The holidays are a time of family, friends and traditions. I always think of my mother during this time when it comes to baking. There were always cookies in the house and my dad always had them in his lunch box. For years my dad had a black lunch box, much like the one shown below. It was plastic and always smelled like the paper mill, which he worked at for 37 years. No matter what, there were always cookies in it and it always had cookie crumbs at the bottom. For a time it was my job to clean it and get it ready for his lunch the next day. When he came home the lunchbox was cleaned and went on a shelf at the end of the cupboard and on his days off it went into the cupboard. But always there were cookies in it.
Then there was the cookie jar. I cant remember a time when the cookie jar wasn't on the counter. It never left its place until after my dads passing. Then it was given to my sister ,Linda. She was raising her children at the time and it found a new home on her counter.
So where did moms cookie tradition start? In our home there was one cookbook used for cookies, cake and pies. AND that was Betty Crocker. In 1950 Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book was published. I don't know how she did it but mom had one. Not sure if she saved up the money for it or if dad bought it for her. Either way it very special for her to have in her possession. In 1950 my parents were only married for 3 years with 2 children and one on the way. Dad was working in the paper mill and holding down 2 other jobs. So a cook book was a luxury for my mother. It wasn't until many years later I understood how important the book was to her.
In the days before computers and the internet everything was communicated in letters. Mom wasn't sure how to whip egg white so they formed a peak. So she wrote Betty. Promptly Betty wrote back in the form of a typed letter explaining how to acheive the desired results. Good old Betty, she was always there. 65 years later we still have the original typed letter.
Over the years Betty was truly loved. As you can see from the picture above she is a little worn. All of us girls used it at some points. But I digress. The cookies. This is where they came from. Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, cherry winks, sugar cookies and of course my favorite... ice box cookies! If you flip to anyone of those pages in the book you will find food stains and hand written notes from my mom. Betty was so loved she soon needed paper Hole punch protectors.
I thinks she is still in need of some.
So why am I saying all this. Well, I saw a chocolate chip cookie on the internet I thought was interesting so I gave it a try. It reminded me of mom and all the cookies she made. Besides who needs a reason to have a cookie? So I made a batch.
They were good but not moms. So it got me thinking about mom and good ole Betty. 50 years after the first publication of the Betty Crocker cook book they republished the cook book exactly as it was in 1950. Why not? Why fix what isn't broken. It was a best seller in 1950 and basic cooking has never gone out of style. So in 2000 mom purchased the cook book for all her kids. So out came my Betty.
I promptly turned top page 204 for the peanut butter cookies.
Just like mom always made. Well almost.
After the chocolate chip and peanut butter it was time for the ice box cookies, or sometimes called refrigerator cookies. On to page 184 I headed. There they were. The page looked exactly how I remembered.
Here is how it is written in the cook book...
Page 184 of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book
Refrigerator Cookies (melt in your mouth, rich and crispy)
Mix together thoroughly...
1 cup soft shortening (I used butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Sift together and stir in...
2 3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
*2 to 3 tsp cinnamon
*Or use 1 1/2 tsp vanilla (add with eggs)
Mix thoroughly. With hands press and mold into a long smooth roll about 2 1/2" in diameter. Wrap with wax paper and chill until stiff (several hours of overnight.) With a thin, sharp knife, cut in thin slices 1/8" to 1/16" thick. Places slices a little apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake until lightly brown.
Temperature: 400 degrees
Time: Bake 6 - 8 minutes
Amount: About 6 doz. 2 1/2" cookies.
As I made the cookies I remembered being a little girl in the kitchen with mom. I was too little to see what mom was doing. I would get my step stool so I could see into the stand mixed which was silver. I can still hear mom say how important it was to cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together. When you think you have done it enough, you cream it some more. I still do that very thing. I got to add the flour so the creaming seemed to take forever! Mom would always say when it was time for the flour. I was always ready. In a few short minutes the dough was ready to shape in a log. The cookie logs always sat in the fridge overnight. No short cuts. NEVER with ice box cookies. I felt like I hit the big time when she finally let me cut them before baking. Still my favorite part of making them. Moms seemed always to be the perfect thickness. I am still working on that part at age 51.
I will admit I am not a cookie connoisseur like my sister, Terry. Nor am I the baker she is but I can make a mean ice box cookie! Nothing better then a warm ice box cookie with an ice cold glass of whole milk. I become that little girl that had to use a step stool it see into the mixer every time.
After moms passing it was time for Betty to go to a new home. So she went to live with my sister, Terry, who proudly displays her on her bookshelf in the kitchen area. In time Betty will go to my niece, Anna, who is also an excellent cook. She and her daughter, Sakura, will carrying on the tradition of cookie making that started with a seemingly ordinary act of purchasing a cook book.
Some kitchens had Julia (Childs), some had Joy (the Joy of Cooking) but we had good ole Betty!
Time to make cookies for yourself or someone you love!