On Saturday, I had this burning urge to BAKE. Grandma’s sugar cookies had been on my brain since I wrote about Pappy… and, since I knew I had all the ingredients in the house, and nothing better to do, I set out to re-create one of my favorite snacks. But baking these sugar cookies is more than just an exercise in kitchen chemistry. When I bake these, I feel as if I am channeling my grandmas. They are with me in my kitchen as I work through a recipe that they each made countless times during their lives.
Unless you hail from Central PA, I am sure you aren’t thinking of the right kind of sugar cookie. This one is cake-y and substantial, not rolled thin and crisp and cut into holiday shapes. It has one lovely sugar-dusted pecan in the center. You can’t find these in stores; you have to bake them at home. It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing. You know – like when we say barbeque, we mean what most people call Sloppy Joes. Or chicken pot pie? Not the baked stuff with a pastry crust – our chicken pot pie is more of a stew with homemade egg-dough squares and potatoes.
Both of my grandmas (Pappy’s wife, and the one whose feet I inherited) made these cookies, and try as I might, I just don’t think mine taste as good as theirs did. Nevertheless, I gave it a pretty good effort, and here’s how:
GRANDMA SARA’S SUGAR COOKIES
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream (I substituted some plain yogurt for part of the sour cream)
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cream the suger and butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each one. Add vanilla and beat well.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the sour cream to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon, beginning and ending with flour.
Drop onto greased cookie sheets. (If your cookie sheets are as wrecked as mine are, throw some baking parchment on top and skip the grease. Works great.) Place a pecan half on top of each drop and dust with granulated sugar.
Bake in your preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they just start to brown. Smokey says, use a timer so they don’t get too brown.
Pile ‘em onto cooling racks, then store them in plastic containers or bags. Makes around 4 dozen, give or take. They freeze well. But you won’t have to make room in your freezer because in our house? They were gone within 24 hours.
These cookies are perfect for an evening snack. They are also the breakfast of champions. Grandma Sara made these for me when I was in college, and throughout my adulthood, and even into her late 80′s. She knew they were my favorite.
I find comfort when I’m in my kitchen, combining the ingredients and sliding trays of these in and out of the oven. I feel a connection to my past. My grandmas – both of them - would be so proud that I’m carrying on this tradition. And I take pride, not only in making a recipe that was one of their specialties, but also in preserving a bit of my Central Pennsylvania heritage. Because this recipe? It will die here if I don’t learn to make it, and then pass it on. And that, readers, would be a cryin’ shame.