RECIPE CARDS AND MISSING INSTRUCTIONS
This recipe card is such a great example of expectations. And by that I mean that when it was written down, the expectation was that the recipient knew how to put a cookie dough together. What order the ingredients are mixed, what processes are used, what her oven should to be heated to in order to bake the perfect cookie. And most of all, how to use her sense of site and touch to ensure the proper amount of flour has been added.
The only instructions on the recipe card read, “Dissolve the soda in a little warm water. Add vinegar to soda. Let it foam well. Then add to dough & flour to make stiff dough. Roll & bake.” And if you didn’t notice, there was no amount for the flour given.
Since I can’t call my grandma or my great aunt for advice, I turned to math – yes, you will use it in real life – and my handy-dandy reference book, Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, to help me determine the proper amount of flour based on the fat and sugar in the recipe.
Using the standard creaming method to start the dough was pretty straight forward. I also figured that Great Aunt Mabel probably sifted the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt together. So that’s what I did.
But then came the dissolving of the soda and adding the vinegar. The instructions were clear and I had run across this in another cookie recipe so I wasn’t too put off. I just wasn’t sure why it made a difference.
After a little research, I discovered that when used by itself, baking soda creates carbon dioxide gas – that’s what helps to leaven the cookie – and sodium carbonate aka washing soda. And, yes it leaves a soapy aftertaste. BUT, when you add an acid – vinegar in this case – the carbon dioxide is created faster and the soapy aftertaste is significantly reduced. Yay! Great Aunt Mabel may not have been a chemist, but she knew how to make a tasty, light cookie!
Things I Should have Asked my Grandma
So often we take for granted the people that surround us. And it isn’t until they are gone that we realize we have forgotten to ask them so many things. And when it comes to family recipes, it is much the same.
We knew that grandma would bring her 2 Hour Rolls for Thanksgiving and that there would always be a Lime Jell-o Salad at the church potluck courtesy of Aunt Mertle. What we didn’t consider is that when they were no longer here to share those dishes, their knowledge of the best-way-to…, or the you-should-never…, or the I-always-use-this-brand…, or the this-is-how-the-dough-should-feel… is taken from us as well.
So, if I had it to do again, here are the things that I would have asked my grandma.
- Why do you dissolve the soda in the water before you add it to the dough?
- How do you know when you have added enough flour?
- How thick should I roll out the cookies?
- How do you roll out the dough so evenly?
- What is your favorite shape to use then you make these cookies?
- What temperature should I bake the cookies at?
- How long do they need to bake?
And as the cookies baked, I would sit with her at the kitchen table and ask, “Grandma, what is your favorite part of being a mother?” And I imagine that there would be many stories about my dad, and aunts, and uncle, and cooking. I am sure that there would be lots of stories about cooking.
- 4 1/2 cup flour + more for rolling out
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and set aside.
- With a stand mixer or hand mixer on low speed, beat the butter until creamy and whipped.
- Add the sugar and beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time beating for 20 seconds after each addition. After both the eggs have been added, continue beating for 2 more minutes.
- Add the molasses and mix well.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the soda in the warm water and then add the vinegar. Let it foam well - directly from the recipe card 😉
- Add the soda mixture and flour mixture and mix on low until fully incorporated and a stiff dough is formed.
- Cut the dough in half, shape into rectangles and wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
- Heat oven to 375˚ F
- On a lightly floured surface, parchment paper, or silicone mat, roll the dough out to 1/4” thick. Cut into desired shapes and bake for 8 minutes. If you roll the cookies the parchment or silicone mat, remove the scraps from around the cookies and transfer directly to baking sheet.
Recipe Box Roulette
This recipe is from a social media game we developed called Recipe Box Roulette. Find a family recipe box and play along.
The rules are simple. Let your fingers wander over the recipes cards in the box, draw one at random, share it with us on FB Page or on your Instagram Feed. Remember to tag @theheritagcookbookproject and use the hashtag #recipeboxroulette.
Extra credit – make the recipe and share a photograph.