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New England Recipes Masthead I New Egnland Recipes Masthead II

Crisp Sugar Cookie

Served at Thompson’s Tourist Home during the 1930’s and 1940’s
 Ashland, New Hampshire

This recipe was passed down to me by my Grandmother Thompson who ran a seasonal tourist home in New Hampshire. The spices are what make this sugar cookie standout from ordinary plain sugar cookies.

Cream well:
1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), softened
1 cup sugar
To the creamed butter and sugar add:
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift together:
2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
teaspoon nutmeg
teaspoon cinnamon

Mix into creamed mixture until blended
Cover bowl and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours until dough is chilled
Grease a cookie sheet:
1) Roll dough out and cut with a round cookie cutter, sprinkle with sugar before baking
2) Scoop dough out by spoonful and roll into a ball, then roll in sugar and slightly flatten with hand on cookie sheet. This makes a soft cookie.

Oven 350 degrees
Bake: 10 to 12 minutes


The term “Cookies” date back to at least 1796.  Two recipes for cookies show up in Amelia Simmons American Cookery and are associated with the Christmas holiday. They were heavily sweetened one pound of sugar to two pounds of flour, a similar ratio still used today in cookies and cakes. The “Cookies” recipe states, “roles [roll] half an inch thick and cut to the shape you please; bake fifteen or twenty minutes in a slack oven – good three weeks.” This suggests a thin, flat dough cut into a shape.  “Another Christmas Cookey” gives instructions to, “roll three quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape”. It goes on to say, “tho’ hard and dry at first, if put into an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.”  These cookies are distant cousins of our present day cookies which are best eaten the same day or within two or three days, or they dry out and become hard. The Christmas Cookey came out of the oven hard and needed to be to soften before it was suitable to be eaten.

In the “Cookies” recipe the sugar is dissolved in a cup of water. In the “Another Christmas Cookey” recipe the sugar is mixed with the flour, and butter is rubbed in, then a cup of milk is added to the dry mixture. This method is close to what eventually became the standard method of mixing cookie dough. The Boston Cooking School Cook Book from 1884 gives a recipe for “New Year’s Cookies” quite similar to the 1796 “Cookies” recipe where sugar is dissolved in water. All the other cookie recipes in the 1884 cook book call for creaming the butter and sugar together, and then adding milk, a method still in use today. To cream butter is to soften the butter but not melt it so the sugar can be easily mixed to a creamy like consistency.

The basic rolled sugar cookie recipe has changed little in the past two hundred years. It started out in 1796 being made up of butter, sugar, milk, a rising agent, a flavoring and flour. One hundred years later, it drops the flavoring and adds an egg. Fifty years later it adds spices and vanilla flavoring. Fifty years later it leaves out the spices but retains the vanilla flavoring.

1 lb. butter
1 lb. sugar
1 tea cup milk
1 tea cup powdered coriander seed (flavoring)
3 lbs. flour
3 teaspoons pearl ash (early form of baking soda)

cup butter
1 cup sugar
cup milk
1 egg
[2 to 2 cups] Flour to roll out
2 teaspoons baking powder

cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar (cream of tartar mixed with baking soda is homemade baking powder)
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
teaspoon nutmeg
teaspoon cinnamon

Amelia was unsure of how to spell the term she used “cookies” and “cookey”.  The spelling that carried forth was cookie. Her two cookie recipes are associated with Christmas. An almost identical sugar cookie to the “1796, sugar dissolved in water” recipe is listed in the 1884 cook book as New Year Cookie. We can see cookies continued to be associated with the winter holidays. However, changes did occur in the hundred years leading up to 1884. The 1884 cook book has an expanded cookie recipe section with Cocanut Cookies, Jumbles (large cookies) with sugar topping, Hermits with raisins, One-Two-Three-Four Cookies with spice or caraway seed, seven gingerbread recipes along with Ginger Snaps and Ginger Drops, plus Soft Molasses Cookies. Cookies are more than just holiday treats they are common throughout the year. Cookies continued in popularity, in the last half of the twentieth century whole cook books were devoted to cookies.