Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cookie Cutters & Aunt Chick

I'm delighted to be sharing National Cookie Cutter Week with everyone. (1st week of December) It gives me a chance to explore the history of cookie cutters and also discover a few secrets about Aunt Chick. You see, I have this small unassuming red booklet titled Aunt Chick's Pies.

While I was googling around for National Cookie Cutter Week, I came across a website that sold cookie cutters just like Aunt Chick's. Hmm...I thought to myself. That name sounds familiar. I think I have a cookbook by her. So, I dug it out and there she was right on the first page. Better yet, I was pleased to find out that Aunt Chick was actually a real person. Sometimes, you just never know about these things. Here's a little of what Aunt Chick had to say about herself:

Dear Reader:
My pen name was Aunt Chick. When my four children, amused at the idea of Mom going into business asked what I was going to call it, I answered only half seriously. "If there are any profits in this you four will get them. Think I will call it "The Chicadees," and The Chickadees it has been ever since. Perhaps a silly name, but one with a very personal meaning for me...I graduated from Stout Institute a good many years ago...I taught home economics for three years. Married and have had my own home long enough to be a grandmother. Wrote a food column here in Tulsa until business of The Chickadees made it possible for me to continue. I love to cook but I hate to wash dishes, hence the keynote of the cookbook. I hate waste but can be ghastly extravagant. Perhaps I save so I can spend. But bad food is waste in time and material and in these war days, as one famous store says-Its smart to be thrifty.

Unfortunately, there are no recipes for cut out cookies in the book but it does have some wonderful pie recipes and helpful hints. For instance, did you know you can avoid weepy meringue by leaving the oven door slightly ajar. So, what does Aunt Chick have to do with cookie cutters? I went to Tulsa to find out. At Tulsa World online, I found out more about the fascinating Aunt Chick. It seems, she was quite the "Martha Stewart" of her time. Her real name was Nettie Williams McBirney and she was a nationally known culinary problem solver. A native of North Dakota, she was educated in home economics and graduated in 1913 from Stout Institute in Wisconsin. When she married her husband, she moved to Oklahoma and in 1935 began writing a cooking column for Tulsa World called The "World's Kitchen Log". I should note, her husband, didn't know about her column. He suspected something one morning when he opened the morning paper and saw the column was signed "Aunt Chick". He wasn't happy. It seems, he was a rich banker and was worried about how his wife writing a column would reflect on his business. The cooking column lasted for 20 years well into the early 1950's. Even when she retired at the age of 90, she gave cooking lectures to staff and patients in the nursing home where she moved. She also gave more than a thousand cookbooks from her collection to the Tulsa Public Library.

Tulsa World’s Aunt Chick is remembered best for her cookie cutters. Aunt Chick's cookie cutters were launched in 1948. The cookie cutters were made in Tulsa by the family firm called the Four B's. The edges were turned in a way that kept the dough from sticking. The cutters were sold by the millions all over the world making making Aunt Chick famous and gaining her international recognition. Fans included Princess Margaret, who purchased a set of the Christmas cutters for Prince Charles' fourth Christmas in 1952. Once, Wrigley's Gum purchased cutters as a premium and then sold 70,000 of them in six weeks. People often call the paper to ask how they can replace the cookie cutters that Aunt Chick made. Thank goodness, a warehouse full of old cookie cutters was discovered by Carrie Greno who not only bought them all, she also bought the molds and the copyright. Aunt Chick also invented a pastry canvas which was used by pastry cooks everywhere, a rolling pin cover that prevented noodles, cookies and pie crusts from sticking. She later developed a heavy steel pie pan and the "Crispy Crust" pie pan that promised perfect bottom crusts on pies. There's so much more about Aunt Chick if you do some searching at Tulsa World.

What good are all those wonderful cookie cutters if you don't have some new recipes to create? First, let me share this recipe poem for Ginger Snaps that I found in another unassuming booklet titled The Dunkard-Dutch Cook Book copyright 1965, fifth printing 1970.

Of all the cakes one loves to eat, perhaps, none charms the palate like good ginger snaps.
Ginger Snaps
And if to make the the best you'd wish to know,
Why, study well the lines you find below:
Melt of butter half a pound; also of lard;
Then add sugar brown a half a pound.
Stir in a quart of 'lasses, not to hard,
Four tablespoons of ginger nicely ground.
Into this mixture sift two quarts of flour,
Then, to insure the cake shall not be sour,
Dissolve in milk four teaspoonfuls of soda;
(Saleratus is advised, but I like not the odor).
Mix either with milk; it surely makes no matter,
So that you pour the milk into the batter
Add more flour and roll out thin the dough;
Then cut in cakes, but this you surely know.
Bake them well in an oven cooks call "slow,"
And when they are baked they will not last long, I know.

Foreword from the book:

This booklet presents more than four hundred turn of the century dishes gathered from Dunkard and other Pennsylvania Dutch. Included are nearly a hundred and fifty which were selected from recipes collected from sisters of the Church of the Brethren earlier know as Dunkards. Some of the Dunkard dishes appeared earlier in the 1901 issue of the Inglenook Magazine Cook Book. This Brethren publication enjoyed a wide circulation among members of that denomination, and some elderly members of that group still use recipes from that source....the illustrations used throughout this publication are sketches of old hand-made cookie cutters and maple sugar molds from the collection of the publisher.

The German Baptist Brethren, known as Dunkards or Dunkers, landed in 1719. They, too, flocked to the fertile valleys in Lancaster County. Many spread westward and southward until today hardly a farming section of our country is without these master farmers.

Dunkards were a Swiss/German pietistic sect much like the Mennonites, Moravians, etc. They were called Dunkards, or Dunkers, or Tunkers--because they believed in baptism by dunking (immersion)

The Cookies

I found this unusual recipe for Tyrolean Seed Cookies in the December issue of Woman's Day dated 1949. The title of the article is The Cookie Jar by Glenna McGinnis pgs.45-52.

Tyrolean Seed Cookies
1/2 c. butter
6 tbs. sugar
1-3/4 c. sifted flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. anise seed
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. caraway seed
Cream butter; and sugar and sifted dry ingredients; blend together with fingers or pastry cutter. Add liquid to make a stiff dough. Divide dough in thirds; roll 1 portion to 1/8 inch thickness; sprinkle with anise seed, roll lightly; cut into small shapes; place on greased cookie sheet; bake in hot oven 400 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes. Roll second portion sprinkle with poppy seed. Roll third portion; sprinkle with caraway seed and proceed as above.

Tyrolean cooking is distinct from both Austrian and German in its far more emphatic reflection of the "high Alpine" lifestyle. Tyrolean cooking is fairly hearty, with bacon and cured pork in many dishes. Traditional dishes include Gröstl (pan-fried onion, meat and potato), Schlipfkrapfen (ravioli-like parcels filled with meat and/or potato) and Tiroler Knödeln (dumplings with small pieces of ham). source

Dumplings have been a mainstay of Tyrolean cuisine for approximately three thousand years. Some varieties are typical and known the world over, others are regional specialties, but they are all as variable and versatile as noodles or pizza. They are a symbol of Tyrolean cuisine. "The dumpling is a foundation of tradition, a component of the Tyrolean identity, and a little bit of home." (source)

1. Dunkard-Dutch Cookbook Online Recipes
2. Cut Out Cookie Recipes
3. Farmgirl's Molasses Ginger Spice Snaps
4. Swedish Ginger Snaps Pepparkakor (cut outs)
5. National Cookie Cutter Week

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none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise