Category Archives: Recipe Testing

Another Contender for Grandma’s Cookies—Buttermilk Cookies

I shared my post for Serinakaker with the only two people left who might remember my grandma’s cookies, my brother and cousin. One remembered and one kinda didn’t, but my cousin has her mother’s recipe box that includes three new possibilities for the cookies, two of them variations of a buttermilk cookie. One of those two is labeled as Mums, giving it priority. The one that uses sweet milk is identical to the one labeled Mums, with an addition of cream of tartar.

I’ve made the one labeled as Irma’s three times now (some are in the freezer), twice with butter and once with vegetable shortening, which the recipe calls for, but which I was reluctant to use for taste reasons. I had been thinking, even when making the serinakaker, that butter might have been a luxury in my grandmother’s house. I’m guessing that by shortening, the recipes mean something like Crisco®, but it could just as easily have meant margarine, which, like butter, has some water in it—that does affect texture, as well as taste.

These cookies are softer than serinakaker, rising to a dome shape after being rolled into balls, but I found the texture to be a little more fine and uniform than I remember her cookies. I played around with the amounts of flour and found the lesser amount suggested (“try 5 or 6 cups”) to be more flavorful, especially without butter. With butter the dough is very sticky and you need a lot of flour in order to shape it. With shortening, the dough is quite easy to handle.

If you’re wondering whether there is a corresponding Norwegian cookie, I did find Kringla, which uses buttermilk. It is rolled into rope pieces and then formed into a pretzel or knot shape for baking. The cookies I made with Crisco could easily have been shaped that way. Some kringla recipes use both buttermilk and sour or sweet cream. You will find kringla claimed by both Norwegians and Swedes, not surprisingly.

But, who knows where my grandmother’s cookies originated? Her mother was a Gillingham and her grandmother was a Shreffler, conjuring up all sorts of other culinary possibilities. In the end, maybe they simply came out of a magazine or popular cookbook. You’ll notice that all three recipes on the cards are just called Cookies with reference to the relatives and friends who claim them.

When I make them again, and I will, but not until a holiday, I’m definitely going to try a knotted shape. That way you can distinguish them from the serinakaker, which I will also be making again. For now, I’m a little bit over cookies for a while. In the photos below, the first one shows cookies that had been scooped or rolled into balls, with no other shaping or topping. The second photo shows the same cookie, but with fork marks and decorating sugar. The third photo shows the fine texture of these cookies.

Here’s the recipe, as I made it:

Buttermilk or Sour Milk Cookies

  • Servings: about 4 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 350°; line cookie sheets with parchment paper, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (or butter for more flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup  buttermilk or soured milk (to one cup of sweet milk, stir in one tablespoon of white vinegar and let sit until it curdles)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  •  5-6 cups all purpose flour

Preparation

  1. Mix by hand or in a stand mixer. I used a stand mixer.
  2. Mix sugar and shortening until well combined, then beat in eggs.
  3. Slowly mix in soured milk and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to liquid mixture, mixing until smooth.
  5. If you used butter, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, so you can handle it. Otherwise, you should be able to shape the dough immediately, with or without floured hands.
  6. Roll the dough into large walnut sized balls and place on cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake as is or do some shaping with a floured fork and decorating sugar.
  7. Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes. I think they’re better cooled, especially the next day, but that’s my preference for all cookies.

This cookie would make a good vehicle for frosting, if you’re into that sort of thing

In Search of My Grandma’s Cookies: Serinakaker

Maybe I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been searching for decades for a cookie recipe like the plain, crumbly sugar cookies my paternal grandma always had on hand. I shouldn’t really call them a sugar cookie, because if there was anything on the outside of the cookie, it was some leftover flour, probably used to mold the dough into balls for baking. They baked into a soft, slightly crumbly (maybe even doughy) mounded cookie, with just a slightly sweet flavor. I think most people would say they didn’t have much flavor at all, but I really liked them and wish I could reproduce them. Once, after it was too late to ask my grandma, I asked my aunt who lived her entire life with her if she had the recipe, but she said it was not written down anywhere. That tells me it must have been handed down in a memorable formula. But that’s as much as I could figure out, trying out recipes for crumbly or soft sugar cookies to no avail.  They were either too crisp or too sweet.

I only recently discovered through my Ancestry.com DNA test that I have 20% Norwegian ancestry, and that both my grandmothers had Norwegian maiden names, Mong and Aga. So, just for the heck of it, I searched for Norwegian cookies and found the Serinakaker cookie that I’m writing about today. Unlike all the web recipes for Serinakaker, I did not put nuts or sugar or any other topping on the batches illustrated here, because I was trying to recreate the cookies in my memory, so they will look a little too plain for a Christmas cookie.

I made my cookies in a stand mixer, just putting all the ingredients in the bowl and mixing slowly until it all came together—this is not a recipe where the butter and sugar are creamed together first, and I think that makes a difference. But if you want to see it mixed by hand, which is probably how my grandma did it in the 1950s and 1960s, here’s a wonderful version of that method:

I settled on this recipe from Food52, which I made a couple of times before I changed it to fit my idea of a recipe someone might have committed to memory, and also to make it just a bit less sweet, which better fits with my memory. At first, I did roll the dough into neat balls and make the fork imprint on top. They were lovely little cookies, but my grandma’s cookies were never so uniform. Hers were so roughly shaped that they almost resembled a drop biscuit more than a cookie, so I have tried to replicate that shape in later attempts, just to humor myself, but for Christmas this year, I’m going to make the smaller, shaped cookies with the fork impressions, egg wash, and decorating sugar, because no one else remembers my grandma’s cookies, so they’re mine now.

