Grandma Libbey’s Soft Ginger Cookies

Our camp cook’s wife, Lorraine, shared her recipe for soft ginger cookies after I begged for it at one of the sumptuous Christmas open houses she and Chris hosted. As I have mentioned before, I really prefer cookies that remind me of cake rather than crackers.

I do like crackers, particularly when they are smeared with a nice ripe Brie or Camembert or are supporting a generous slice of aged Cheddar from Wisconsin or Cave Aged Gouda from the Caves of Faribaultt. I also use crackers in lots of recipes for everything from Italian Meatballs and Jerri’s Salmon Loaf to Nellie’s Rhubarb Raisin Pie and Phyllis’ Bar-B-Que Burgers, and of course, Jerri’s Oyster Stew demands oyster crackers.

I do enjoy an occasional crisp cookie, but I would sneak an extra one of Grandma Libbey’s Soft Ginger Cookies before I reached for a crisp sugar cookie. Lorraine got the recipe from Ms. Diane, as Chris calls her, who is married to his brother David. She contributed it to “Feeding the Flock,” a cookbook published by The Baptist Church of Grafton, Massachusetts.

In a note at the end of the recipe, she explains, “This recipe comes from David’s Grandma who made it frequently to celebrate, to console and to be enjoyed with cold milk.”

I think Diane says it all. It’s time to bake some cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large egg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups molasses
1/2 cup sour milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
5-6 cups all-purpose flour

PROCEDURE:

First make the sour milk. Put one and one-half-teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to make a half cup. Stir the mixture and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 425º.

Beat the egg, sugar and molasses together in a large mixing bowl. Add the sour milk and beat well. Add the oil and beat until it is blended with the other liquids.

Sift the salt, ginger, baking soda and flour into a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture a cup at a time, beating well between additions. If the dough is not firm enough to roll out after the last cup has been stirred in, add more flour.

Transfer half of the dough onto a well-floured surface. Use a spatula to turn the dough until it is covered with flour. Roll out the dough to a quarter-inch thickness. Cut with a floured cutter and place the cookies about an inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for six to seven minutes until the center of the cookie is set.

Work the scraps into the remaining dough and cut more cookies. Knead the final scraps into a ball and roll it out to make the rest of the cookies.

NOTES: If you want extra sweetness, sprinkle a little granulated sugar on top of the cookies before putting them in the oven.

Depending on the size of your egg and the kind of molasses, you may need to add a little more than six cups of flour. This recipe makes five dozen three inch cookies.

Mrs. Lanier’s Swedish Rye Bread

A few days ago I shared Mrs. Lanier’s recipe for buttermilk sheet cake. Here is another of her recipes that we treasure. It is a rye bread that has only a small amount of rye flour in it but the bread has a wonderful color, texture and flavor. Even if you think you do not like rye bread or caraway seeds, you really should try this recipe. This bread tastes almost like cake.

Mrs. Lanier told Jerri that the recipe came from a Swedish neighbor. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I believed the grownups who told me that the Swedes and Norwegians settled in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota because the thin soil, rocks and hills reminded them of their homeland. What they didn’t tell me is that a lot of good Swedish farmers headed for Kansas which is flatter than a pancake with topsoil two feet deep.

In fact, Lindsborg, Kansas is known as “Little Sweden” and still celebrates Svensk Hyllningsfest, which is held in October of odd-numbered years. It’s a two-hour drive to Atlanta, Kansas from Lindsborg, but there are Swedish families in every Kansas county today. I’m glad that at least one of them settled near the Laniers, so we can enjoy this bread.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup rye flour
6 to 8 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups water, divided
2 T caraway seeds
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 package or 2 heaping tsp. yeast

PROCEDURE:

Put the rye flour, caraway seeds and a cup of boiling water in a large mixing bowl. Stir until smooth and allow to cool to lukewarm.

Put the shortening, molasses, salt, brown sugar and a cup of boiling water into a small saucepan or microwavable bowl and stir until everything is melted. Cool to lukewarm.

Put a half cup of lukewarm water (90 t0 110º) in a cup or small bowl. Stir in a half teaspoon of sugar and the yeast and allow to proof.

Put all the lukewarm mixtures into the large mixing bowl and begin adding flour a cup at a time. Stir well between additions. As Mrs. Lanier wrote, “Use the trial and error method.” When the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, let it sit for five minutes or so, then turn it out on a floured work surface.

The dough will be sticky, so Mrs. Lanier recommends that you grease your fingers with shortening to avoid adding too much flour as you knead the dough. Knead for seven to eight minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Form it into a ball and put it into a greased bowl, turning the ball to cover the dough with grease. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise in a warm draft-free spot. When the dough has doubled in bulk, knead it briefly and return it to the bowl.

Allow the dough to rise again until doubled, then deflate it and form loaves on your work surface. Grease your bread pans. If you have standard 4 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch pans, make two loaves. Make three loaves if you have smaller pans. Put the pans in a warm draft-free spot and cover with the damp cloth. Once the dough has started to rise in the pans, preheat the oven to 350º

When the dough is even with the tops of the pans, put them on the center shelf of the oven and bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes. After 50 minutes, tip the loaves out of the pans and tap the bottoms. If the bread sounds hollow, the loaves are done. Otherwise, bake them for another five to ten minutes and tap again.

NOTES: After listing the molasses, Mrs. Lanier noted “the darker the better.” Use blackstrap molasses if you have it. She also noted that she especially liked this bread toasted.