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Have Cookie Table, will travel to Michigan

Sunday, June 01, 2003

By Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette Food Editor

When Pittsburghers think about exporting something special, nothing can surpass The Cookie Table.

Anita Dufalla, Post-Gazette illustration


Related article:

There's no such thing as a perfect cookie sheet

We took one to my parents' golden wedding party, and some people are still talking about it. (Or maybe it's just my family.)

So, at the start of my niece Kelsey's senior year at Vassar (Mich.) High School, I popped the question: Do you want me to make a Cookie Table for your graduation party?

"Yes!" she said. Whether it was truly enthusiasm or simply good manners, I will never know. But I was committed.

And now here it was, 17 days to the graduation party, and I hadn't baked a single cookie. Luckily, my mother had been lured here for the church play (the last show is tonight) and she said she'd help. She'd already made five batches at home, thus creating a Pittsburgh/Michigan Cookie Table. Mom was bringing Date Streusel, Nanaimo Bars, Cherry Winks, Peanut Butter-Peanut Cookies and Centennial Squares.

What shall I make? Come to think of it, I don't know if I've seen Kelsey actually eat a cookie. She did win my heart at Christmastime when she took the leftover garlic mashed potatoes and added more garlic. (I'd toned it down for the others, just in case.)

A couple of weeks ago, I called to get a list of her preferred cookies.

"What's your favorite cookie?" I asked, thinking chocolate chip.

"Snickerdoodles," she said.

Mention of that wonderful old cookie got me looking back. I remember the first time I ever met my niece, who had arrived five years after the last of my brother's three children. We were living in East Tennessee then, and our daughter Jessica was 6.

Terms of endearment can be embarrassing later, but somehow Jessica got the name of Sweetsie-Meatsie. (Avert your eyes if you become sick at such silliness.) Just before we left for Michigan to see Jessica's new cousin, who was born two days shy of her own birthday June 15, our daughter made a proclamation:

"I'm a big girl now," she said, stiffening her spine. "I don't want you to call me Sweetsie-Meatsie anymore."

"OK," I said, wondering if "J. Snitlee Peapot" was also verboten. I didn't bring it up.

Kelsey was a sweet little baby. She was overdue when she was born, so she was chunky, weighing in at 9-plus pounds. Her face was fringed with light blond hair, and she had big blue eyes. When I held her for the first time, I patted her chubby cheek.

"I'm Aunt Suzanne," I said with a little squeeze. "Hello, my little Sweetsie-Meatsie."

Jessica's eyes widened. "She's not your Sweetsie-Meatsie. I am!"

Neither had a sibling, but could this become a rivalry between cousins?

"Then I'll call her Kelsey," I said.

Eighteen years have passed, Kelsey's jeans and cowgirl shirts couldn't fit better, and now she is bound for Central Michigan University. Jessica appreciated Aunt Roxann and Uncle Dutch's high school graduation present: a laundry basket full of towels in her college colors of green and white. But where do you find maroon and gold? Maybe we'll have to make a side trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich., where Central Michigan is located.

Anyway, the cookies come first.

Snickerdoodles, yes, and Chocolate No-Bakes (no coconut). These were the cookies of choice when I attended horse shows with Rox and Dutch during the days when, as the old saw goes, Kelsey was "just a gleam in her parents' eyes." These rich chocolate cookies, which were as close to fudge as you could get without a candy thermometer, were supplied by Grandmother Guthrie. She later provided a wonderful recipe for Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, another family favorite.

Kelsey and her parents have probably logged more miles with their palominos than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans traveled with Trigger and Buttermilk.

Thinking of buttermilk, I've got a pint from another recipe. What cookie would use that up? Notice that I have no trouble going through the chocolate at our house. And there were 4 egg whites, but Mom and I found the perfect use for them.

Mom and I will make a few cookies for adults (we know where the college tuition comes from). There are a couple I've especially liked: Jane Cricks' Melting Moments and the Spice Cookies with Brown Sugar Icing recipe I got while stranded in Port Townsend, Wash., after 9/11.

The test of our mother-daughter relationship will surely be the cut-out butter cookies, which we will make in horse and cowgirl shapes. I am a zero at decorating, but Mom has more patience than I do. Besides, it's her granddaughter.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

  • 4 egg whites

  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with wax paper, and then grease the paper well. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy.

Sift the sugar, cocoa, flour and coffee into the whites. Add the water and continue beating on low speed to blend, then on high for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens. With a rubber spatula, fold in the walnuts.

Place generous spoonfuls of the mixture 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm and cracked on top but soft on the inside. With a metal spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips to the dough with the chopped walnuts.

"Cookies: Irresistible Biscuits, Brownies and Bars " by Hilaire Walden

Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup soft shortening (half butter)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method. Mix flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt; stir in. Form into balls the size of small walnuts. Roll balls in mixture of the 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

"Betty Crocker's New Good and Easy Cook Book" (original version)
PG tested recipes


Post-Gazette Food Editor Suzanne Martinson can be reached at smartinson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1760.

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