Today, we welcome author JoAnn Reno Wray with a delightful story and some incredible recipes.
The Cookie Legacy
© JoAnn Reno Wray
The scent of cookies baking, spicy oatmeal, butterscotch shortbread, and date roll ups, are imbedded in my brain. My paternal grandmother, Ethel Reno, baked a massive box of all kinds of cookies for our family every year. My three brothers and I eagerly looked forward to those homemade treats.
Grandma’s kitchen was paved with black and white linoleum squares and a white porcelain sink sat under one window. My favorite part of the kitchen was the cupboard. It was deep, lined by shelves sporting gingham yellow paper, and soaring to the tall ceilings. In the far back corner was a special box of toys for grandkids. I’d sit in the cupboard and play, listening as Grandma bustled around the kitchen baking and stirring pots of stew or frying up chicken.
When Grandma baked her Christmas cookies, she piled heaps and stacks all over the kitchen. So many kinds it dazzled eyes. We often heard her slap Grandpa’s hand admonishing him, “Those aren’t for you!” To which Grandpa would reply, “I paid for the ingredients!”
Today I’m a grandmother to five grandchildren, three boys and two girls ranging from one to sixteen years old. One is from China. His name is YingEr, but now goes by Seth.
Before YingEr came to this country, I’d sent our son, who was in China at the time, a package with dozens of cookies in it. This amazed YingEr and his family. No one they knew had an oven in their homes. It was so amazing, YingEr took the cookies to school for show and tell. He allowed his classmates to look at the cookies and to smell the cookies. He held the cookies aloft, proudly explaining, “My new grandma in the U.S.A. baked these cookies in her own oven in her own home!” Still, he never allowed anyone at school to eat a single cookie, wanting them for himself and was upset he had to share with his family!
When he arrived in the U.S. the first thing YingEr wanted to do was bake cookies with Grandma. So we did. That first Christmas he and his mother, Grace, also helped me with my annual Christmas cookie baking spree of 300 plus dozen cookies we give away to friends, family, and ministries, just like my Grandma Reno did.
Up in Minnesota my daughter and her children bake cookies every year with recipes from Great Grandma and Grandma, too. Through the years I’ve added new cookie recipes and homemade candies to the trays. The legacy of love my Grandma Reno started has multiplied and lives on.
Below I’ve included a couple of favorite cookie recipes from our collection.
Grandma used to make these first. I do the same because it’s my favorite. You can make the dough ahead and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Oven: 325° Time: 16-18 minutes 4+ Doz.
Cream ½ lb. butter.
Stir in 1 TBSP vanilla.
Gradually mix in ¾ C. powdered sugar.
Add 2 C. flour.
Add 2 C. chopped pecans, working well into dough.
Roll into 1" diameter balls. Bake on greased sheets about 1" apart (they do not rise) at 325̊ for 16-18 minutes until lightly browned. Shake in powdered sugar while still hot. Cool on racks that have been put on top of newspaper to collect the powdered sugar and make clean up easier. Store in air tight containers with layers separated by wax paper. Will keep for at least two weeks if they last that long!
Oven: 375° 7 - 9 MINUTES 1½ Doz.
This recipe is one that my husband’s Grandmother from Germany made. It was passed on to me by my mother-in-law along with a still treasured 1948 copy of The Joy of Cooking. This is my husband’s favorite. I get frequent requests for these. They’re worth the extra effort they take, as they absolutely melt in your mouth.
1 c. Butter
1/3 C. whipping cream
2 C. flour
1 C. granulated sugar
Green & Red Sugar decorative sugar
Cream Filling (Recipe below)
Mix butter, flour, and whipping cream well. Chill one hour. Roll dough 1/8" thick. Cut into 1½" rounds. Transfer to waxed paper. Heavily sprinkle with sugar on both sides and decorate one side with either red or green colored sugar. Place about 1" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Don’t over crowd your baking sheet. Prick each cookie 4 times with fork.
Bake at 375° for 7-9 minutes. Watch carefully as they can burn easily. Remove from oven, Allow to sit on baking sheet a couple of minutes, then remove carefully to cooling racks. Place two wafers together with tinted filling.
Cream Filling : Original recipe: ¼ C. softened butter, 3/4 C. powdered sugar, 1 Egg Yolk, 1 tsp. vanilla, ½ tsp. Almond Flavoring, Red & Green food coloring. Beat all ingredients except coloring. Divide & tint.
Alternative Filling: Use a can of your favorite brand of vanilla frosting, add ½ tsp. Almond flavoring; mix well. Divide can into bowls. Tint half the frosting red or pink and half green. Paste food colorings work better than the liquid type but either works fine.
Store in air-tight containers with layers separated by waxed paper.
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JoAnn, so great to see your lovely face again, to read this story (and get this recipe!).
You will forever be an inspiration to me.
Here's to hotels on fire!
Eva Marie Everson
My grandmother made cookies, too, but your grandma would have won the bake-off! What I do remember about her and cookies, though, is when I took my kids the thousands of miles to meet her when they were little. After the breakfast cereal and toast were cleared away, out came a container of cookies. My kids were 3 & 5 at the time (now adults) and still talk about cookies for breakfast at Great Grandma's!
Eva Marie, Thanks for leaving a comment. Great to hear from you too. You made me laugh out loud remembering that hotel fire at the Mid-Atlantic Christian Writers Conference and how I drug all my packed suitcases down all those flights of stairs out of the hotel. I wasn't taking any chances!
Valerie, Love the memory you shared. Hope you've written about this to submit to a publication!
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