The wait is almost over – Thursday is one of my favorite days of the year. Let’s hear it for the 4th of July – the day that we celebrate the privilege and joy of being citizens of the United States of America.
Even in this year of heated and divisive rhetoric, we are so blessed to live in this remarkable republic. I hope that each of you has a wonderful time with family and friends in spite of any political differences that may challenge your relationships.
Gregg and I had the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital when our niece was married in the Washington D.C. area 10 years ago. Of course, we spent as much time as we could on the National Mall drinking in all of the sights and history.
I always end up shopping in a bookstore attached to any museum that I go to and this trip was no exception. I bought books at several different stores that examined events in our nation’s history that interest me. One of my favorite purchases was a volume titled “Presidential Cookies” by Bev Young. For any history lover, this highly entertaining volume features cookie recipes from every President with a brief history of highlights of each administration.
I learned so much reading it. For example, did you know that George and Martha Washington entertained weekly? President Washington hosted a reception for gentlemen every Tuesday from three to four o’clock in the afternoon. His wife invited both men and women to a gathering on Friday evenings at seven o’clock. These receptions were very formal and “emphasized the new republic’s parity with European governments and the authority of the presidency.” According to Ms. Young, the Washingtons greeted their guests with “warm hospitality and served them simple foods of cookies, candies, tea, cake, coffee and lemonade.”
Ms. Young selected a revolutionary era “receipt;” the word used for recipe during Mrs. Washington’s time and modified it for modern cooks. Shrewsbury Cakes originated in England hundreds of years before our country fought for its independence. These cookies can be measured with a small scoop and baked on a cookie sheet for a small treat or divided into larger mounds for a scone-like cake. They would be a fitting feature at a 4th of July breakfast or brunch.
Since Harry Truman was at the end of his presidency the year I was born, I was curious as to what cookies were attributed to his wife, Bess. I was amused to find out that Bess and Harry were known as “The Cookie Lady and Her Husband.” They obtained that nickname from a young reporter who was assigned to stand in front of the Truman house in Independence, Missouri when the President and First Lady would return home for the holidays. It was his job to be there if anything exciting happened at the first family’s Missouri home. One cold morning, Bess took pity on the young man and waved for him to come in the house where she offered him cookies and a cup of hot chocolate and a chance to say hello to the president. The following recipe for coconut cookies were one of the recipes handwritten by Bess that are on display at the Truman National Historic Site. Ms. Young says the cards are complete with “flour smudges, buttery fingerprints and rumpled corners.”
Since “Presidential Cookies” was published in 2005, our current President’s favorite cookies were not included in its pages. However, for the last six elections, Family Circle magazine has asked each candidate’s spouse to submit a cookie recipe and then the readers of Family Circle voted on their favorite cookie. The following cookie recipe was the entry of First Lady Melania Trump. I have not tried this recipe yet but those simple stars would be perfect for the 4th of July.
Martha Washington’s Shrewsbury Cakes
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
About 1 cup dried fruit (tart dried cherries, apricots or currants), chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter with sugar. Add vanilla, salt, egg and milk. Blend. Add flour. Mix in dried fruits. Chill dough for about one hour. Use a small cookie scoop to form small rounds. Place rounds on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack. To make larger cakes, use an ice cream scoop to create 6 or 7 mounds and bake for 25 minutes or until light brown. Split the cakes and serve them with butter and honey.
Bess Truman’s Coconut Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup dried coconut
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, coconut, flour and baking powder. Roll to one-fourth inch thickness and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Melania Trump’s Star Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
2 tablespoons sour cream
Combine flour and baking soda. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar until blended. Add egg yolks, egg white and sour cream. Beat until smooth. Beat in flour mixture until dough just comes together. Form into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out one disk on liberally floured wax paper with a floured rolling pin to one-eighth inch thickness. Using a 2 and one-half inch star cutter, cut out star shapes and place on a wax-paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with second disk. Gather up scraps, form into a disk and refrigerate. Bake 10 minutes per batch, until lightly golden. Slide cookies onto a cooling rack and cool. Re-roll scraps, cut out additional stars and bake. Recipe Note: I prefer using parchment paper to line my cookie sheets.
Quote of the Week: Baking and eating cookies has been a sweet American tradition for over two hundred years. The Presidents of the United States have also shared this love of cookies. — Bev Young