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Friday, May 7, 2021

Let's Make Colonial Cookies!

Every now and again I get an urge to investigate a Colonial recipe. I want to make something palatable to my modern diet, so most of the recipes I try incorporate those changes that benefit my tastes. That said, I always discover some interesting historical tidbit in the process. 

In an effort to come up with some new munchies to go into my hubby's lunch, I decided to try some very basic cookies and found a great recipe for Colonial Cookies from the Cooks.com website. Join me in the process, won't you? 

In searching for a likely recipe, I realized first off that sugar in the colonial period was not the refined, white grains we buy packaged in five-pound bags. As sugar was mostly supplied from the Caribbean at the hands of slaves, it was basically sugar cane that had been boiled and strained a number of times. Then the final product was placed in cone-shaped molds to harden, much like a modern sugar cube.

Colonial households had in their kitchen chest of implements a tool called a sugar nippers for breaking off chunks of sugar from the cone as required. Sugar nippers came in a variety of sizes, and you can find antique nippers for sale online as well as reproductions. Here is a good example of a sugar nipper reproduction and sugar cones that are available from Townsends.us. 



I have to admit that I'm tempted to own a pair for decoration.

Oats came to America in the 17th century and were in plentiful supply in the colonies, though it, too, was not always the product we know today. Then oats might be ground or crushed, and whole oats might simply be set to soak overnight and then cooked easily in the morning. I will use common "old-fashioned" oatmeal for my recipe, not the quick-cook variety.

These are very basic Colonial oatmeal cookies with nothing fancy added, and I'm going to double the recipe below, because I'm a grandma and that cookie jar needs to be full! 

However, regarding substitutions, I'm going to use brown sugar as my sugar cone replacement, and I'm also going to use shortening made with meat fats (no vegetable oil shortening here) to replace half the butter. The shortening made with meat fats (available everywhere) makes a flakier, yummier baked product, especially in pie crusts. It keeps the texture for cookies and sometimes improves it. It also saves on the butter bill when I'm making extra large batches. I think "lard" would also be a common replacement in colonial America, though they probably often saved their fats for making tallow candles.



Colonial Cookies

Here's the easy recipe from Cooks.com, but watch the video below if you want a good laugh. Yes, I am a screw-up. You can watch me neglect one main ingredient and add another twice.

But guess what...the cookies still turned out great! I will definitely make these again!

1 c. sugar (I chose brown.)
1 c. butter (I use half shortening made from meat fats.)
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. oatmeal

Combine together. Mix all ingredients like pie crust until soft; flatten small balls of dough on ungreased pan.

Bake at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen.

This is why I don't have a food channel:




And here's my evaluation of how they turned out:


There you have it, folks. colonial cookies from a modern kitchen. Yummy! They did want to crumble easily, so next time instead of adding twice the baking soda (oops! 😏) I might add an egg to help the dough bind better. 





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Lumberjacks and Ladies on Amazon


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