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.
- 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