Old-fashioned Chinese Chews Recipe

I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Chinese Chews. The recipe was for walnut and date cookie balls. Why were they called Chinese? Were the balls supposed to seem special  because the name evoked thoughts of  exotic, far away places?  I think of the middle east when I think of dates – but not China.  That said, improbably named recipes inevitably intrigue me, so the next thing I knew I was making Chinese Chews.

Chinese Chews are a sweet chewy treat, and would make a nice addition to a holiday cookie tray.

They were fun to make. The dough is spread thinly in a pan or baking sheet, and then baked until it just begins to brown. The baked dough is then removed from the oven, cut into pieces, and rolled into balls which are then coated in granulated sugar.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1917)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Chinese Chews

  • Servings: 20-25 1-inch balls
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup dates, chopped

1 cup walnuts chopped

granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs. Then stir in the dates and walnuts. Spread thinly on a baking sheet. (There may not be enough to cover the entire sheet.) Place in the oven and bake until the dough sets and just begins to brown (about 15 minutes). The baked dough should look “not quite done.” Remove from oven and cool about five minutes.

Use a spatula to remove the baked dough from the pan  Take chunks of the baked dough and shape into 1-inch balls. (Don’t worry if baked dough comes out of the pan in odd-shaped pieces. I put all the pieces in a bowl, and intentionally combined some of the “crustier” portions from the edge of the pan with some of the softer portions from the center to make balls that had a nice consistency.)  Roll each ball in granulated sugar. Work quickly because the balls are easier to shape when the dough is still warm.

Cook’s note: The hundred-year-old recipe called for pastry flour. I used all-purpose flour and it worked fine.

Hundred-Year-Old Hermits Cookies Recipe

hermit-cookies

Tis the season . . . for baking cookies. Old-fashioned, traditional cookies are my favorite, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Hermits. Hermits are a soft, spicy, raisin cookie. They have been around a long time so there are lots of variations. This recipe was for the traditional drop cookie version.

The Hermits were delightful. They had a lovely texture and the right amount of chewiness. The old-fashioned goodness of the Hermits was enhanced by just the right amount of cinnamon and mace, and a hint of molasses.

The recipe was easy to make–and would be a perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)
Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)

And, here’s my updated version of the recipe for modern cooks:

Hermits

  • Servings: approximately 40 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon milk

1 tablespoon molasses

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put butter in a large mixing bowl, and stir (cream) until smooth; then stir in the brown sugar. Stir in milk, molasses, eggs, cinnamon, mace, and baking powder. Add flour, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Add raisins, and stir gently to distribute the raisins throughout the dough. Drop rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Interpreting a Hundred-Year-Old Peanut Butter Cutout Cookie Recipe

peanut-butter-cut-out-cookies

I love peanut butter cookies, so when I found a hundred-year-old recipe for peanut butter cut-out cookies I had to give it a try.

Here’s the original recipe:

peanut butter cut-out cookies
Source: American Cookery (March, 1917)

When I made this recipe, it quickly became apparent that something was wrong. When I combined all the ingredients, I had a thick batter instead of a dough–and there was no way I could roll it out. I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with the original recipe, but I decided that the best way to salvage it was to add additional flour – lots of flour.  The resulting soft dough rolled out nicely.

The verdict: The cookies were nothing like modern peanut butter cookies, but if you can totally suspend expectations, the cookies were good. The old-fashioned cake-like cookies had a hint of peanut butter, and are lovely with milk or coffee.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Peanut Butter Cut-out Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 48 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 2/3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

sugar

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place the  butter, peanut butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl, stir to combine. Stir in the egg and milk, then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled.

On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 9-11 minutes.

Coconut Cream Cookies

coconut cream cookies 3Cookie season is here, and it’s time to start baking for the holidays. Of course, I just had to try a “new” hundred-year-old recipe.

I selected a recipe for Coconut Cream Cookies that was in a small promotional cookbook published in 1911 for KC Baking Powder.

The cookies are an old-fashioned soft, chewy cookie, with a very delicate creamy coconut taste. Their mild flavor makes them perfect for nibbling while sipping a cup of coffee.

