When I was writing my eBook Becca's Best--a novel involving a baker of sweets, a purveyor of tasty morsels--I knew that I would include my favorite recipes, the most favorite being my great-grandmother Gertrude's sugar cookies. Grandma Gertie, as we called her, was famous for many things, but the recipe below is likely her most famous. She lived her life in Iowa, and I remember vaguely her house in Charles City. To me, 43 or so years since my visit there, I see massive craftsman type houses, big, leafy trees, and blocks that included alleys.
During that visit, my younger sister and I were being annoying, getting antsy, and my mother told us to walk around the block. We never made it because we kept cutting through the alley, not understanding--we suburban kids--what alleys were. Too soon, we were back in the house, hoping, of course, for something tasty to eat, something like a sugar cookie.
I'm not sure if we were served cookies, made in her giant farm style kitchen. But we did get these cookies every single Christmas, and still do. My mother--she promises!--is bringing them over on Christmas Eve. When I was a child, the ritual frosting of the cookies was an epic, tasty adventure. We made up frosting from powdered sugar, milk, and food coloring and frosted away--sprinkling the cookies with green and red flecks of sugar. If we licked our fingers, off we went to the kitchen to wash our hands (it was worth the trouble, believe me). And then on Christmas Eve, we were able, finally, to have at the cookies. Light, tender, buttery, and drenched in sugary frosting. Now my sons eat these by the tub full. By the pound. They’ve eaten them right out of the oven, while cooling, while frozen.
Below, is the recipe. You best start now if you are going to make them. Best cut with Christmas cookie cutters! Get out that Santa.
Grandmother's Sugar Cookies1 C sugar½ C butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 T cold water
2 ½ C flour
1 t vanilla
½ t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
½ t salt
Cream butter and sugar; add beaten egg, water, and vanilla. Sift flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt together. Add to other mixture and mix well.
It’s best if you pat dough into rounds, cover with plastic wrap, and chill dough for an hour to 24 hours.
When chilled, roll very thin and cut with cutters (I have Santas and angels and pumpkins—all holidays need a cookie cutter. I bought my mother a lobster cutter, though it is a weird cookie to eat). If you are not going to frost the cookies, sprinkle with sugar and then cut.
Bake at 400 degree for 5-8 minutes. Do not let brown past the very lightest golden brown. Frost as described above.
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Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org