Taste of Tucson: Homemade cookies make a perfect after-school snack | Food and cooking

Robin Mather special for the Arizona Daily Star

When I was little, we were taught to address my grandmother Mather’s friends as “aunt’s name”. We knew his friends well because we saw them often. All were widows; they had been friends since before World War II.

Aunt Katherine lived in the dimly lit stone cottage around the creek to the east. The chalet’s flagstone floors kept it cool even on the hottest days of summer, but the chalet still smelled of lake water and wet towels. Aunt Katherine seemed somewhat harsh towards the younger me, someone to be treated with great respect and caution. Her granddaughter, Pincy, was my first best friend; she died of leukemia at the age of 7, but no one ever really explained that to me. I just knew that Pincy no longer came to visit her grandmother; my questions about the reasons went unanswered. I only learned of his death at university, when my grandmother told me about it.

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Aunt Dorothy was a formidable battleship of a woman. Short and plump, her iron gray hair always tightly curled in a perm, she was quick to correct a wandering child, and often not too kind about it. She lived two doors west of my grandmother, but we understood that we weren’t welcome unless specifically invited. If we were invited, we weren’t to sit down unless she suggested it, and we weren’t to touch anything at all. His shotgun-style cottage was always tidy, but I didn’t like its musty smell and plastic-covered furniture.

Aunt Gertrude was my favorite. She was a small, wrinkled one-woman elf whose cottage was up the road west of my grandmother’s. She wore round, steel-rimmed glasses and enjoyed seeing us visit her, even unannounced. I learned early on that if I walked through her back door, ravenous after swimming, she would usually invite me in. And that meant I got two cookies – “one for each hand”, said Gertrude. My favorite of her homemade cookies was a cross between gingerbread and molasses cookie, which she made as big as saucers, dressing each with a single raisin in its center.

Gertrude understood that, like a hummingbird, the little belly of a busy child needs frequent refueling. Somehow, many adults these days seem to forget that. Maybe we should all be inspired by Gertrude’s book.

Aunt Gertrude’s cookie

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

These chunky cookies bring together the best of gingerbread and molasses cookies. Aunt Gertrude always placed a raisin in the center of each cookie before baking, but you don’t have to. Two or three of these with a tall glass of milk make a great after school snack for students; a cookie or two with a cup of coffee or tea provides a mid-afternoon pick-me-up for adults.

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter at room temperature (do not substitute margarine)

1 cup blackstrap molasses or sorghum syrup

4¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 to 1½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder, optional

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¾ cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature

Raisins, optional but traditional

Preparation

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them.

Beat butter with stand mixer on low speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light, about 5 more minutes. Beat the egg. Beat in the molasses, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. The mixture will be thick but light.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, mustard powder, cloves and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Add the coffee and beat for about 30 seconds. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat for 30 seconds more. These short beating times are simply for combining the ingredients; don’t beat too much or you’ll develop gluten into the flour and the cookies will be tough.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Press a raisin in the center of each cookie, if using raisins.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly dry around the edges. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. The cookies will keep well in a covered container at room temperature for up to two weeks, although they are unlikely to last that long.

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