For Grandparents’ Day, I decided to finally bake a recipe of my great-grandmother’s that I had recently discovered and wanted to try. My family has never really celebrated Grandparent’s Day—we usually celebrate our grandparents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day—but this seemed like a good day to bake these particular cookies. Before I tell you about the recipe, it is worth telling you a little bit about how I found it.
Two years ago my family cleaned out my grandparents’ house. While we were doing that I ended up with a lot of cookbooks of my grandmother’s. I also took my grandmother’s three metal index card boxes full of recipes. I realized, however, that those recipes really belonged with my mom. They were a treasure, but one that badly needed some organization. Going through those boxes I learned so much. I found many of the family favorites I remember my grandmother making. I also saw recipes shared with her by many friends and family members. It was interesting to see which friends she had the most recipes from and which of those she had actually made. I sorted all of these recipes and placed them in a binder that I gave to my mom for Mother’s Day two years ago.
The greatest discovery in my organizing project was a letter from my great-grandmother to my grandmother dated March 6, 1942—a few months before my grandparents were married on November 28, 1942. The letter included recipes for “60 Minute Raised Rolls” and “Soft Molasses Jumbles.” (I also found the long lost recipe for my grandmother’s “Sally Lunn Ring,” another recipe I need to try.) It was so amazing to see my great-grandmother’s handwriting and to imagine her writing to her future daughter-in-law.
My grandfather loved molasses-flavored things, and I’m sure he must have loved these cookies. They are very simple. Given that they do not use eggs or white sugar, I wonder whether this recipe evolved because of rationing. It has made me curious to do some more research. Despite the recipe seeming a bit odd—I am not sure that I have ever used water in a cookie recipe—these turned out beautifully. They seem, as they should, old-fashioned. I hope you like them. Please let me know if you make these or if you have similar recipes from this era.
Soft Molasses Jumbles
- 5 tablespoons shortening
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 Tablespoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour sifted
- ½ cup cold water
- Cream shortening until light, gradually add sugar, molasses, continue beating.
- Sift the dry ingredients together and add alternately with the water, while stirring.
- Drop by tablespoons, onto a greased pan, bake in 375 degree oven, about 10 minutes.
- Don’t be alarmed by the amount of soda, it is correct.
I wanted to be faithful to her recipe, for this post. The above is just about an exact transcription (including her note about the baking soda!). The one change I did make when I baked the cookies was to use softened unsalted butter rather than shortening. I used light brown sugar, but think that I’d use dark brown next time. I can also see how this might benefit from some spices (clove, ginger, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg), but they had a simple molasses flavor this way. These are sticky cookies. I used parchment paper to line my pans. If you don’t have parchment paper, I would definitely spray the pans with cooking spray.