picks up her copies of Edible Boston in Vidalia’s, Beverly Farms.
This recipe brings back many memories of baking these cookies as a child with my mom, and then making them with my daughter when she was young. Now she makes them with her daughter. A true four-generation cookie!
Recipe: 1¾ cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened ½ cup sugar ½ cup packed brown sugar ½ cup peanut butter 1 egg 2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon vanilla 48 chocolate "kisses", unwrapped 1 cup sugar, for rolling
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter (or margarine). Add both sugars and beat until fluffy. Stir in peanut butter and egg. Add flour mixture and vanilla. Add milk, and mix until well blended.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°. Shape generous teaspoons of dough into balls, roll in sugar, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, gently press a "kiss" onto each one. The chocolate will partially melt into the cookie. These cookies are unbelievable while they are warm, and delicious when cooled.
Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.
Nana Parr Cookies Submitted by Molly Parr of Allston, MA. She gets her copies of Edible Boston at Bauer Wines + Spirits on Newbury Street, Boston.
Nana Parr is my husband's grandmother on his dad's side, and while she is still with us, she recently had a health setback and is no longer able to bake. I'm very lucky that I asked her to teach me how to make these cookies last fall. Now we'll be able to make them for our kids for years to come.
Special equipment: Nana Parr introduced me to a pastry cloth, which I’d never seen before. It’s a thin, almost gauzy cloth that she layers between the dough and the rolling pin, and it’s what aids her in getting the dough almost paper-thin. Nana also tells me the cloth is ideal for rolling out pie dough. You can buy pastry cloth, which comes with a matching sock for the rolling pin at your local kitchen supply shop.
Recipe: 1 cup butter 1½ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 2½ cups sifted flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cream of tartar ¼ teaspoon salt Flour for the pastry cloth Granulated sugar for topping
Using an electric stand mixer, cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar. Add egg and vanilla, then stir in dry ingredients and mix well. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°.
Sprinkle about 1/3 cup flour on the pastry cloth and line your rolling pin with the “sock”. Roll out the dough quite thin. Cut into shapes. Using a spatula, lay cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of the cookies. Bake for 6 minutes (or 4 or 5, depending on your cookie preference and oven), turn the sheets 180°, and bake for another 6 minutes. Remove the cookies from the sheets and set them on cooling racks.
Store in an air-tight container. I have learned from Nana that these cookies stay fresh in the refrigerator and freeze well.
Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
Molasses Kringles Submitted by Margaret LeRoux of West Boylston. She picks up her copies of Edible Boston at Rose 32 Bakery, Gilbertville (Hardwick).
My late grandmother Nan's Molasses Kringles officially open the holiday season for our family. We eat them along with pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner and they make an encore appearance on the cookie platters at Christmas. Now, my grandmother was not the stereotype sweet, cookie-baking, old lady. She was feisty, opinionated, and you would not want to be on her bad side. She cooked and baked like a four-star chef, however, though her ingredients were commonplace. Molasses Kringles are a perfect example of her style: not a showy cookie, but loaded with flavor—and they make the kitchen smell wonderful!
Recipe: ¾ cup butter (at room temperature) ¾ cup sugar 4 tablespoons molasses 1 egg 2 ¼ cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon powdered ginger ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon ground cloves Raw sugar
Cream butter and sugar; beat in molasses, then the egg. Sift dry ingredients together (don’t sift flour first); mix into butter mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, or overnight. (You can make the dough up to a week ahead of time; store in a plastic container with tight fitting lid.)
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°. Pour a generous amount of raw sugar onto a small plate. Break chilled dough off into teaspoon size bits; roll into balls, then roll the balls in the raw sugar and place them on cookie sheets (I use just a regular metal cookie sheet) about 1 inch apart. Press down on dough balls with a fork to make a hatch pattern.
Bake for 4 minutes, turn cookie sheet so front row is in back, bake 4 minutes longer. Cool on racks.
Polish Tea Cakes - aka Jam Thumb Print Cookies Submitted by Tracey Fortier of Blue Egg Baking Co., Newburyport, MA. She picked up the most recent issue of Edible Boston at Eat Boutique’s Fall Market, Boston.
For me, dessert isn’t dessert if there is no chocolate. These cookies are a rare exception. I love that I can use whatever jam and nuts I have on hand. I also love how easy and fun it is for my kids to help make these.
When my husband’s grandmother, Adeline, passed away, she left a collection of recipes and tough shoes to fill come holiday gatherings. Aunt Terri has taken on making Grammy’s cream puffs; I chose her Polish Tea Cakes as my go-to holiday contribution. And, while following Grammy’s instructions, written in her hand years ago, I wear my Grandma Angie’s stained and tattered apron!
Recipe: ½ cup butter ½ cup sugar 1 egg, separated ½ cup chopped nuts 1 cup flour ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon vanilla jam, jelly or even caramel sauce!
Heat oven to 350° and grease a baking sheet. Cream butter, sugar and egg yolk. Add flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla.
Form small balls (refrigerate dough if too sticky to handle), dip into slightly beaten egg white and roll in nuts. Place onto prepared baking sheet. Make an indent in the center of each cookie with your thumb and fill with jam (or jelly or caramel sauce).
Bake approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.