Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brown Cookies for Christmas

My Grandma Storms passed down a Christmas recipe to me, creatively called "Brown Cookies."

While the name is as plain as can be, these rolled, cut-out, molasses cookies were a delicious and cherished part of our family Christmas. 

They were thin, crispy, and cut into hearts, circles and stars. She would store them in layers separated by wax paper in old metal tins. Their only adornment was one candy red hot in the center. They were brown...and delicious.

My Grandma was a stern, Christian, German woman. Elsie was a single one-room schoolhouse teacher for many years, until she met and married my grandpa, Phil, and had two sons: Neil (my dad) and Ken. They lived in a two-story house in Moline, Illinois, just on the edge of the Mississippi River. 

My grandpa died when I was fairly young, so most of my Christmas memories involve my grandma as a fiercely, independent widow. She orchestrated our pre-dinner rituals like she was teaching a class. Each of us was told to read a verse of Scripture, then my dad would play a carol on the upright piano, and we would sing. She would then serve her Christmas dinner buffet style - and usually (after a moment or two of pondering), Grandma would declare that "This year, the men should go first." 

My favorite part of our celebration came after our dinner of mandarin orange jello salad and baked corn casserole. The women would wash and dry her fiesta ware and clear the table. As coffee bubbled in the percolator, out came the antique looking bingo cards, and we would engage in a rowdy game of take-away bingo.

My grandma would wrap prizes in tin foil, and, somehow, my Uncle Ken always ended up with the onion. A few of us claimed the quarters, and maybe a pack of gum. My Grandma was a stickler for rules, and she would watch us like a hawk to prevent cheating. Then she would pour each grandchild some chocolate milk and mix it halfway with white milk (otherwise, she'd explain it is much too chocolatey).

That was when she'd break out her treasured Brown Cookies.

Grandma Storms' Brown Cookies

Cream: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup spry (margarine or Crisco). Add: 1 cup molasses, 2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 2 tbsp of warm water). 

Sift: 2 cups flour, 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp salt.

Add dry ingredients to the first mixture. Add enough additional flour (3-4 cups) to make a stiff dough.

Roll out very thin and cut in shapes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

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