Monday, December 10, 2012

On Grandmothers and Cookies

Christmas cookie time for me will always be about baking with my Nana. For many years, we would get together on Cookie Day and get busy in her tiny kitchen, laughing and baking all day. And boy! Did we turn 'em out, hundreds of cookies would come out of the oven that day, every one done by hand (no KitchenAid mixers here!) and you would know it by the end of the day, my right arm would have a slightly bigger bicep. 

There were many laughs and mistakes year my molasses cookies looked like cowpies...we could never figure out what I did wrong. And then there was the last year that we made cookies together, we were pooped and sitting down waiting for the timer to ding to let us know that finally (!) our last 2 trays would be done. The timer went off and Nana went to the stove to pull them out...but there was nothing there. Huh? We realized we had already done the last batch and one of us (out of habit of covering for the other) had set the timer on an empty oven. We looked at each other and laughed so hard, we had tears streaming down our Grandfather walked in on this madness and just shook his head, walked out of the room and returned with a bottle of wine..."You two need a drink", was all he said. New gales of laughter rang through the house as we poured...we DID need a drink!

So that about sums up what Nana's kitchen was all about, laughing and gathering 'round the table to eat cookies and drink wine.

Nana has been gone for 3 years now and I still make her cookies, my 15 year old niece now gets the big bicep, and we still bake them in her kitchen, because that is where the Christmas cookies come from.

Nana's Ginger Sparkles

by Carrie Mason and Nana

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
Sugar for rolling

Measure the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a sifter. Cream the shortening until soft; gradually add the sugar, egg and molasses. Sift in the dry ingredients, blend well (dough will be stiff enough to handle). Form teaspoonfuls into marble-sized balls by rolling lightly between the palm of your hands; roll in sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350F until the tops are cracked and lightly browned (about 12 minutes).

Nana's Drop Sugar Cakes
by Carrie Mason and Nana

2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup shortening
1 cup sour milk (to make sour milk, add 1 Tablespoon white vinegar to 1 cup milk)
4 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Sprinkles (optional)

Beat together the sugar, egg and shortening. Add 1/2 cup of sour milk and 3 1/2 cups of flour; then add the vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Add the remaining cup of flour and baking powder, and finally, stir in the remaining sour milk and baking soda. Drop the mixture from a spoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375F until golden.

If you like sprinkles (and really, who doesn't?), you can top the cookies with sprinkles (we did red and green, duh!) before baking.

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