“Oh, I’m sorry but that’s a secret.”  You’ve heard it before after enjoying an especially tasty treat.  There’s a super secret family recipe that travelled across on the Mayflower or was smuggled in or out of somewhere and you can’t have it!  I remember reading an article a few years ago by a woman whose failed marriage at least resulted in her gaining access to a closely guarded toffee recipe and it just made me sad. So, to all you recipe hoarders out there I say, you know what… keep your recipe, let it die and spend eternity in purgatory.  I, on the other hand, love to share recipes, particularly family favorites.  I hope that when I’m no longer making them someone, somewhere is trying, testing and tweaking them.

Holidays bring out some of my favorites to make and share.  Thanks to my daughter’s generosity in volunteering (me) to bring sugar cookies to her holiday party at school even though I took my turn for Halloween, I get a second chance to make Grandma’s Sugar cookies.  I made them for O family cookie day with a little help from Grandma.

The left baked reindeer still resembles his unbaked counterpart

The left baked reindeer still resembles his unbaked counterpart

Now you may be asking yourself why I don’t just run out and pick up some Pillsbury sugar cookies and I would then have to suggest you wash your mouth out with soap.  I’m not a fan of the boxed and packaged.  I cringe at cake mixes.  And don’t get me started on canned frosting!  One of the reasons I do love this recipe so much is that unlike most packaged sugar cookies it truly holds its shape when baked which makes for a superior surface for icing.

Grandma’s Old Fashion Sugar Cookies

(I’m pretty sure this was my Grandma’s mother-in-law’s recipe so I guess that would make it Great-Grandma’s Sugar Cookies and who knows where she got it, brought on a boat from Finland maybe.)

1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (does anyone really measure vanilla)
¾ cup buttermilk
4 cups flour (+ 1-2 cups set aside)
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Sift dry ingredients together, set aside.
2. Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
4. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk until mixture is firm (I like to work 2 handed and drizzle in the buttermilk while adding the flour.)
*At this point Grandma stood next to me and instructed that I needed to add another cup of flour, hence the +1-2 in parenthesis.  This is also the point where it becomes apparent that you must have a seriously powerful mixer, great-grandma must have had some pretty amazing upper body strength.  My Kitchen Aid got so hot that all the little bits that weren’t cleaned off it started to burn off and my cousin, the firefighter, was concerned that he’d need to fetch his gear to rescue me from the inferno. To prevent the destruction of your mixer’s motor, switch to a dough hook to add the extra flour. It really is a dense dough and the dough hook allowed me to add about 1 ½ cups more flour.
5. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 days.
6. Roll out on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Be generous with your flour at this point and feel free to mix in more if the dough feels too moist. Dough should be about 1/2″ thick (thank goodness for texting because this has never been my job and I had to text my aunt to get the exact dimensions, though my uncle disagrees, he says 12 mm)
7. Bake in 400° oven on greased or parchment lined cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes, only until edges turn golden.
8. Decorate with frosting or icing of your choice.

Some samples of decorated cookies and yes, that gingerbread man is wearing a speedo.

Some samples of decorated cookies and yes, that gingerbread man is wearing a Speedo.

A couple options for you:

Sugar Cookie Glaze

Blend 1 cup sifted powdered sugar with 5-6 Tbsp water.  Add food coloring.  Brush glaze on warm cookies

Powdered Sugar Frosting

1 box powdered sugar (yeah, I have no idea how much one box is.  I buy in giant bags at Costco)
1 stick butter softened (or margarine but you’ll never catch me using margarine, it’s right up there with canned frosting)
2-3 tsp milk

Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly add powdered sugar.  Add milk as needed to get right consistency.  (copying mom’s recipe here so forgive the ambiguity) Divide into smaller batches and color with food coloring.

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2 Responses to Purgatory

  1. Mary Sullivan says:

    I’m so glad you can make the sugar cookies – I always avoided it because it was too time consuming. I thought they had to be refrigerated for at least a day. That’s the way my Mom did it.:)

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