Category Archives: Cookies

Day 358: Christmas Drop Cakes

Hanging the Stockings - an illustration from 1898

Hanging the Stockings – an illustration from an 1898 edition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Sometimes people wonder why I don’t plan out what I’m going to make for the entire year or even for a week. The main reason is life. Sometimes things happen that prevent me from making what I think I want to make on a particular day. Today I’d planned to make something to accompany our Christmas Eve meal of appetizers. Instead I got so busy heating all the little bites that I completely forgot to make the recipe. So instead I’m going to try a recipe from the 1898 New Galt Cook Book that fits the evening even better. It’s serendipity! After all tonight is the night that Santa visits and he needs to keep up his strength with regular doses of cookies and milk. Perhaps Mrs. Young‘s recipe for Christmas Drop Cakes in the Cookie section of the cookbook will please him.

Since I don’t have a scale here, I used the internet to find out the equivalents for this recipe. I started by softening 1/4 pound (1/2 cup) of butter. I ended up making it a bit too soft, well, really part of it was semi-liquid. This has happened to me whether I’m using a cook stove, a modern stove or the microwave. Do you think it happened to women in 1898 too? I creamed 1/2 pound (1 cup) of sugar with the butter and then added two beaten large eggs. I mixed in the 1/2 pound (1 1/2 cups) flour next. I zested more than half a lemon since I forgot it was supposed to be just half a lemon. I cut the lemon, squeezed the juice from half of it into the bowl, and stirred. Unfortunately the local town grocery store was sold out of currants so I used raisins instead since the recipe allows for some adaptation. I added 1/4 pound (1 cup) of golden raisins and was ready to start preparing the pan when I realized I’d forgotten the soda. I put 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in a small dish and added just enough hot water so the soda dissolved. I stirred it into the rest of the mixture and then dropped the batter onto greased cookie sheets. I tried to keep them to a 1/4 teaspoon size. I was surprised by the size of the recipe since it makes a small quantity. However this is offset by the tiny size of the cookies. They are very tiny little cookies so it takes a bit of time to spoon them onto the pan. I baked them at 350 F. but wasn’t sure how long to cook them. They are so small I started checking them after 5 minutes to be sure they didn’t burn. I discovered that 7 or 8 minutes was perfect. The dough turned from little blobs to flat spread out cookies. I removed them from the pan to let them cool and then it was time to sample before leaving a plate out for Santa.

Twas the Night Before Christmas - an 1898 book.

Twas the Night Before Christmas – an 1898 version.

Mrs. Young is a bit of a mystery. I know the identity of Mrs. James Young but who is Mrs. Young. There are three widows Mary, Jennie and Grace with the Young surname who are the appropriate age plus there’s Flora married to William; Christina married to Robert; and George Young’s wife Mary. Could it be Katie wife of Walter or Annie wife of William? Or is it Harriet and Albert or Annie and Henry?  I still don’t know who gets credit for this recipe. Santa Claus was already a popular Christmas gift giver and his image appeared in stores, Christmas cards, and advertisements. My father’s father born in 1890 received a book about Santa Claus as a gift when he was quite young. Twas the Night Before Christmas was already a beloved seasonal poem and books with Thomas Nast’s illustrations had clarified the appearance of Santa. I’m not sure when children learned that Santa appreciated milk and cookies.

I’m not sure what makes them Christmas but these “drop cakes” or cookies certainly are a nice change from the heavier Christmas goodies found in this cookbook. I think Santa will like these cookies. My family and I really liked them. My brother had two handfuls, my brother-in-law made appreciative sounds, and we all liked the light taste and texture combined with the hint of lemon. Although the golden raisins worked with the flavour I really should have cut them up. Currants would be better and so would peel. I’m not sure nuts would be as nice but perhaps chopped walnuts would taste good in the cookies. The tiny size makes them easy to eat and the crispy edges combined with the softer middle is cookie bliss. I think Santa will appreciate the lightness of Mrs. Young’s Christmas Drop Cakes. Hopefully he’ll leave some for the rest of us to enjoy again tomorrow.

