During the time I’ve spent at Dad’s house since Mom’s death, I never got to the kitchen shelf where she stored all her cookbooks. That didn’t stop me from finding recipes all over the house. I found one particular recipe under their bed sandwiched between some Christmas wrapping paper. I remembered this recipe from childhood, and Dad was excited about this discovery, too. My Dad’s Mother had written the recipe in a letter to my Mother, and it was for my Grandmother’s famous gingerbread cookies.
I’m not accustomed to reading my Grandmother’s writing, so the ability to decipher her words was difficult to begin with. Then, Dad and I puzzled over one ingredient that called for (I believe) 1/4 cup of Swift’s. Swift’s what? All the other ingredients made sense; but, since I’m not a cook, I had no clue about which ingredient was missing. I went to my trusty computer to learn more.
Within 30 minutes, I learned that Swift’s was a vintage brand of lard. Could we substitute shortening for lard? We learned, yes…we could. But, I never got to sample one of the cookies from that recipe, because Dad and I had our minds on other things. This past week, though, Dad was bored enough to try the recipe. That adventure took up three days of his life.
First, he had to learn about sifters. He called his sisters to learn the details behind the phrase, “a sifter full of flour.” Then, he called me, because he wanted to locate Mom’s rolling pin. I had no clue, but I made a wild guess and I was correct. Then, I didn’t hear from him for two days.
The next time I heard from Dad was when he was “reporting in” to let me know he was going to make a short trip to visit his brother. And, “oh, by the way,” he added. “I made those cookies.”
Dad went on to tell me that the cookies were too soft in the middle when he took them from the oven, so he put them back in the oven to bake a little longer. I stifled a laugh as he continued to tell me that he took a few up to his sister’s house to have her try them. How were they? “She said they tasted good, but they’re as hard as a rock,” he responded. “I know what I’m going to do the next time,” he added (and I responded: “Famous last words!”). Here’s his list:
- Make all the cookies the same size, so they cook evenly across the board.
- Put the cookie dough on parchment paper so he can slide the parchment with the cookies off the baking sheet to use that sheet again for the next batch.
- Do not, ever, put cookies back in the oven to re-cook.
Dad took a few cookies up to his brother today. His brother said they were “hard as a rock,” but they tasted good. He suggested maybe a little less flour in the next sifting.
As for the lard? Dad used a popular shortening, but said it was still tough to handle. Next time, he says, he’ll use the mixer.