Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Betty Crocker's Thumbprint Cookies (AKA Dad's Bird Nest Cookies)

When my grammy passed away a few years ago, Christmas changed. For decades my dad, mom, sister and I spent Christmas Eve at her house --- and then a rented hall when we ran out of space in her living room --- with aunts, uncles and nearly a hundred cousins (not counting husbands & wives, step-kids, etc.), but after Gram was gone, each family drifted toward its own traditions. Then my sister married a man from London, and now they spend Christmas there. So last Christmas I was with my dad and mom for a quiet holiday at their house in Tucson.

Thumbprint cookies at the very back

My dad has always been sentimental about his mom’s cooking, and he decided he was going to make not just one of his favorite cookies from childhood, but all of them! He had found a pristine 1956 edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook his mom used, and with the thoroughness and precision of the engineer that he is, he gathered the ingredients and got to work.

Most challenging were the ginger creams that required numerous emails to my cousin Lisa. As you will see in the photo, the trick is to make them as thin as possible. At first it didn’t seem that it was going to happen (the dough was too elastic; then it was too crumbly), but my dad is persistent, and after trial and error and trial and error and trial and error, those crispy, paper thin cookies came into existence. Also on the cookie menu: Russian teacakes and a chocolate log roll. And finally, thumbprint cookies, or as my dad wrote to me, “I call these bird nest cookies, but you cannot argue with Betty.”

I love that this recipe is listed under,
"Sprightly teacakes for family and friends."

I’d love to post the recipe for the ginger creams, but I think those need a few more test runs before we can explain exactly how my dad got them right, so we’ll start with thumbprint cookies, directly from my dad and Betty Crocker (word for word, with the exception of a few tweaks for formatting, which I could not figure out how to do on this page).

THUMBPRINT COOKIES: Nut-rich…the thumb dents filled with sparkling jelly.

We are as delighted with this quaint addition to our cooky collection, from Ken MacKenzie, as is the collector of old glass when a friend presents her with some early thumbprint goblets.

Mix thoroughly………………….
- ½ cup soft shortening (half butter)
- ¼ cup brown sugar (packed)
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ tsp vanilla

Sift together and stir in………….

- 1 cup sifted GOLD MEDAL flour
- ¼ tsp. salt


Roll in 1” balls. Dip in slightly beaten egg whites. Roll in finely chopped nuts (3/4 cup).

Place about 1” apart on an un-greased baking sheet and press thumb into center of each.

Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes until set. Cool.

Place in thumbprints a bit of chopped candied fruit, sparkling jelly, or tinted confectioners’ sugar icing.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Creating new traditions from old


Ella said...

That is so awesome Uncle Jerry, keeping Grams Christmas Memories alive~~~~We so remember going over to Her House Christmas Eve,Wondering who was gonna be the Lucky one to Be Santa *L*O*L, I remember meeting LeRoy and he told Me He goes to His Grams for Christmas. I never Knew what Christmas was like until I went with Him that Year.Family,Laughing,Food,The Cookies.I now hold those memories close to My heart.I can just smell those oders and Hear all those sounds @ Christmas Eve at Gram's House. So Blessed to be part of that Memory :o) Happy Holidays to all of you. And have a Blessed Year.Love always Your Ducken Idaho Family. P.S Looks Like you all our having a wonderful Life with your Cooking.Thanks for sharing Your posts. ;o)

Kim said...

Hi Ella,
Isn't it amazing how many wonderful memories our family has! I agree - I feel so blessed. Love to you and the Idaho crew!!

LisaE said...

Re: Ginger Creams... Anna's makes a fantastic ginger cookie (product of Sweden) and it's sold at numerous grocery stores, including Costco (sometimes).
remove ginger cookies from box
Make a batch of buttercream frosting.
Sandwich frosting between 2 cookies saving yourself several hours of labor allowing more time to spend with family and friends!
Love you!

Kim said...

Yay, Lisa, I love your version ... I'll pass this onto my dad. Love you!!

Sara C's it - @saracsit said...

I'm looking at the same page, with my mom's writing on it. I just passed it along to a friend of mine. I use the recipe Russian Tea Cakes on the other side and the Gingerbread (7 cups of flour!).

Have a nice Christmas..:)

Kim said...

Dear Sara, For some reason this comment just came through to me ... more than a month after Christmas. What lovely memories we share! Best, Kim

Sue Werley said...

I got this recipe from my sister-in-law who said it was her mom's. It didn't seem right to have so little flour. After checking so many websites and finding out that all the recipes had 2 cups of flour, I was sure that there was an error in the recipe. Then, lo and behold, I found this recipe which was exactly what my sister-in-law had written! These are the cookies my husband remembers as a young child. Thanks for taking the doubt out of my baking!

Kim said...

Sue, So glad to help you keep your family's baking memories intact! I love having access to the old cookbooks, since so many recipes are altered over time. Wishing you a happy holiday season!