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Dec 23 2010

Grandma Cookies

It’s the time of year when almost everything else takes a backseat to cookie making. As I’ve mentioned before, most of the gifts we give are charitable donations, with cookies to sweeten the deal for the recipients. That’s a lot of baking in a short period of time, particularly if I’ve compressed my holidays by taking a week-long trip in the middle of them, as I did this year.

What am I making this year? Nothing too fancy; I go for variety of flavor over shapes, making at most one “presentation” cookie in a year. There are a couple of trusted standbys: almond sugar cookies and pecan sandies that Ben makes. There are the tweaked classics: Kiss cookies with a coffee cookie and dark-chocolate Kisses, crispy rice bars with chopped pistachios and dried cherries mixed in (‘Cause they’re green and red. Get it? Oh, never mind.). There’s the untried recipe: “Pumpkin cookies with orange icing? Huh. Sure.”

Always, however, are the grandma cookies. I’m sure they had a name at one point, but when I copied down my father’s mother’s recipe, I didn’t keep it. I’ve never seen anyone else make them, so they’ve stayed named after her. They’re a cake-like cookie, with a smooth texture and a mild but rich flavor due to the Dutch-process cocoa.

A few things to know if you’re thinking about making the cookies. This produces a stiff, sticky dough that has to be refrigerated overnight before baking. It’s too much for me to stir together by hand, and it makes my Kitchen Aid whiny. Admittedly, it’s an older stand mixer, but I wouldn’t want to try this with beaters either. Nor can I use my dishers to portion the dough for baking. The sweep comes off the track.

Natural cocoa will not give you the same flavor. If you can’t get Droste at your local market, consider ordering from someplace like Penzey’s (gotta love cocoa powder that is labeled “high fat”). Also, this uses a lot of dishes. Be prepared to take up counter space.

Wet ingredients:
12 oz. cottage cheese
1 c. butter (2 sticks, 1/2 lb.)
2-1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs

Dry ingredients:
4-1/8 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. Dutch-process cocoa
1-1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt

1-1/2 c. chunks (good chocolate chips, toasted nuts, chopped dried fruits that play well with chocolate)

Powdered sugar for coating cookies (about 1 cup).

Pull the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. In the meantime, whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl and set it aside.

Dump the cottage cheese into a sifter and work it through the holes into the mixer bowl using the back and edge of a table spoon. Add the butter. When that is roughly mixed, add sugar and mix until the texture is smooth (sugar will still be visibly granulated). Incorporate eggs one at a time.

Slowly add the dry ingredients. Expect to clean cocoa off all the nearby surfaces when you’re done, but working in small amounts will help. When the dough is a consistent texture, add the chunks at once. Stop mixing as soon as they’re incorporated.

Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F with racks just above and below center.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. I use nitrile gloves, as the dough really is that sticky. Roll the balls in powdered sugar to coat. Space about 1-1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes. May be moved to a cooling rack right away or cool on the pan briefly.

Makes about 7-1/2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    D. C.

    Hershey's at least used to have a Dutch cocoa as well. Since I'm finally running out of the massive stock of Droste I laid in when I was regularly traveling to the Netherlands [1], I'm back to looking for it.Now, for the adventurous: brownies. In particular, herbally-enhanced brownies (no, they're legal! Really!)It's really a recipe mod: use your favorite brownie recipe, or mix, with the following alterations:1) Replace any water with espresso. This works for just about any chocolate recipe, by the way.2) Add about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Optional, but hard to spot in your usual 9×13 batch.3) The real secret ingredient [2]: chipotle powder. I use the commercial stuff (not McCormick, though: real pure chipotle) instead of my own home-smoked because mine is too smoky. I use 1/8 tsp per 9×13 pan batch, and if in the slightest doubt use less rather than more. Get it right and nobody can tell what's been added but it's just a bit warmer. Even a tiny bit too much is inedible.[1] As well as the cellar full of duty-free Ardbeg. That I will really miss, unless $DAUGHTER brings me a bottle or two from her trip to Scotland this break.[2] Nobody has guessed it yet, but seriously: don't get generous or you'll ruin it.

  2. 2
    Heather M. Rosa

    Some things skip a generation. I never could make my mother-in-law's cookies, at least not these. I'm delighted that you can and do. The only name she ever used – to me – for them was Cottage Cheese Cookies. Hardly an enticement to dig in, although the first (hundred) bite(s) takes care of that nicely.

  3. 3
    D. C.

    Heather, $HERSELF reports that her little sister got all the baking from their grandmother, because $SISTER was still young enough to be home and interested in learning to cook when grandmother moved in with them.I can attest that although $HERSELF is a good cook [1] she's not nearly the baker that her sister is. $SISTER's sour cream cookies are heavenly and $HERSELF freely admits to having never managed an edible batch.[1] almost as good as I am — GD&R

  4. 4
    Stephanie Zvan

    D. C., we use cinnamon (ceylon–the "red hot" kind) and cayenne in cocoa, but I don't think we've ever added it to brownies. Something to think about.I'm always amused when people refer to baking as an exact science. If you're using good, fresh ingredients, there's always some variability to your volatiles. And how flour behaves–even to be measured–is infinitely changeable. So much of baking requires the guts to change things that are okay but not quite perfect.

  5. 5
    Heather M. Rosa

    I'm sure it was that approach to cooking that got me near to flunking out of organic chem lab. "Nearly exact" wasn't good enough. I limit my cooking these days to things where that approach does work.(I refuse to consider that taking a week off to deliver a baby had anything at all to do with my grades.)

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