Gladys Salter’s Brown Sugar Cookies

According to my sister Patsy, my mother would have enjoyed coffee and cookies or whatever else was available when she visited Gladys Salter at her home a short distance east of Hayward off Highway B. According to my sister Barbara, “Gladys was a tiny lady, didn’t like social events and lots of people around, but she loved Mom and got along well with Patsy” who would take her to the Winter Greenhouse every spring where she bought plants for her garden.

My mother must have enjoyed these cookies, since she copied out the recipe. Patsy remembers that they were drop cookies made with a sticky batter.

The recipe is written on a two-by-four-inch scrap of paper cut from an office form. The yellowed paper is almost brown, which seems appropriate for a brown sugar cookie recipe. The scrap contains only part of the original form. All that remains of “WHILE YOU WERE OUT” is the “OUT,” but the spaces to record the important information are still there: “FROM,” “TO,” an address and phone number.

The complete form must have been designed to make it simple for telephone receptionists to assist the sales staff, since there are several boxes below the names, among them “REPORT AS BUSINESS OF,” “RECEIVED” and “REORDER” and “PASSED.” If a customer were calling to reorder a product, the slip could be forwarded to a shipping clerk who would presumably fill the order and pass the form to the sales representative.

Gladys’s recipe survives because people still used scratch paper when my mother wrote it down. Today, with automated office telephone systems, there are no note pads or even receptionists. Recipes are exchanged via email, but I wonder if, fifty years from now, you will be able to find an email sent today.

Like many recipes that my mother and her friends exchanged, there are no instructions on how to actually make the cookies beyond the phrase about dissolving the soda in hot water. That note may have been added because dry ingredients are more commonly sifted into the liquids. Homemakers like my mother knew how to make cookies so instructions were not really needed, but maybe there simply wasn’t room to include them on the little scrap of paper.

If you follow what I did and don’t overbake them, you will end up with a nice chewy snack or dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup lard
3 large eggs or 4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 T boiling water
3 – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins plus 1 tsp. flour

PROCEDURE:

Cream the sugar with the butter and lard until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs or egg yolks one at a time until they are thoroughly combined, then beat in the vanilla and dissolved soda.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease two baking sheets.

Put two cups of flour into a sifter with the flour, baking powder and salt and sift the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture by thirds. Stir thoroughly after each addition. Sift additional flour into the batter until you have a firm but not dry batter.

Mix the walnuts and raisins together with a teaspoon of flour and fold them into the batter.

Using two teaspoons, drop heaping teaspoonfuls (about a tablespoon) of batter two inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake ten to twelve minutes until the cookies are browned on the edges. Let the cookies cool two or three minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring them to wax paper to finish cooling.

NOTES: Quite a few of my mother’s recipes give the option of using egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Recipes for seven minute frosting and meringues, for instance, use lots of egg whites, so egg yolks were often available. If you are using only egg yolks, you may need less flour. Be careful to add it in smaller quantities as the batter begins to get stiff.