Heirloom Sugar Cookie Recipe
Aunt Rikka's Sugar Cookie Recipe
A plain sugar cookie recipe with German-American roots, this recipe goes back to the turn of the 20th Century. It was made by my ancestors in the central Illinois farmlands east of St. Louis, Missouri. The cookie itself has a flavor reminiscent of a plain scone or an animal cracker. It's the kind of cookie that is a good base for any sort of embellishment. It comes out of the oven soft but hardens with age. The flavor also gets better with age. The vanilla aroma fills your kitchen when baking. Come to my kitchen as I show you how to make them, step by step.
Ingredients - Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies - or more
This makes a LOT of cookies. If you have a bunch of kids you want to make cookies with and have a day set aside to do it, go for it. Otherwise I'd cut this recipe in half.
- 1/2 cup lard
- 1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 to 7 cups of flour - however much it takes to make a manageable, stiff dough
- 1 cup of sour milk or regular milk
Start With Lard
I know I know...lard is the bane of all arteries. But it turns out that hydrogenated oil isn't good for you, either. So you might as well use the ingredient that gives these cookies the most authentic texture. Fortunately these days we can just go to the local grocery store and get this pristine clean lard rather than having to render it down ourselves.
You can make these cookies with all lard or with half lard, half butter. I like a little buttery taste to my cookies so I chose the latter. Or is that the larder?
Sour Milk or Not?
The original recipe called for sour milk so I dutifully held on to some milk after the due date just to make these cookies. Honestly, I don't think it makes much difference. I think the milk is so different now and so much easier to keep fresh that it doesn't matter whether it's fresh or sour.
Cool Measuring Thingie
See that interesting looking measuring cup I'm using to measure the lard in in the above picture? My aunt gave me that for Christmas one year after seeing Alton Brown use one on his show on the Food Network. It is quite the handy gadget for measuring things like lard, shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, etc. You set the metal column so that you have a "cup" that is the exact measurement you need. Then, once you fill it, you just push up the metal column and it cleanly pushes out your ingredient. Slick, huh? Easy to wash up, too. It has markings for all sorts of measurements including liquid, metric, and dry.
Very useful. 'Nuff said.
Add Lard and Butter to Sugar
The original recipe says you can use all lard or half lard, half butter. I like a buttery flavor to my cookies (although it's very mild). All lard might give you a slightly different texture.
Cream Lard, Butter & Sugar
I have a nice Kitchen-Aid stand mixer so this process takes all of 5 minutes, tops. Otherwise you want to mix these ingredients together until they are light and fluffy and not as granular.
Add Eggs and Vanilla
Add beaten eggs and vanilla to your creamed shortening and sugar. Beat until light and fluffier, about 3 minutes in the mixer.
Mix Dry Ingredients
Whisk together a cup of the flour and the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Alternate Flour and Milk
Add the cup of dry ingredients you just whisked together and stir until integrated. Add about a fourth cup of the milk and stir until mixed. Then add another cup of flour. Alternate like this until milk is gone. Then add enough flour to make a stiff dough that is not sticky on the fingers but still pliable. I made it just to the point of being able to touch it without any sticking to my fingers. It ends up being kind of elastic like pizza dough, even though there is no yeast in it.
Heat Oven to 415 ° F
Roll and Cut Out Cookies
This dough is one of the more easy to handle that I've worked with and you don't even have to chill it first. I worked with 2-3 cups at a time on a floured surface. You can play around with thickness. It just depends on what you like. I use non-stick foil and insulated baking sheets to make the process easier. I'm all about the easy!
Bake Cookies 7-10 Minutes
Until just barely starting to brown around the edges.
Reynolds Release Aluminum Foil - It's non-stick!
This is what I use. If I'm careful I can reuse it over and over again throughout the holiday baking season.
Insulated Cookie Sheet
I've baked all my life but I've been a little behind on getting things like insulated cookie sheets when everybody else had them. Love them BUT...they dent easily. I have an insulated jellyroll cake pan that I baked cookie bars in and then cut them with a pizza cutter. Put long lines in the pan. So be careful. Makes a HUGE difference if you have problems with the bottoms of your cookies getting too brown, though.
Freeze Now, Bake Later
I found that this dough is very freezer friendly. It's ready to work after 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature. The cookies actually taste better after being frozen. It would be really easy to shape the dough into logs and just slice cookies off as needed.