Last year at this time What Women Write was a quiet little blog followed by mostly friends and family. What a difference a year makes! We are now up to almost 100 followers on Blogger and 420 on Facebook. Since we have so many new readers this year, I thought any of you who enjoy baking may enjoy my post from last Christmas. These cookies are divine. In fact, I'm eating one as I type.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
The Ghosts of Christmas Past
Madonna Ahrens on Christmas in Gananoque, Ontario. (1917)
When I first read these lines written by my great-grandmother, I could smell a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg in the air. I remembered those cookies; my father made them a few times in my own childhood, always lamenting that he did not have his grandfather’s animal cutters. He stopped making them around the time his mother passed away. Perhaps the memory of her rolling out the dough grieved him, though he never spoke of it.
It was Christmas time when I began researching for my book on Carl and Madonna Ahrens. I had a small child of my own by then and craved a way to bring the past alive for her in a way a three year old would appreciate. Aunt Siegie happily supplied me with the Imperial cookie recipe, and mentioned that she had some of Granddaddy Carl’s handmade cookie cutters. She sent me tracings of them so I could see what they looked like and my Dad used the pattern to make a copy of the rooster. I’ve made the cookies every year since.
In honor of the memories of Carl, Madonna, Tutu, and Siegie, I share this recipe with all of you.
From the kitchen of Madonna Ahrens
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg (well beaten)
¼ cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
Cream shortening (with fork or pastry cutter)
Add sugar, egg, milk and vanilla and cream again
Sift together remaining (dry) ingredients
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture ½ cup at a time
Cover and chill in refrigerator for 24 hours [Madonna must have put it in the snow before they had electricity.]
When ready to bake, take some dough and roll out on a floured board as you would a pie crust. [Kim leaves it a bit thicker for softer cookies].
Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies. You can re-roll the dough, but try to place the cutters as close together as possible. The dough can get tough if you reuse too much. [Kim adds fresh dough in each time she re-rolls.]
Lay cookies out on a cookie sheet. Cook at 360 degrees until they are lightly browned on the bottom. [Eight minutes works for Kim.]
Let cool and enjoy – especially with hot chocolate!