Recipes from Grandma’s Cookie Jar: Peanut Butter Cookies, Brown Sugar Crescents, and Soft Sour Cream Drops

A nostalgic look at cookies and the women who baked them.

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by Connie Moore

Back in 1806 when Noah Webster began his dictionary-writing days, he probably didn’t have a clue as to what “cooky”, or cookie, would come to be in content, shape, and size. He simply wrote that it was “a small cake made from stiff, sweet dough rolled and sliced or dropped by spoonfuls onto a large flat pan and baked.”

Today, we have thousands of cookie recipes, shapes, ingredients. We can celebrate a National Cookie Day and National Homemade Cookie Month. Every December, newspapers and magazines publish reader’s favorites. One report by the New York Sun in the late 19th century highlighted Ridgeway, Mich., with this: “a good housewife of this town kept count of cookies baked for her family in the past year — 49,05 total.”

My grandmother and great grandmother kept their freshly baked cookies in tins and crockery jars especially designed to allow little and big hands to reach in and pull out one or two at a time. My mother kept her baked gems in a tin. We have a clear glass jar, especially nice for seeing what sweets are available. I can’t hazard a guess as to how many cookies grandma, great grandma, and mom would have baked in a year.

Their recipes are written in longhand, on smudged cards or envelope backs and every time we bake them, a little bit of nostalgia gets mixed into the dough. Especially the peanut butter ones. We kids were always given the important job of forking on the crisscross pattern. Of course, that’s one of the main appeals about cookies. Memories of childhood; of family, friends and times when nothing was better or more soothing than a warm cookie.

Because December is the traditional baking month, here are some of our family-favorite recipes. No matter what flavor, size or topping, Noah Webster would be proud of us. Go ahead, enjoy one hot out of the oven with a glass of milk or cup of tea with a spoonful of nostalgia stirred in.

Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, peanut butter and egg. Mix in both sugars until blended well. Add vanilla.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat into creamed mixture until blended well. At this point the dough may be chilled for easier handling.
  4. Roll dough into one-inch balls. May be dipped in granulated sugar if desired.
  5. Place on cookie sheets. Using a dinner fork, press the dough down to make a crisscross pattern on top.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes or until set and golden brown. Remove from pans, cool on racks.

Brown Sugar Crescents Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. Cream butter, sugar, salt and vanilla thoroughly. Beat in flour.
  2. Cover and chill for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. Using about a tablespoon of dough, shape into crescents.
  4. In a preheated 350-degree oven, bake for 12 minutes or until set.
  5. Roll warm cookies in confectioners’ sugar.

Soft Sour Cream Drops Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (8-ounce carton) dairy sour cream
  • Optional: nutmeats, raisins, cinnamon/sugar mix

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, cream sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla.
  2. In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, soda, baking powder.
  3. Alternately add dry ingredients with sour cream to creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition. Batter will be thick.
  4. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls about four inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.
  5. Spread dough into two-inch rounds. Garnish tops with optional ingredients.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Tops will look puffed. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Edges should be lightly crisp and centers soft.

My mother’s note reads that she sometimes mixed in a cup of chopped pecans for extra flavor.


Connie Moore is a newspaper and magazine writer who covers life in rural Ohio. She believes country life is the best way to live and learn in order to realize our potential in caring for ourselves, our family and the earth and practices this ethic through cooking, gardening, canning, freezing, foraging mushrooms and autumn nuts, quilting, sewing and flower arranging.

All GRIT community bloggers have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

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