Revisiting the Diary Years: Grandma’s Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixer and her Molasses Cookie Recipe

molasses cookiesIf you are looking for a hundred-year-old recipe, come back next week. This week, I’m revisiting the early days of this blog – and including a 70-year-old recipe for Soft Molasses Cookies to boot.

I began A Hundred Years Ago in 2011 to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. My grandmother, Helena Muffly [Swartz] kept the diary from 1911 to 1914 when she was a teen living on a farm near McEwensville in central Pennsylvania. After I posted all the diary entries, I reinvented A Hundred Years Ago to its current focus on food. Today I’m going to go back to those diary years —

When I was a child, I lived about a mile from Grandma – and most of her other grandchildren also lived nearby. But one of Grandma’s daughters lived in the Philadelphia area with her husband and three children. It was always a special occasion when those cousins visited.

I recently received a comment on a post I did about Grandma’s cookies from Pat Donaldson, one of my “Philadelphia” cousins. She then followed up with an email. She wrote:

I too remember Grandma’s cookies fondly. We’d come to visit, and her cookie jar would always be full, with either Molasses or Peanut Butter cookies. The Molasses cookies were soft, with a dark crinkly top, and the Peanut Butter cookies had the trademark cross-hatching on them. We’d eat the cookies as we ran in and out of the house playing tag.

Later, when we were grown and attending a wedding we talked about those cookies and found how scarcely they were given out to our cousins, who would have to ask for just one very politely. They were scandalized that we just reached in and ate them! But we were only there one weekend a month, and Grandma never said a word about our cookie habit – just kept the cookie jar full for us.

After her funeral, we were all given a chance to take home one item to remember Grandma by. I chose her Sunbeam mixer, which came with a little cookbook. The mixer was a Sunbeam Mixmaster 10, which was sold around 1950. Since I was in college and needed a mixer, that’s what I chose.  It lasted quite a while – decades at least.  The recipe book came with the mixer

Inside the cookbook I found recipes for molasses and peanut butter cookies. I’m not sure about the peanut butter cookies – but the molasses cookies have an “X” next to the recipe, and I’m fairly sure they’re the ones Grandma baked. I’ve scanned the pages from the recipe book. The Sunbeam cookbook is still a bit recent for your food blog – but the cookies can be eaten any time.

p.s.: One year when we were visiting we went exploring in the attic, and found Grandma’s cookie stash. She must have baked dozens and dozens of them, and they were all sitting in a box waiting to go into the cookie jar as soon as we emptied it. That solved the mystery of how Grandma’s cookie jar could always be full, when we never saw her baking cookies!

Here’s the first page of the little cookbook that came with the mixer::First page of cookbook with photo of a Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixer

And, here’s the recipe in the cookbook (with Grandma’s “X” marking it as a recipe she had made):

molasses cookie recipe
Source: Cookbook included with Sunbeam Mixmaster (circa 1950)

Of course, I had to try Grandma’s (i.e., the Sunbeam Mixmaster Cookbook) Soft Molasses Cookie recipe. The cookies turned out wonderfully. They were soft and chewy with just the right mixture of spices and raisins. Making the cookies with a mixer was very 1950’s, but the cookies are definitely a wonderful, traditional, soft molasses cookie that brought back fond memories of Grandma, her kitchen, and wonderful times playing with my cousins.

Old-Fashioned Sand Tarts

Are there some types of cookies that immediately bring back warm, fuzzy memories of childhood. Well, for me, Sand Tarts are that cookie. This thin, crispy cookie is my all-time favorite.  My mother never made them (I’m not sure why.), so I was always thrilled when they were on a cookie tray at church or a friend’s house.

I recently found an awesome hundred-year-old Sand Tart recipe that makes cookies just like I remembered.  The cookies are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar (“sand”), and taste almost like a thin Snickerdoodle. (Does anyone eat Snickerdoodles any more?)

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (December, 1917)

This recipe originally appeared the American Cookery magazine during World War I. There were sugar shortages during the war. Even though the magazine chose to publish the recipe, the editors encouraged cooks not to make Sand Tarts because they “call for more sugar than ordinary cookies.”

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Sand Tarts

  • Servings: approximately 75 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
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3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar + 2 cups sugar

1 cup shortening

1 extra-large egg + 1 egg yolk (or 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk)

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg white

1/2 cup sugar

whole almonds or raisins (I used almonds.)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Put cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl; stir to combine, then set aside.

Cream the shortening; beat in the 2 cups of sugar, and the whole egg and yolk. Then stir in the flour and salt. The dough will be crumbly, but will cling together when pressed together. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth. Roll out dough out until it is very thin (1/8 inch thick). Cut into rounds or, if desired, other shapes; and place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush cookies with the egg-white, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Set an almond or raisin in the center of each cookie. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake 8-12  minutes or until lightly browned.

Traditional Spice Cookies

Tailgating. . . fall campfires on chilly evenings . .  . kids’ (and adults’) Halloween parties. .  . They all call for hearty cookies.  And (of course), I found a hundred-year-old recipe that fits the bill.  Spice Cookies are a molasses cookie spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book (1917)

This recipe was on  a page in the old cookbook that was covered with (nearly 100-year-old?) food stains. Was this recipe a particular favorite of the original owner of the cookbook?

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Spice Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 50 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening or lard

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups flour

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put molasses in a dutch oven or a large saucepan; bring to a boil using medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, butter, and shortening or lard. Add ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda, stir to combine. Then add flour and eggs, and stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled. On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch circles. (I used an upside-down water glass as the cookie cutter.) Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Do not over cook if a moist cookie is desired.

Old-fashioned Honey Wafer Recipe

I’m always on the look-out for “healthy” hundred-year-old cookie recipes, so I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for Honey Wafers. The recipe uses honey as the primary sweetener – though it does contain a small amount of sugar.

Old-fashioned Honey Wafers are delightful with coffee. They have a distinct honey flavor, with mild undertones of lemon. Don’t expect these cookies to taste like sugar cookies.

I used a 2-inch in diameter round cookies cutter when making these cookies. This was a good size. Small is better. The honey is very predominant, and made for savoring.

These cookies got relatively hard after a day or two, but were still good. They could also be softened by putting in an airtight container with a slice or two of apple.

Here’s the original recipe:

The Cook’s Book (a small promotional cookbook for KC Baking Powder, 1911)

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

Honey Wafers

  • Servings: approximately 60 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup honey

1/3 teaspoon lemon extract

2 3/4 cups pastry flour (All-purpose flour can be substituted.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2-4 tablespoons milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Combine butter, sugar, honey, and lemon extract in a mixing bowl. Add baking powder, stir to combine. Add flour, stir until well-mixed. If the mixture is too dry, add milk to create a dough with a consistency that can be easily rolled.

On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12  minutes or until lightly browned.

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
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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
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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
  • Print

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.