Mrs. Young

One-half pound flour, one-half pound granulated sugar, a large quarter pound of butter, one-quarter pound currants, two eggs beaten light, juice and rated rind of half a lemon, one-quarter teaspoonful of soda (dissolved with hot water); put fruit in last. About one-quarter of a teaspoonful of batter for one cake, leave a little space between each cake. Drop on a buttered tin and bake. Peel may be used instead of fruit, also nuts.


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Day 340: Cookies

As promised last night, I’m making the other recipe titled Cookies tonight. There are two with this simple title in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) but this one was contributed by Mrs. A. Elmslie.

I creamed 1 cup of butter and then added 1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar. I made the assumption that I should use white sugar since the recipe didn’t specify the type unlike yesterday’s recipe. Next I added 3 eggs one by one. I didn’t beat them separately this time either because I never do this unless instructed in the recipe. I added the 1 teaspoon of flavouring and 2 teaspoons of baking soda and finally the 3 cups of flour. Once it was all mixed together I attempted to roll the cookie dough but I had to use some more flour. Once I had the cookies on the ungreased baking sheet I sprinkled them with sugar and baked for 7 minutes at 350 F. When the timer rang I pulled out a pan of cookies that were just beginning to turn golden and crisp at the edges. I let them cool a little before sampling.

Mrs. A. Elmslie is Isabella Sutherland Wallace daughter of Scottish born parents Robert and Isabella. She was born in Galt in 1845 and had four younger brothers and sisters. According to the 1861 census they family lived in a stone house. She married storekeeper Alexander Gardner Elmslie in 1866. By 1871 they had a three-year old boy and a six month old daughter. Ten years later there are four more children including a three-month old daughter but one of their boys dies on December 12, 1877 when he’s two. The death record says he had congestion of the brain. They had another daughter four years later when Isabella is 40. Alexander has a book and stationery business in Galt. Even in 1901 most of the children, now adults are still living at home. One of the girls Agnes Grace ends up serving as a nurse during the First World War but unfortunately the eldest daughter dies of appendicitis in 1904.  Isabella herself dies of heart disease in 1907 when she’s 61.

One of the things I love about cooking and baking is the way minor changes can make such a difference in the end result. Mrs. Elmslie’s Cookies have 1/2 cup more sugar and 1 extra egg compared to Mrs. Wanless’ Cookies. The biggest difference is the kind of sugar and that seems to be the reason I prefer yesterday’s cookies to the ones I’ve made tonight. The other reason is the currants. I like this dried fruit and they add that extra interest to the cookies. Tonight’s cookies are very nice cookies but 1 teaspoon of vanilla doesn’t make them exciting. They are a good plain sugar cookie but I think I’ll keep making Mrs. Wanless’ Cookies recipe and leave Mrs. Elmslie’s Cookies in the past.

Mrs. A. Elmslie

One and a half cupfuls of sugar, one cupful of butter,  three eggs, a teaspoonful vanilla, two teaspoonfuls baking powder, three cupfuls of flour. Roll thin and sprinkle with white sugar.

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Day 339: Cookies

There are two recipes simply called Cookies in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. I’m going to make one tonight and one tomorrow night so that I can easily compare them. First I’m trying the recipe contributed by Mrs. Wanless of Toronto.

This recipe uses less sugar than the other cookie recipe but interestingly it calls for “moist” sugar. I think this might be brown sugar. I creamed 1 cup brown sugar with the 1 cup of butter and then added the 2 eggs without beating them since the recipe makes specific mention of this instruction. Then I poured in 1 cup of currants. I added 2 teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of flour and stirred it into the other ingredients. Then I started adding more flour. In the end I used a total of 1 1/2 cups of flour to make the cookie dough stiff enough to roll out. I put the round cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and baked at 350 F. for 10 minutes. I think I baked them a minute or two too long so try checking them at 7 minutes.

