Searching for the "Missing Ingredient" in Grandma's "Cut-out Butter Cookies"


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Ellen Martignetti, Building a Better Boyertown Main Street Manager, shares a recipe and the story of her grandmother's wonderful cut-out butter cookies.

by Ellen Martignetti

"My grandmother would bake hundreds of cut-out butter cookies that she would give away as gifts every Christmas. She proudly counted every tray and bragged that she made "500" or something like that - it was a lot.  I don't know the origin of the recipe, if it was something she created or her mother before her. 

My grandmother grew up in Gomaringen, Germany and emigrated on a passenger ship to the United States with her sister when she was 21 years old with $25.00 in her pocket. She was an avid baker and secured her first job working as a cook for a family in Jenkintown, PA. She learned English from reading American cookbooks. She had a great deal of courage to leave most of her family and Germany behind, something that I probably would not have done. 

My sisters and I looked forward to her cookies at every family gathering, not just at Christmas. At some point while I was in high school, I realized that her recipes were not written down ANYWHERE. My mother didn't even have them all written down. My grandmother baked from memory. One year as Christmas approached, I asked her if I could help her and learn the recipe. That was quite a challenge as I juggled a small pad of paper, a pencil, doughy hands and tried to see her "measurements" which were really just "estimates." 

I treasure that day and remember feeling really tired trying to keep up with her ( she was well into her 80's). I have made the cookies many times since that day, but they always taste like something is missing. I have even researched similar butter cookie recipes online to try to tweek it. I think it just may be missing my grandmother's special touch! 

She lived to be 98 years old and was quite active and sharp for her age. I was blessed to have her in my life for so long. She attended my wedding and held two of my three children. Perhaps that is what is missing, her special touch, as she prepared the dough, cut out each cookie, and packaged them up with love. Or maybe, I just miss her and everything she meant to me.

I have attached a photo of the recipe on her notepaper from that day (which I regretfully never dated). She always refrigerated the dough overnight before rolling and cutting out. The dough can also be frozen to use at another time. 

Somewhere I have a photo of us as well, but I can't locate it. I probably put it in a "safe" place, which I will now have to locate and put it in a frame!"  

Butter Cut-out Cookies

Mix together 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter with 1 cup sugar  

(Cream together with mixer first.)  

2 eggs    

2 egg yolks  

1 teaspoon baking powder  

1 teaspoon lemon juice and grated lemon rind (not a lot) 

4 cups flour .... of which approximately 3 cups is for dough and 1/2 cup for rolling and flouring board  

Mix it altogether and refrigerate overnight.

Before baking cut-outs, brush with beaten egg white and dust with sugar. 

Makes approximately 6 dozen medium cookies. 

Bake at 350 degrees 8-10 minutes

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