Monday, February 11, 2013

Grandma's Sugar Cookies


 (drum roll, please!)

......the cover of my debut novel!

(Streamers! Confetti! Cheering! Dogs barking!)

Wait, wait, wait! Is that MY name on the cover of that book? I'm just too stinkin' tickled for words!

Yes, it's time for another shameless plug here at the cafe - not quite party time, since the release date for "The Prodigal Son Returns" is still a few months away - but still, we can still have fun with a cover reveal, can't we?

And in honor of all this fun stuff, I'm taking today's post to share the recipe for some cookies that play a part in the story.

These are known around our house as "Grandma's Sugar Cookies," although I know other people call these "Amish Sugar Cookies" or even "those soft cookies you can buy at Walmart."

But you and I know there's no way you can buy Grandma's Sugar Cookies at Walmart. Don't even look down that rabbit trail.

Oh no, because there's a secret ingredient in Grandma's Sugar Cookies...see if you can guess what it is.

Here's the recipe:


2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
5 rounded teaspoons baking powder
7-8 cups flour to make a stiff batter
1 1/2 cups milk

note: notice there is no salt in this recipe - that isn't a typo. There is no salt.

Cream together the butter and sugar, and then add the vanilla and the eggs. Stir together the baking powder and FIVE cups of the flour (the rest is to add later, if needed). Add in the flour mixture and the milk, alternately - this part is important - beating after each addition.

While you're mixing in the flour and milk, keep telling yourself you're making cake, not cookies. With cookies you're trying to make a dough - with cake you're making a delicate batter.

Believe me, you want a batter for these cookies. Grandma told me "the softer the batter, the better." But at the same time, it needs to be a bit thicker than a regular cake batter. You can add more flour than the original five cups if you need to - the amount of flour depends on your air temperature, humidity, altitude, etc. When we lived in the humid lowlands, I used more flour than I do now in the semi-arid highlands.

Since it's almost Valentine's Day, I split the batter into two bowls, and colored one with pink food coloring. (Grandma never did that - it's my own invention).

Refrigerate the batter for a couple hours.

While we're waiting for the batter to chill, I'll tell you what part these cookies play in my story.

Ellie Miller is a widow with three children, and among the people in her life are her husband's elderly aunt and uncle, Miriam and Hezekiah Miller. They had provided a home for Ellie's husband from the time he was sixteen until he married, and they were the closest thing he had to parents after being orphaned as a young boy.

Every time Ellie takes her children to visit Grossmutti and Grossdawdi (Grandma and Grandpa), Grossmutti Miriam always has a container of these soft sugar cookies waiting for them. Sometimes four-year-old Susan is afraid Grossmutti will forget to make the cookies, but seven-year-old Johnny knows better. After all, what would Grossdawdi Hezekiah eat if there weren't any cookies?

But of course Miriam, just like my own Grandma, never forgot to have a fresh batch of these delicious cookies waiting whenever her grandchildren came to visit.

My Grandma always kept the cookies in a big round tin on top of her refrigerator, waiting for us. She never forgot to make them. When I was little, I was convinced she always had those cookies there for her and Grandpa to eat every day. But as I grew older I learned the truth - she made them just for us.

I worked for years to be able to make these cookies the right way. I knew I had done it when I took a batch to my brother one time. He took one bite and said "Now these are Grandma's cookies!"

Oh, and speaking of cookies!!! Has the dough been in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours? Then it's time to get that oven going!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3/8" thick...or between 1/4" and 1/2" if you like to guesstimate :)

And be generous with the flour - remember that you made a cake batter, not a cookie dough. Treat the soft batter gently, and use plenty of flour while you're rolling.

Cut out round cookies, or whatever shape you like. I use my great-grandmother's biscuit cutter just seems right to do it that way.

And of course, the pink dough is cut out in heart shapes!

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they're done. You can tell they're done by lightly touching the top of one of them with your finger. If the depression stays, the cookie needs another minute of baking. But if it springs back, it's done. And don't let the edges get brown - that means they're too well done.

If you find your cookies are browning before the spring test says they're done, lower the heat on your oven a bit.

Grandma and Grandpa
Have you guessed the secret ingredient yet?

It's love.

My grandma had a hard time talking about love, but those cookies spoke for her.

Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. Oh Jan!!!

    I am so excited for you. Beautiful cover!!! I am absolutely definitely going to buy your book the very minute I see it.

    I will be trying those soft cookies soon too.

    Again, congratulations.

    1. Thanks, Mary! And I think your whole family will enjoy these cookies :)

  2. Hooray on the cover, I LOVE IT!!!!! Oh, Jan, that will fly off the shelves. Can't wait to read the whole thing!!!! YAY!!!!!! HOORAY!!!!!

    And the cookies, I have two days to try them, then it's Lent and I must discipline myself... Must Do It.

