Josephine’s Wonderful Sugar Cookies

Waiting (the bench)070


Although she could, and at times did, Nonny, my grandmother, preferred not to cook for herself. However, when Josephine was willing, and that was most of the times I stayed with Nonny, she came to live in and to cook as well do light housework. Sometimes they got on and sometimes they didn’t, which is why at times my grandmother had to do her own cooking.

Josie, as she was called, was first generation Irish, and she had a real temper. However, my grandmother was always glad to have her come back to work for her because she prepared great food. My grandmother ate four good meals a day, breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. While she was somewhat stout, she wasn’t what I would call extremely overweight. I’m not sure what she did with all those calories. Perhaps she had a good metabolism.

Josie did her cooking on a large black iron stove that was fueled with lumps of coal that had to be added frequently. The oven was beneath the four burners on the top of the stove. I cannot figure out how she managed to do the wonderful baking she did in that oven, or how she could regulate the temperature of the stove top so that she didn’t burn everything she cooked. I don’t think I could ever do that, nor would I like to try.

At tea, my grandmother always had buttered English muffins toasted over an open burner and home made cake or cookies. I loved Josephine’s sugar cookies and begged her for the recipe. She never used one, so she couldn’t tell me how she made them. One day I persuaded her to let me watch her as she made them. I carefully wrote down what I saw her do. When I made them from my guesses, they came out pretty well. Almost as good, that is, as Josephine’s.

Over the years I’ve made them a lot. When my children were in school I made them for bake sales or special events. If you don’t need them all, you can freeze part of the dough for another time. Children love to help and it’s nice to have another pair of hands. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, grease up to 4 cookie sheets. Ingredients: 2 cups butter (1 pound), 3 cups sugar, 3 eggs, 1 Tbs vanilla, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup milk. Topping ingredients: plain sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, colored sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, etc.

Method: In electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Beat in vanilla. Add baking powder, salt. Beat well. Add 1 1/3 cups flour, 1/4 cup milk, beat well; add 1 1/3 cups flour, rest of milk, beat well, then rest of flour, beating well. Drop by heaping teaspoons on greased sheets. Flatten with a fork dipped in cold water or a glass dipped in sugar. Sprinkle with sugar, plain or mingled with spices, colored sugars or sprinkles. Bake at 400, 5 to 7 minutes. They bake fast, so watch them. The recipe makes 12 to 24 dozen depending on how large you make them.