The easiest recipes are often the best. This four-ingredient recipe, from my grandmother’s recipe files, which I recently discovered, is quick, straightforward, traditional,and toothsome.
I am a big fan of brown sugar, especially dark or demerara, so I was glad to have found this recipe, among my grandmother’s hand-written and typed cards. While it is not the brown-sugar-beurre-noisette cookie which ranks among my very favourite cookie recipes, this version is much faster and a classic shortbread or sablé. I remember well my grandmother’s tubular aluminum cookie press, which made fancy beribboned butter cookies. I can picture only the plain melt-in-your-mouth white butter cookies, which Jessie often adorned with glacé cherries.
In thinking about brown sugar, I thought about “Bubbling Brown Sugar” and jazz, which Jessie liked. This led me to think I might find a picture of my grandmother Jessie at the Stork Club in New York City (I remember she had matchbooks from there but no such luck in the photo realm). At various nightclubs, Jessie liked the many-layered and coloured liqueur drink, the “pousse-café” (she unfortunately pronounced this confection-concoction as “pussy café” – I kid you not…) , with layers of brandy, green chartreuse, white crème de cacao, crème de cassis, yellow chartreuse, and grenadine, as Wikipedia describes one variant, though there were many other versions. This depends on the specific density of each liqueur to float on top of the previous one. It was all the rage in the early 20th century.
For the description of the cookie and the recipe …
As I do not have a cookie press – I must be on the lookout for one now – I decided to roll the dough and cut out small round cookies. This was easy to do and perhaps a bit less fancy than a pressed cookie. I decided to add a sanding” of demerara sugar on top before baking, for appearance and an extra crackly-crunch.
The cookie is tender, has a sandy crumb, and features deep molasses undertones from the brown sugar. It is a perfect accompaniment to a “pousse-café”, espresso, tea, or even a glass of milk. I think the brown sugar cookie could go well with ice cream – coffee, chocolate (of course), or butter pecan come to mind.
For a classic brown sugar cookie which needs no jazzing up, try Jessie’s recipe.
Brown Sugar Cookies, from My Grandmother Jessie’s Recipes
Yields 3 1/2 dozen two-inch cookies
- ½ pound salted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups AP (yes, that’s “all-purpose”) flour, with additional for flouring cutting board, if making rolled cookies
- ½ cup dark brown (or demerara sugar), with additional for optional“sanding”
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla
- Cream butter on medium speed in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream with hand-held beater, or cream by hand with your favourite wooden spoon.
- Mix in brown sugar, beating until thoroughly blended, on medium-speed.
- Add vanilla and blend in completely.
- If using a stand mixer, add flour on lowest speed in three additions, mixing just until blended.
- Refrigerate dough for one hour, minimum (dough could also be frozen at this point for future use).
- Roll out dough on floured cutting board until ¼ “ thick.
- Cut out with small round cookie cutter of your choice (or use a cookie press, as Jessie did).
- “Sand” cookies with additional sugar.
- Place cookies on parchment or non-stick-mat-lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
- Cool on wire rack.
- Enjoy this blast-from-the-past classic cookie with pousse-cafe, tea, coffee, or ?