    I'm just grinning over this cover, my friend!!!!! Laughing in snowy upstate!!!

    1. You have plenty of munchkins to help you eat these cookies, Ruthy, so don't worry about leftovers lasting past tomorrow.

      I made these yesterday afternoon, and they're gone already.

      Vultures. I live with vultures.

    2. We've got a few of those condor-types hereabouts, too!

  3. JAN!!!

    Your cover is amazing! I love it.

    And the recipe sounds fabulous, but I had the same reaction as Ruthy. First I thought I could make the next week when I'm off. Then I thought, Ooops, Lent.

    So I'll just save the recipe and spend the time admiring your cover instead, okay?

    1. Thanks, Mary! (the east coast Mary, of course!)

      Admire away :)

  4. Jan--your cover is beautiful!! I'm so excited for you my friend! And the cookies look delicious too!

  5. Oh Jan -- that must be such a thrill. Love your cover. Love that the release date is coming closer. And the cookie recipe looks fabulous. I love the pink hearts. And I guessed the secret ingredient! :-) How many cookies does it make? Must be a lot with that much flour. I'm thinking I could cut the recipe in half for my little household of one. (Simba resents not being included in that tally.)

    1. Kav, it is a thrill - goosebumps time!

      This recipe makes plenty of cookies for you and Simba. I really don't know how many...the vultures attack before I can count...but I'd guess around 3 or 4 dozen.

      The great thing? These freeze VERY well, so you can keep the container in the freezer and stick a couple in with your lunch every day, right?

  6. Beautiful cover Jan. And great cookies too!!

    1. Thanks Bridgett! See you over at #1K1HR in a few minutes!

  7. Every time I see your cover, I get so excited for you and for me! Can't wait to read it.

    My grandmother, Nannie, made the best Date Pinwheels. We looked for years for that recipe. Now I am trying to recreate the recipe as best I can with almond flour!

    Peace, Julie

    1. I love recreating recipes. Ingredients are different than they were fifty years ago, so working to get the texture and taste just right can be a challenge.

      I hope the almond flour works...or maybe a combo of almond and something else?

  8. Jan, Congratulations and I do love the cover and the title too.

    Your grandma must have known mine. Those cookies are yummy and perfect. My grandma used to let me make them with her every time I visited. So fun. Although I think we ate more cookie dough than cookies. smile

    Did I say I love your cover? Its wonderful. Enjoy the fun of that first book.

    1. Thanks, Sandra!

      My mom loved to bake with her grandchildren, and they have some good memories from those days. And yes, eating cookie dough is part of the tradition, isn't it? Except now we only eat the creamed butter and sugar before adding the eggs. Darn salmonella.

  9. A great book to read and yummy cookies to eat. Does it get any better?

    1. I submit that it does not.

      Except if you add some hot chocolate in there...

  10. How CUTE is that?? Congrats Jan, the cover is awesome and the name on it is even better. :D

    1. Thanks, Casey!!

      Do you know who I think is the most thrilled about all this? My mother-in-law. I used her first name for the main character - Ellie - and there's her last name on the book, too! She's just tickled.

  11. Jan, I love the cover!!!! So excited for you! :) :) :)

    Also love the story of the cookies. So sweet that she ALWAYS had them for you!

    1. Hey Missy, don't stories like that make us aspire to be the kind of grandmother that blesses the kidlets?

      Of course, we have Ruthy's example to follow, too!

  12. I love it!!!!

    And I love cookies. I love hearts. And pink. :)

    Oh, Jan, it seems like I waited forever to see this cover!!! And it's so sweet.

    Just absolutely crazy happy for you!!

    1. It's sweet! Virginia says my cover is sweet!

      Thanks :)

  13. Great cover Jan! Congrats to you!

    And thank you, thank you for putting out a soft sugar cookie recipe! I've been looking for one for years so that I don't have to buy the ones in the store....thanks!


    1. Piper, once you try these, you'll never buy them in the store again. I haven't :)

  14. Jan, I cannot wait to make these cookies an am happy about your book. I work at Greencroft in Manor IV and your sweetheart of a dad told me about this web site and I check it out on a regular basis now. I love it! Peace, Love and Hope, Lori Lindzy

    1. Lori Lindzy! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the cafe!

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you and your fellow caregivers do!

      And for those of you who have no idea what we're talking about, Lori Lindzy works at the fantastic home where my mom and dad both live - Mom as an Alzheimer's patient, and my dad in an independent living apartment where he doesn't have to mow the lawn and can visit my mom without having to drive across town :)

  15. Congrats Jan Love the cover. If you are looking for blog post (to be featured) Would love to have you on my blog.

    1. Give me a date in May, Jenny! I'd love to be on your blog!

  16. I can do that how about the first Thursday in May before I leave for the states!
    my email is ausjenny at