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Heirloom Sugar Cookie Recipe

Updated on January 9, 2013

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.

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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

Measuring Lard
Measuring 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.

Butter, Lard and Sugar
Butter, Lard and Sugar

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 shortening and sugar
Cream shortening and sugar

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.

Eggs
Eggs

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.

Cookie dough
Cookie dough

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

Rolling and Cutting Cookies
Rolling and Cutting Cookies

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.

Kaffeeklatsch With Me - What are your cookie memories?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for posting this recipe. I just lost my grandmother's cookie recipe and found this one that is almost identical to hers (she used sour cream instead of milk) I love these cookies for Christmas baking each year. I use all lard but I will use butter as well this time as you do. They are not too sweet yet good by themselves, and as

      you mentioned, they are a good base for decorating. Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

    • ErinRivers profile image

      ErinRivers 5 years ago

      I'm drooling... Got to bake now! Thanks for sharing.

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 5 years ago

      My mouth is watering for some yummy cookies right now!

    • Adrienne Jenkins profile image

      Adrienne Jenkins 5 years ago

      I'm off to bake some sugar cookies this weekend with my mother-in-law. She tells me the secret is in the rolling them paper thing and to not over handle the dough.

    • profile image

      seedplanter 5 years ago

      You had me hooked as soon as I read in your intro that they taste similar to animal cookies. :) Thanks for sharing so much - and your photos are a great addition.

    • three rexer profile image

      three rexer 5 years ago

      hmmmmmmmmmm

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 5 years ago

      mmmmm. time to bake :)

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 5 years ago

      These look amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shana rios Chavez profile image

      Shana rios Chavez 5 years ago

      yummy want some NOW

    • profile image

      RobinDM 5 years ago

      I love, love, love this lens! You have shared a wonderful piece of your past in a creative personable way! I am bookmarking this lens. I will be back and I will be sharing this! Thanks.

    • Scotties-Rock profile image

      Clairissa 5 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      These cookies sound delicious! I will be making them this year. Thanks for the great lens.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I have really nice memories of grandmas baking cookies when I was a kid, and I'm pretty sure Crisco shortening was a major ingredient! Nice lens

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      Forgot to mention I left some squid angel blessings.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      Great recipe. My grandmother made special cookies with pecan halves in the middle. It was a German recipe I believe.

    • lilymom24 profile image

      lilymom24 5 years ago

      These cookies sound delicious

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great sugar cookie recipe and awesome directions, along with options. I love sugar cookies. :-)

    • mowug1776 profile image

      mowug1776 5 years ago

      good recipe

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 5 years ago from Sweden

      I really liked how you made this lens with step by step photos and help. Thanks a lot!

    • BuddyBink profile image

      BuddyBink 5 years ago

      A wonderful easy to follow recipe lens. Thank you.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Love this recipe.. but instead of lard use beef tallow for an even more amazing flavor!!! Blessed!

    • SiochainGraSonas profile image

      SiochainGraSonas 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing the cookie recipe.

    • hysongdesigns profile image

      hysongdesigns 5 years ago

      This sounds a lot like my Grannies sugar cookies, tho I'd have to go hunt up the recipe to compare, of course. I remember she would bake cookies in Nov and freeze them, the the week before Christmas have all the grandkids over and make the icing and we would decorate them.

    • bjslapidary profile image

      bjslapidary 5 years ago

      Nice lens. Thanks for sharing the cookie recipe. Some nice tips here too.

    • bjslapidary profile image

      bjslapidary 5 years ago

      Nice lens. Thanks for sharing the cookie recipe. Some nice tips here too.

    • profile image

      mzareen 5 years ago

      And now for the icing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thanks for sharing your recipe, I enjoyed reading it tonight.

    • WorldVisionary3 profile image

      WorldVisionary3 5 years ago

      Yummy! Thumbs up for sugar cookies!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The pictures make this easy to follow. Blessed by a sugar angel.

    • profile image

      blanckj 6 years ago

      Thanks for the recipe.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful family recipe; I can't wait to try it.

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 6 years ago

      Your cookies sound yummy......lard and all! Lenrolled to Easy Christmas Cookies For Kids.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Even with the lard in it, that it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup make it healthier than much of what you can get today.

      Thanks

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 6 years ago from Northern California

      I'm working on one that this will be a perfect recipe to include as a link. Will keep you posted. Thanks.