Dandeen’s Cookie Recipes: Sauerkraut-Raisin Drops (really) and Snickerdoodles

My great-grandmother Dandeen would have been 101 this Christmas.

Her friends and family called her Dandeen, but her name was Retaw Snyder McCoy, and she passed away last spring at the age of 99. She grew up in western Pennsylvania, as did her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but moved away when I was little– first to Florida to soak up the sun, then, widowed and no longer able to see, to Vallejo, CA to live with family. I used to love visiting her in Largo as a child. We didn’t do much, just talked– she’d let my hair out of its tight ponytail and brush it, and we’d eat cookies, play Uno and talk. She never made me eat anything I didn’t like, and she had the greatest stories, about the massive snowstorms they used to get when she was young, or the trouble my grandpa got into as a kid.

It’s been more than a year since she died, but this Christmas, she was everywhere. I kept running across little pieces of Dandeen‘s life in unexpected places– a photo here, a crocheted afghan there. She kept popping up in conversations. And then I starting going through my mom’s recipe box.

The recipe box is much older than I am (I’m 27), and it’s filled with recipes handwritten on stationery from long-gone local print shops, yellowed newspaper clippings and typewritten index cards. I found a letter from Dandeen and Pap-Pap (that’s my great-grandfather) to my mom asking how baby Sarah was doing, and I also found this recipe. A note in Dandeen‘s handwriting reads:

These are for Dusty’s sweet tooth.

Both real good.

I don’t frost the cookies.

(Dusty is my dad– this was before my parents divorced.)

I wasn’t brave enough to make this, because I hate sauerkraut with the deepest of passions. Even more than I hate pickles. Yes, I realize that rinsing the sauerkraut will drain it of its flavor, leaving it to act as a moisturizing agent– like cake recipes that use yogurt or applesauce, for example. I still can’t get close enough to a bowl of sauerkraut without gagging to make this recipe. Sorry. But I have to say I’m curious– so if any of you dear, brave readers want to know more about Pittsburgh’s German culinary heritage, please, make these and let me know how it turns out! Click through for two recipes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Peanut Butter Blossoms (a.k.a. Sombreros)

Merry Christmas, kids!  Santa brought a cookie recipe:

1 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar

1 egg

2 tsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 packaged Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped please

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together into a bowl.   Set aside.

In your electric mixer, cream together the shortening and peanut butter.  Gradually add the sugar and brown sugar and mix well.  Then add the egg (don’t beat it), the milk and the vanilla and mix well again.  Then add the dry ingredients gradually until everything in thoroughly mixed.

Shape the dough in rounded spoonfuls into balls.  Roll the balls in sugar and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and place a Hershey’s kiss on top of each cookie, pressing down gently to smoosh the cookie into a flatter shape without breaking it.  Return to oven and bake 2-3 minutes longer.  Remove from oven, let sit for a minute, then put the cookies on a rack to cool.

Leave on a plate for Santa, with a glass of cold milk.

Yep, that’s right, Santa left me a note telling me what cookies to make him next year.   He’s pretty direct, that Santa is.

(In the margins, by the way, he mentioned that this works pretty well with gluten-free flour as long as you don’t overbake.)

A Chocolate Chip Triptych

chocolate chip cookie

I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. You love homemade chocolate chip cookies. Everybody does. If you grew up in the US, they were probably part of your childhood. If you didn’t get the real thing until adulthood, then I envy your first taste of a warm, melting chocolate chip cookie. It’s still one of life’s great pleasures for me.

There are a few conflicting histories of the chocolate chip cookie, but everyone agrees that it was invented by Ruth Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in 1933, and popularized during World War II, when families shipped boxes to soldiers overseas. It became an American classic, and today the recipe is printed on bags of Nestlé chocolate chips.

Here’s the original recipe; it’s pretty much in the public domain at this point, so here, go crazy. I’ll follow that with two worthy variations, one of which is gluten-free.

Read the rest of this entry »