What does the Bauman family do after Thanksgiving? Do we rush off to those Black Friday sales? No way! Why would I want to fight the crowds and traffic just to spend my money? We spent Black Friday peacefully at home, baking cookies. Anyone who knows me very well soon finds out that I am not a shopper. I once was given the option to either go shopping or to butcher a chicken. I chose to dress the chicken!
As we were cleaning out my grandma’s freezers and fridge, we found enough butter, chocolate chips and nuts to bake several hundred dozen cookies. We were already planning to bake cookies, but we added sugar cookies to the list when we spied Grandma’s cookie cutters. We mixed up five different kinds of cookies, about 20-30 dozen. My sister-in-law Audrey came over with her two little girls, so they could get in on the fun. Ava, who is a couple of months shy of turning three, was extremely excited to participate in the baking bonanza. She is just old enough to be able to do a good job at baking cookies.
There was no question which recipe to use. “It’s gotta be the Five-Gallon Cookies!” Everyone was adamant about this fact. My Great-Grandma Davison handed this recipe down to dad’s family. If iced sugar cookies show up at any potluck or family gathering, they are almost always the Five-Gallon cookies. The cookies are so named, not because they use five gallons of flour or sugar, but because the recipe makes five gallons of cookies. Now, I have never measured my cookies by the gallon, but I suppose that my great-grandma used those tin buckets for cookie storage. Since there weren’t such things as Tupperware or Bake n Take’s for her to use, I suspect that these large-recipe cookies were made for potlucks and carried there in the largest container- a five gallon bucket! But Grandma Davison also had six children, so I am sure that they didn’t need any help consuming five gallons of cookies, either!
Ever the curious toddler, Ava quickly discovered raw cookie dough. “Taste some!” Ava invited as she held up a wad of cookie dough. Her little sister also had to take a taste. Fortunately, they forgot about the dough when the cookie cutters appeared. It was therapeutic to use Grandma Nead’s cookie cutters for an activity she always enjoyed. The bells and stars, hearts and angels were represented, just like other people’s Christmas cookies. But I have grown up munching some non-traditional Christmas cookie shapes: cows, roosters and Scottie dogs! You only got to eat those shapes of cookies at Grandma Nead’s. It was extra-special, then, to remember our Grandma by baking cookies in her trademark shapes. Some of the cookie cutters were from my grandma’s mother, and possibly older. That means Ava was cutting out cookies with the same cookie cutters used by her great-great grandmother! It is at times like this that you realize how much you are a part of your predecessors. Indeed, we were using recipes, utensils and advice from all three of my grandmas, even though none were present. I once heard a doctor exclaim in awe about how our bodies genetically carry bits of the past and the future generations within our cells. This is also true of us mentally. My character is heavily influenced by my family, even though I may not know that I act a lot like my great-grandma, or great-aunt. At the same time, the life that I live is affecting future generations in a way that I can’t even begin to imagine. Funny that simply baking cookies can make you think of things that make your head spin!
While Ava was thrilled to cut out the cookies, she soon noticed that there was more to master. “I do it myself!” Ava insisted when I started to roll out more dough. She had so much fun with that rolling pin that I had to pry her hands off and take it away, or we would have had wafer-thin cookies! While shaking sprinkles on was fun, Ava enjoyed the frosting more. She wasted no time in sampling the frosting: before the first cookie was iced, she licked a lump from her finger. This also was an educational activity as Ava tried to identify the multip!e icings by their proper color name, But perhaps a bit more education is needed; she iced one cow with green polka-dots!
Here is the modernized version of my great-grandma’s recipe. The original recipe does not list any baking times nor temperature, and vaguely calls for “enough flour to roll out dough”. I have cut the recipe in half here, as the full recipe uses fifteen cups of flour and Grandma has noted that this amount will (literally) make five gallons of cookies! This equates to about 10 dozen, so I guess that this half-recipe should be called Two and a Half Gallon Cookies!
These are a favorite cookie that we enjoy every year in the Bauman household. It has been in our family for generations. Here is the modernized version of my great-grandma’s recipe. The original recipe does not list any baking times nor temperature, and vaguely calls for “enough flour to roll out dough”. I have cut the recipe in half here, as the full recipe uses fifteen cups of flour and Grandma noted that this amount will (literally) make five gallons of cookies! This equates to about 10 dozen, so I guess that this half-recipe should be called Two and a Half Gallon Cookies!
- 2½ cups sugar
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup lard or shortening
- 7½ -8 cups flour
- 1½ cups milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream together the sugar, butter and lard.
- Add eggs and beat. Mix soda and vanilla into milk.
- Mix baking powder in with flour.
- Add milk and flour alternately to creamed mixture.
- Chill dough for approximately an hour (or overnight) before rolling ½” thick. Cut out cookies, bake for 8 minutes.
- Do not over-bake!
- These are not supposed to be browned cookies.
- Freeze cookies, then ice the next day.
- Freezing improves the flavor and makes it easier to apply the frosting.
- Use a medium-thin Icing made from powdered sugar and milk. Makes 5 dozen cookies.
Rosanna Bauman, 25, is Old German Baptist Brethren. The German Baptists are a Plain sect similar to the Amish but they allow photographs.