The recipe didn’t call or any butter or shortening–and I was surprised that it was possible to make cookies without it. The cream in the recipe apparently provided adequate fat to create a nice cookie texture—however, the cookies weren’t as flavorful as many modern cookies.

Here’s my updated version of the recipe:

Coconut Cream Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 25 pieces
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

water

1 cup shredded coconut

shredded coconut for garnish

walnuts, pecans, or other nuts for garnish

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine eggs, sugar, and cream. Add flour, salt, and baking powder; stir to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add water until a soft dough of rolling consistency forms. Stir in the coconut.

Roll out the dough one-fourth inch thick. Sprinkle with coconut, pressing in lightly. Cut into rounds; press a nut meat into the center of each cookie. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes, or just until set and the coconut garnish is just beginning to toast.

Note: I used a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter. The coconut in the cookie dough makes this dough a little more difficult to handle than many modern doughs. A spatula can be used to transfer the cut cookies to the baking sheet.

Yield: Approximately 42 cookies

Here is the original recipe.

Source: The Cook's Book (1911)
Source: The Cook’s Book (KC Baking Powder Cook Book) (1911)

I had to make some adaptations to the recipe. I guessed that “1 coffee C sugar” was about 3/4 cup of sugar.

When I followed the recipe, the dough was extremely dry. I added additional cream, as well as water, to achieve a dough that could be rolled. Perhaps a hundred years ago, eggs were larger than the typical “large egg” of today. Also, I used all-purpose flour rather than pastry flour–and  I didn’t sift it; that might have affected the amount of liquid needed.

I also changed the spelling of coconut from “cocoanut” to “coconut” when I revised the recipe. I never see it spelled with an “a” in modern cookbooks, so I’m guessing that it’s an archaic spelling.

Old-Fashioned Raisin-Filled Cookies Recipe

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Wednesday, January 14, 1914:  Did some experimenting in the baking line this afternoon. Didn’t turn out so bad either. That’s ‘bout all I can think of at present.

DSC08738.bHer middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma—

What did you make?  Maybe some Raisin-Filled Cookies? I remember that we often had them during the winter when I was a kid. They made the perfect after-school snack on cold winter days.

Old-fashioned Raisin-Filled Cookies

Filling

3/4 cup raisins

2/3 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

2/3 cup water

Combine all filling ingredients and cook over medium heat until thick.

Cookie

1/3 cup shortening

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine shortening, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, and soda; then stir in flour. Roll thin and cut into cookies using a round cutter. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Put a spoonful of filling (don’t overfill) in center of cookie. Top with another cookie that has a small circle cut in the center. Firmly press edges together.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cookie is lightly browned.

I have a set of round fondant cut-out cutters. I used the large cutter to make the cookies—and then cut the hole in the center of the top cookies using the small cutter.

When I was a child we made cookies that were a little larger. We used a doughnut cutter that had a removable hole cutter.  We removed the hole cutter to make the bottom cookie.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cookie Recipe

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, September 6, 1913: I made some cookies this morning—and fortunately we all have pretty good teeth.

DSC08295

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm—I wonder what kind of cookies Grandma made, and what went wrong.

Maybe Grandma made Apple Cookies. They’re wonderfully moist—and a little chewy (but I don’t think that they’d require good teeth to eat.)  🙂

Old-fashioned Apple Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup milk

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup unpared apples, chopped

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream sugar and butter, then add egg. Stir in remaining ingredients except nuts and fruit. Add walnuts, apples, and raisins. Drop by teaspoonful on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: approximately 48 cookies

Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Cookie Recipe

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, December 18, 1912:  Am beginning to get ready for Christmas. Picked out some walnut bits.

black walnut cookies

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What was Grandma going to make with the walnuts?  Maybe she made cookies . Here’s an old recipe for Black Walnut Cookies.

Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 cup coarsely chopped black walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix butter, brown sugar, and eggs together. Stir  in milk and  vinegar. Then, stir in baking soda and salt. Add flour and stir until combined. Stir in black walnuts. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour. Drop rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen cookies

I love these cookies. They are an old-fashioned soft cookie with the robust, rich taste of black walnuts.

Here are several previous posts about Black Walnuts that you might enjoy:

How to Crack Black Walnuts

Hulling Black Walnuts

Old-Time Black Walnut Cake Recipe