Mrs. Wanless of Toronto wasn’t nearly as difficult to find as I’d expected. There is only one family called Wanless in Toronto in the 1891 Canadian census. Susan Kinsman was born in England around 1827 and she immigrated to Canada around 1845 when she was 18 years old. A year later in Toronto she married a man named William Bell. They had two daughters Elizabeth and Jeannette before William died shortly after the last child’s birth. Susan soon married again to John Wanless in 1860 and they had children too. Susan died in 1901. You can find out more about John Wanless and his jewellery business here. Clearly Susan and John met through the business.

These are wonderful Cookies for something with such a simple name. From now on I will refer to them as Mrs. Wanless’ Cookies since they are well worth remembering. These are buttery thin cookies for grown ups. The currants are a great addition to the cookies and even though there are no spices or flavouring like vanilla in them these are very nice tasting cookies. They had a crispy edge that I liked.

Mrs. Wanless, Toronto

One cupful moist sugar, one cupful butter, two eggs, one cupful of currants, two teaspoonfuls baking powder, Beat all together (do not beat eggs first). Enough flour to make a dough just stiff enough to handle. Roll thin and cut in large round cakes.

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Day 327: Jumbles

I spoke at the Historical Society of St. Boniface-Maryhill today. They served some lovely food include several kinds of cookies. That inspired me to search the Cookie section of the 1898 New Galt Cook Book for a recipe I hadn’t made yet. So tonight I’m baking a type of cookie called Jumbles using a recipe contributed by Mrs. T. Hepburn of Preston. One of her family members came from Alsace just like many of the early settlers in Maryhill. This small community in Woolwich township was called New Germany until 1941 when the name was changed since apparently the mail kept going to the town of New Germany in Nova Scotia instead of the village in Ontario.

I wanted to cut this recipe in half but the proportions of the ingredients already seem odd to me so I don’t want to risk making a measuring mistake. I put 3 cups of white sugar in a bowl and creamed it with 2 cups (1 pound) of butter. Once the were well mixed I added the 3 eggs. I made milk sour by adding 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk. I took 4 tablespoons out of that liquid and added it to the rest of the ingredients. I disposed of the rest of my sour milk. Next I added 1 cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of soda. Once they were well blended I added another cup of flour. I took small amounts of the cookie dough and flattened them. I shaped the cookies and placed them on baking sheet. I decided to skip greasing the pan since the recipe had lots of butter in it. I baked the cookies at 350 F. for 7 minutes.

Emily, her husband Thomas and their adult daughter Leila.

Emily, her husband Thomas and their adult daughter Leila.

Mrs. T. Hepburn of Preston is Emily (or Emelie) Hinderer. She was born in 1859 most likely in Preston Ontario. Preston is now part of Cambridge just like Galt. Her father was born in Wurtenburg Germany and her mother in Alsace (a place that was often under the control of France or Germany). She was an only child born when her mother Catherina was in her early forties. Emily’s father John died by the time she was eleven. She and her mother lived in a hotel run by Jacob Roos in Preston. It must have been a strange place for a child to live but at least the Roos family included children around Emily’s age. I can’t find her in the 1881 census but she married an accountant named Thomas Hepburn in 1884. The couple had one child Leila and seem to have lived the rest of their lives in Preston. Thomas was 95 when he died but I can’t find anything about Emily after the 1921 census.

I’ve never been sure why cookies like this are called jumbles. It’s not a term I see much anymore. There are three recipes for jumbles in this cook book and this is the simplest one. The result is more like a sugar cookie and it tastes good.


Mrs. T. Hepburn, Preston

Three cupfuls white sugar, two cupfuls butter, three eggs, four tablespoonfuls sour milk, one-half teaspoonful soda. Flour to roll thin.