Update 12/16/2017: About the eggs. I don’t really see the need for the original recipe to have used medium eggs—who buys medium eggs? But I don’t like my decision to use just one large one for their two medium ones, either. The difference between large and medium in small numbers is not much, so since I always buy large eggs, I’m going to use two in my adaptation, and I’ve marked that change below. Plus, I put my final Christmas version in the group of photos, as well as in the featured header.

For full instructions, see the original recipe on Food52: Serinakaker.  Here is the list of ingredients from that recipe:

  • 4 cups (500 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (300 grams) softened salted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten (or one big old American-sized egg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract if you have no vanilla sugar)
  • 1egg white, for brushing the cookies
  • Pearl sugar and/or chopped almonds, for sprinkling

I used these ingredients for two batches, and while I liked the resulting cookies, I felt they were a little too sweet for the cookies I remembered. Plus, I figured that a memorized recipe is probably a simple recipe—1 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter? 1 1/3 cups sugar?—I think those two, at least, could have easily changed without affecting the cookie too much.  Here are the ingredients I finally used and that came the closest to what I remember:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2.5 sticks (1 cup plus 4 tablespoons) salted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs (see update above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

I think this batch is plenty sweet, and the dough had the same texture as the original—both are easy to mold and shape, as long as you take the time to mix the ingredients well, whether by hand or with a mixer. The resulting cookies, from either list of ingredients, are soft, sweet, and just a little crumbly. I think they will be even better with the egg wash and decorative topping.

Anyway, I’m putting the search for my grandma’s cookies to rest

Recipe Review: Crispy Fried Chicken

I’ve tried many methods for fried chicken. The ones that use only flour, or the three stage flour–egg–breadcrumb process, or the buttermilk marinade followed by breading, but it seems like the crispness doesn’t hold up for more than a minute or two past frying. They all taste good, but I really expect a crisp coating if I’m going to go to the trouble of frying. This recipe—Crispy Fried Chicken from Taste of Home—delivers. The name says it all.

What they do differently than most recipes is add flour to the egg wash, so that you are really dipping it in a batter before adding a final coating of seasoned flour. The final coating makes a shaggy layer that crisps up all over the chicken. Sometimes you get that shaggy look when you start with a buttermilk soak, but I find this egg–water–flour batter works even better than buttermilk.

I usually use an electric deep fryer, but I only made four pieces today, so I used a high-sided stock pot with a couple inches of oil. Unlike the original recipe, I did not use bone-in chicken; I used boneless thighs, which cook more quickly, about a total of five minutes in 375° oil for each piece.

Crispy Fried Chicken

  • Servings: will coat about 4 lbs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt or garlic powder plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons  white or black pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning—I used a combination of sage and celery seed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • up to 4 lbs chicken pieces, with or without skin. I used boneless thighs.
  • cooking oil for frying
Preparation
  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl for the final coating and set aside. The original recipe suggests a plastic bag, but I find patting on the flour works better, creating a shaggier coating that has lots of crispy edges.
  2. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and water, then whisk in the second amount of flour and salt, until the batter is smooth.
  3. Coat chicken pieces in batter then dredge in seasoned flour, patting the flour on until all the batter is covered and the coating is dry enough to handle and set aside.
  4. Heat cooking oil to 375° not allowing it to fall below 350° between batches. Fry chicken in small batches, depending on the size of your fryer, so that you keep the oil temperature high throughout. My boneless thighs cooked in 5 minutes, one piece at a time. The original recipe suggests that bone-in pieces would take about 5-6 minutes per side. My oil was deep enough that I didn’t need to turn my pieces over.

★★★★★ = Five Stars

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Sparkling Snickerdoodles

Another recipe from my old Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book, it is probably much like one you have used. I made only two changes: I used all butter instead of the recommended “part” and I used decorating sugar instead of granulated for a little more sparkle and that interesting crunch the sugar crystals give.

When mixing the cinnamon with decorating sugar, you will find that most of the cinnamon falls to the bottom of the dish, so you will use much more of the sugar than in a typical snickerdoodle recipe. Once your cinnamon coats each crystal, the remaining falls to the bottom. After you have coated many of your cookies, you need to add more sugar and stir it into the remaining cinnamon. I began with about 1/2 cup decorating sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Then I added another 1/4 cup of the sugar when it was depleted.

I’m sure I rolled my balls of dough too large, because the recipe says it makes 5 dozen 2″ cookies, and I got 3 dozen 3-4″ cookies. I have no idea what the suggested  size of a small walnut is, but I would guess mine were more like golf balls. Frankly, I like the larger cookies, because you get more of the chewy center.

Sparkling Snickerdoodles

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 400°; line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
  • For coating: 1/2-3/4 cup crystal decorating sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preparation
  1. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs until well combined.
  2. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until well combined.
  3. Roll the dough into balls, maybe slightly smaller than a golf ball. Tip: roll all the dough into balls before rolling in sugar-cinnamon mixture for a neater process.
  4. Stir together the decorating sugar and cinnamon until the sugar is coated with cinnamon.
  5. Roll each cookie in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and place on cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart, to allow for the cookies to spread out.
  6. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and crackled. Remove to cooling racks to cool.

I saved my remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture to sprinkle on muffins and coffee cakes—just make sure there aren’t any little pieces of unbaked cookie dough in it.

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