Black Walnut Cookie Recipe, a Specialty of Gramma Morgan
Black Walnut Cookies
My Gramma Morgan
Families create rituals and warm memories for their children which last beyond lifetimes. Such is the case with my formidable Gramma Anna Morgan. Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, she raised five children during the Great Depression. She kept house in a solid brick home on Fourth Avenue, Altoona, Pa. which had no electricity - instead gaslights and kerosene lanterns. Wash day (laundry day) was as back breaking, complicated, and long as all the nursery rhymes purport. Yet, through all this she "loved up" my father and his siblings. One of the ways she showed her love was with her Christmas cookies.
The Family Recipe
Kitchen Fragrances Can Take Us Back in Time
In a very good way, the sense of smell triggers memories of the far past. The fragrance of food associated with happy periods acts as a time machine. Understandably, my father requests one of his mother’s special Christmastime cookies as we gather each year for the holiday. It is a fabulous cookie. Although Gramma called them “Clifford Tea Cookies,” I have renamed them to honor her. You can almost see her bustling around in her kitchen as you smell and nibble them.
Essential Ingredient: Black Walnuts and Extract
Black Walnuts are Very Distinctive
Please – if you consider trying this recipe and use “regular walnuts,” it will not be the same cookie. It will not necessarily be a BAD cookie, but it won’t be this wonderful black walnut one. I recommend that one takes the time to purchase black walnuts and black walnut extract.
Last year, my extract was used up. A few days before Christmas, I started a mildly frantic search for more. Apparently, black walnut extract is not as ubiquitous as it once was. Many Internet searches and phone calls were required before I located a kindly professional baker who sold me a bottle of her extra-strength professional black walnut extract. That was her Christmas gift to my family!
(This produces about 3-1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.)
¾ cup butter, softened
1 and 1/8 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon black walnut extract
1 and ½ cups white flour
½ teaspoon baking SODA (not “baking powder”)
1 cup chopped black walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and soften by letting it stand out (or modern way: by microwaving on VERY LOW for 10 seconds.)
Add the brown sugar and cream them together.
Then add the egg and black walnut extract to the bowl and beat together.
More Cookie Ingredients
On top of the wet mixture in the bowl, pour ONLY 1 cup of the flour.
Then sprinkle the ½ teaspoon of baking soda all over it. Mix the two dry ingredients together a little with a spatula or spoon. Then add the remaining ½ cup of flour on top.
Stir everything together gently with a spoon to get it wet. If you use an electric mixer first, you will probably have flour flying all over your kitchen.
Beat together until thoroughly mixed.
Then drop by teaspoon onto a cookie sheet with about 1 and ¼ inches between the cookies.
Ready to Bake
Set a timer for 8 minutes and STAY in or near the kitchen! No multi-tasking is permitted if it takes you too far from the oven. (Been there, burned those.)
Check the cookies at 8 minutes. With my oven, they needed 10 minutes of backing time and they also might need 12 minutes in your oven. When they are lightly brown at the edges remove the cookies.
What "ready to take out" looks like
After the cookies have cooled for 2 to 5 minutes, use a metal turner to remove them from the cookie sheet. Enjoy these strong sweet walnut cookies!
My Gramma would have beaten all the ingredients by hand and they always were thoroughly blended. That humbles me.
Where It Started: Altoona, Pennsylvania
Where Dad was born.
© 2011 Maren Elizabeth Morgan