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Day 310: Brandy Snaps

I decided to bake some cookies tonight. My mother had surgery today and I hear she’s doing okay but I feel like making something a little special from The New Galt Cook Book (1898). I’m going to make Brandy Snaps using Miss G. Addison‘s recipe.

Although I want some comforting food I don’t want (or need) a huge batch of cookies on my hands. I’m cutting this recipe in half. You’ll note that the recipe doesn’t contain any eggs or leavening so it should be interesting. I put 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a bowl and creamed it with 1/4 cup of butter plus another 2 tablespoons of butter. Since math is not my strong suit I checked on-line to find out how to cut 3/4 in half. Once that was blended I added 1/2 cup of molasses. I started adding cloves and ginger until I could taste the spices but not be overwhelmed by them. I ended up using 1/2 teaspoon of each of the spices. Finally I started adding flour. It took 2 cups to have a stiff batter. I dropped teaspoons of the batter on an ungreased cookie sheet and baked them at 350 F. I kept checking them and finally removed the cookie sheet after 14 minutes. I let the cookies cool a bit and then tried rolling them around the handle of a wooden spoon. It worked. It is time to taste.

Miss Grace Addison was born in October 1841 in Galt Ontario. Her parents Alexander and Grace were both born in Scotland and little Grace was one of seven children. Her younger sister Annie also contributed recipes.  Alexander was a local cabinet-maker while one of the girls was a teacher while the sons were a grocer, a commercial traveller and a carpenter. All the children lived at home for many years. By 1911 Grace lived with her sister the teacher in Toronto at 49 St Clair Av East. She died in 1918 at the age of 77 of gastric carcinoma.

These cookies are good. They are essentially a very crispy molasses cookies. I’d suspected they would spread and be a very flat cookie, and that is exactly what happened. At first they were very pliable so it was easy to wrap the soft little cookie around the spoon handle. Then they became very crisp. I liked these cookie and they are very quick and easy to make. I think next time I’d add a bit more spice. It might help balance the strong molasses flavour. I have no idea why they are called brandy snaps since they don’t contain any alcohol but the snap part is obvious.

Miss G. Addison

One cupful brown sugar, one cupful molasses, three-quarters cupful butter, cloves and ginger to taste, flour enough to make a stiff batter. Drop in the pan with a teaspoon a good distance apart. Bake in a moderate oven. When they have cooled a little, roll each one on a round stick.

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Day 280: Rock Cakes

Does the title of this recipe sound appealing to you? I’ve been avoiding making any of the Rock Cake recipes since they sound heavy and hard. Tonight I’m taking a risk and trying the Rock Cakes recipe contributed by Miss Marian Tye of Haysville for The New Galt Cook Book (1898).

This is the only recipe I’ve seen in the cook book that lists measurements by both weight and volume. It’s a good thing since the butter is missing from one list. I had to consult both to be able to make these cookies. I creamed 1 cup sugar and 1/2 pound (1 cup) of butter. Next I added the 3 eggs. I mixed the dry ingredients separately and then added them to the rest. That’s the 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 3 1/2 cups flour. I decided to try the original version using 1 cup currants but the candied lemon version sounds good too. I wasn’t sure what Miss Tye meant by “a little lemon”. Is it flavouring or peel? I opted or lemon flavouring. I mixed everything together and had to use my hands to get the last of it mixed. I suggest adding the flavouring before the last of the flour is added to make it easier to incorporate. I made rough balls using a  teaspoon and then dropped them on a greased cookie sheet. I baked them for 15 minutes at 375 F.

Miss Marian Tye was born in Haysville (Wilmot township) in 1861 to Mary Puddicombe and an English-born farmer named Henry Tye. Marian’s family always seemed to have various relatives living with them. In 1891 there’s Marian and her parents, four of her seven living siblings, and two of her mother’s unmarried sisters. One of Marian’s married sisters also shares her recipes for this cook book. By the 1901 census she and her mother and a couple of her siblings are still in the family home. Later Marian lives with a cousin in Stratford. She died in 1921 in Haysville of Pancreatic cancer.

