Not everything that gets in here is sweet stuff, but this is. As you might suspect, there’s some back story:
My paternal grandmother, Emma Jane Hays, used to make these cookies for her family. As you will see from the original recipe, it used ingredients produced on a large farm operation in Illinois. I think these were very likely my Dad’s favourite cookie. Quite by accident one time, my mother told me the story. When she and Dad got married in 1943 they had a pretty traditional set of roles in the union. Although my dad was unusually strong for women’s rights and civil rights for blacks, and mom was highly educated and had a career as a laboratory scientist — inside their marriage they played things pretty straight for the times. I’m not sure why, maybe they thought it was a grand joke on the universe.
At any rate, Mom knew Dad liked sugar cookies, so she made some. Then she made the mistake of asking whether they were as good as his mother’s. (Note to new brides: bad idea!) Dad, being fundamentally honest, said that he believed his mother’s recipe made better cookies somehow. Being told she didn’t measure up to the ideal of Mother, or at least feeling that way, Mom did what any scientist would do: she collected every recipe for sugar cookies she could find and set about making batch after batch to see if she could find the secret. None of them were good enough.
Finally, in desperation, she wrote to Grandma and asked for her recipe. The secret was revealed. Secrets, actually — Grandma made these cookies with lard. That made sense on a hog farm where lard was common, and of course in the early part of the 20th century we hadn’t invented cholesterol yet, so it was perfectly safe. She also brushed melted butter on top of the baked cookies, and sprinkled on more sugar. Mom did all that and Dad was happy. Many years later when I came along these became one of my favourites as well. Mom’s basic Calvinist streak didn’t let her make them too often, however, because “you’re not supposed to live on them” as she would always say when I wanted more than one.
So here’s the original Grandma Emmie recipe, followed by the recipe I use now. The orginals, as I recall them made by my grandmother, combined the meatiness of lard with the saltiness and creaminess of the butter and sweetness of crunchy sugar between my teeth. Mom modifed the recipe to use butter instead of lard, which she found more palatable and Dad apparently didn’t mind. As a vegan with flexible ethics I have tinkered with the recipe myself, and I find this version tastes as good as my mother’s.
The new cookies may be vegan, but remember that they still have all the fat and sugar even though it’s ethical fat and sugar, and you’re not supposed to live on them. Eat them in moderation, and enjoy them to the full.
Grandma Emmie’s Sugar Cookie Recipe
2 cups white sugar
1 cup lard
3 large eggs
5 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grandma’s original instructions say, “Chill, roll, 350, 15 min.” Obviously, anybody who’d make these cookies knew all the basic stuff that we all learned when we learned to cook. On the assumption that you don’t know all the basic stuff, let me translate that for you:
Cream lard and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla and milk. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Mix in to make a soft dough. Chill dough in the refrigerator for two to three hours. Preheat oven to 350F. Working with half the dough, roll out on a floured board to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 3-inch round cookie cutter. Place cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake 15 minutes or until just lightly touched with brown at the edges. Remove to cooling rack, brush with melted butter and sprinkle generously with more sugar.
The Old Hippie’s Sugar Cookie Recipe
2 cups organic fine raw sugar
1 cup/2 sticks vegan margarine
3/4 cup soft tofu, whizzed in the blender
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon no-aluminum baking powder
1 teaspoon organic vanilla
3 cups unbleached organic white flour
Chill. Roll. 350. 15 min. (grin) I’ll just copy and paste the instructions here, in case someone wants to print off only this much…
Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Blend tofu with soy milk and vanilla until smooth. Add blended tofu, beating well. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Mix in to make a soft dough. Chill dough in the refrigerator for two to three hours. Preheat oven to 350F. Working with half the dough, roll out on a floured board to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 3-inch round cookie cutter. Place cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake 15 minutes or until just lightly touched with brown at the edges. Remove to cooling rack, brush with melted margarine and sprinkle generously with more sugar.
Enjoy in a kind, loving, ethical way!