Ellen’s White Cookies

Time and again I remember Ellen’s white cookies. Ellen wasn’t really my great grandmother, but she was the only great grandmother I ever knew. You see, my great grandfather, John Lapp, stalwart Brethren blacksmith, had married stern Lavina of strong shoulders and steady feet. But when Lavina passed away in the early 1940’s, John had done his duty to faith and family. He revved up the old Essex less than six weeks after Lavina’s demise, pushed east to Missouri and married his old school flame, Ellen, still a maiden lady.

Gentle Ellen came to live behind the wrought iron fence in a rambling farmhouse next to the silent forge. Her kitchen window faced cottonwoods and the sugar beet fields of Appleton, Colorado. A coal-fired cook stove cozied the lineoleum floored kitchen with its round oak table and a high sideboard, atop which sat a Depression glass cookie jar. Only one kind of cookie lived in that jar, as I remember, and it was the one I always wanted. It was round, thick, soft and white. It was the plainest of cookies, dusted with granulated sugar. Grownups dunked the cookies in strong cream-laced coffee and kids pocketed them to nibble while sending cobs of dry corn through the hand-cranked sheller near the chicken coop.

My recipe file holds an old card with the ingredient list so simple one would wonder why there is any search for the replica, but then there was home-churned butter, rich clabbered buttermilk, the western flour from more than sixty years ago and the temper of coal heat. Now I use unsalted butter, homemade yogurt and bake the cookies in a slow electric oven. I make them small since I’m watching fats and sugars but still need the occasional sweet. They may be different, but they take me back to that treasured room in my life story where I feel blessed to have known sweet Ellen.

Ellen’s White Cookies

½ stick unsalted butter* (2 oz.)

½ cup granulated sugar ( 3 ½ oz.)

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup plain yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk

¼ teaspoon baking soda

about 1 ½ cups all purpose flour (6 oz.)

* reduce salt if using salted butter

Allow the butter and yogurt to come to room temperature before mixing.

Sift half of the flour with the baking soda.

Cream the butter and sugar until light working in the salt, vanilla and gradually beating in the yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk. Stir in the flour sifted with soda and gradually add the remaining flour until the dough comes into a soft ball. Scrape the dough onto the countertop and gently pat together with a light dusting of flour until no longer sticky. Cover with a towel and rest the dough half an hour, allowing the flour to absorb the moisture.

Cut dough ball in half and roll on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut with a 2-inch round cutter. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, add scraps to remaining dough and continue to roll using all the dough. Sprinkle cookies with granulated sugar before baking in a 325° oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies should not brown and will remain soft in a tightly covered tin. Makes 2 1/2 dozen.  May use for small ice cream sandwiches or soak with juicy berries for mini shortcakes

Note: Recipe may be doubled. Flavor may be varied with the addition of a drop of lemon oil or ¼  teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.

Mary Jo’s Cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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