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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lemon cookies

My grandmother was the world's best baker. You may not have heard of her, because she didn't bake for anyone other than family. And the ladies who came over to play pinochle. If you aren't related to me, or named Pearl, Helen, or Hazel, you probably never  met her. So much is your loss.

Although my grandmother lived her entire life in Wisconsin, and I lived my entire life in California, we saw each other for two extended visits each year. Before my mom, three brothers and I arrived in Green Bay for a chunk of each summer, she would bake and bake and bake. The happy result was that there were plenty of different types of cookies and cakes waiting for us. And of course, more baking went on while we were there. Sometimes my mom was helping out in the kitchen. Sometimes I tried to help out. I think for the most part, though, we played and she baked. And at the end of the day, we all sat down and enjoyed a slice of cake or pie together.

When my grandmother died when I was 18, my mom and her two brothers were left with the task of cleaning out her home. She had all kinds of knickknacks accumulated over a lifetime, and some beautiful old pieces of furniture. Any time any family member had complimented any item in her home, including pieces of furniture, my grandmother turned it over, and wrote that person's name on the bottom. That made the task of dividing her things easy. Most things had been given away long ago.

The one thing that everyone wanted, and that grandmother never in a million years considered to be an heirloom, was her cookbook. This was the type of cookbook that I imagine every grandmother had. Or every woman born in her generation. It had been originally purchased as a cloth-covered, three-ring binder, filled with blank pages and dividers. By the time she died, the cover was coming apart, the blank pages had been filled with her typewriter and her pen. The dessert sections, especially, were stuffed with clippings from magazines and recipes given to her by friends.

There was no name written on the back of it, and yet everyone had complimented her cooking, her recipes. That left my mom and uncles to have to decide who got the coveted cookbook.

To make a long story short, the cookbook was stored for quite some time, since no one wanted to take it away from everyone else and no one could bear to give it up forever, either. Flash forward several years, and the cookbook resurfaces. This time, copies are made, everyone gets one.

The very first section is for cookies and cakes. The very first recipe typed into this section is from Good Housekeeping magazine, "Lemon Wafers."

I don't particularly remember my grandmother making them, and I don't think they were one of her most commonly baked cookies. But like everything she baked, they are delicious. They are light and crispy, with just a hint of lemon.

Lemon Wafers (Good Housekeeping)

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cup all-purpose sifted flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and lemon rind, and beat well. Add flour, soda, salt and lemon juice, and mix. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Roll into balls, coat each with sugar, and press down with a fork. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.