The cookies are good warm but I think a modern cook should try them with lemon zest rather than lemon flavouring. These cookies are okay but I’m not sure they are worth making regularly. Perhaps the version with candied lemon is more exciting.

Miss Marian Tye, Haysville

One cup sugar, three eggs, one cup currants, one-half teaspoonful baking powder, three and a half cups flour, a little lemon. Bake quickly. Note. — We put candy lemon and leave out currants; or by weight, one-half pound butter, one-half pound sugar, one-half pound currants, one pound flour.

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Day 273: Ammonia Cakes

Tonight I spoke at the celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Oxford County Genealogical Society in Woodstock Ontario. I met all sorts of people with an interest in food and history. One had Middlemiss ancestors from Galt. I made Mrs. R. Middlemiss’ Amber Pudding recipe from The Galt Cook Book (1898) on Day 169. Another has a recipe for ammonia cookies from her Berlin (Kitchener) grandmother who was a Schmidt before marriage. Our conversation reminded me that I meant to make the Ammonia Cakes recipe on a humid day since they stay crisp even in moist weather. Well today included some rain so I’m going to make it tonight. The recipe was contributed by Miss Roos of Waterloo.

This is a tube of hartshorn also called ammonia

This is a tube of hartshorn also called ammonia

Yes this recipe includes a form of ammonia – that smelly household cleaner – but in this case it is used as a leavening (an ingredient used to lighten baked goods). Do not use the liquid ammonia. The type needed for this recipe can be called bakers or baking ammonia, ammonium carbonate, or hartshorn (hirschsaltz). You might have to search a bit but it is made by many different companies so you’ll find it in tubes as pictured, as well as envelopes, and little tubs.

I started the recipe by cutting it in half. I weighed the white granulated sugar and put 1/4 pound (4 ounces) in a bowl. Next I added a bit of butter (1/4 the size of an egg) and mixed. I added one egg (I know it was supposed to be half but …. I didn’t notice it was just one egg until after I’d added it…. and how do you cut a raw egg in half?) I put the 1/4 ounce of ammonia in the 1/4 pint (1/2 cup) of cream. I poured this into the bowl and stirred again. It was time to start adding the flour cup by cup. In the end it took 2 cups to get a dough that could be rolled thin. Do not taste the dough! It tastes horrible until baked. I shaped the cookies and put them on a cookie sheet. It is a good idea to grease the pan. I baked them at 375 F. for 8 minutes. The time is going to depend on the size and thickness of the cookies. Mine were a little bit thick. If you open the oven door and smell ammonia they need to bake a little longer. I tried to let them cool a bit before I started eating the Ammonia Cakes.

Miss Roos of Waterloo is a mystery since there are many unmarried women in the town of Waterloo with the Roos surname in the 1891 census. I’m wondering if it could be one of Rachel Andrich’s sisters since her maiden name was Roos and she contributed recipes to The New Galt Cook Book. However she was from Preston. Is it 29-year-old Emma Roos or her 23-year-old sister Otilla. They are the daughters of a widow named Catherine. Or is it 18-year-old Elizabeth or her sister Georgena. Their parents are Jacob and Elizabeth.

It is important to bake ammonia cakes long enough for the ammonia to burn off. You will smell ammonia as they bake and that can be very off-putting but it is worth it. You’ll know to leave them a little longer if you smell ammonia when you open the oven door. If you just smell cookies when you open the door and they are a little golden at the edges it is time to take them out. The ammonia helps keep the cookies crisp and airy. This recipe differs from others I’ve tried. They often have lemon added but this version is plain. I still liked it. They could be iced or a modern cook might want to add some lemon. Check out my experience making Lemon Biscuits from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book back in 2012. They have ammonia in them too.

Miss Roos, Waterloo

Half pound white sugar, half a pint sweet cream, one egg, half ounce ammonia, a small piece of butter (half the size of an egg). Flour enough to roll out.


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