The Really Very Old Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

food, recipes

When I asked my mom to send me her pumpkin cookie recipe she sent me a recipe card with my own handwriting on it. I likely copied this out of another handwritten recipe book, or based on verbal instructions. The recipe, according to a younger me, is from my grandma and, as is tradition with these old family recipes, there are no step by step instructions. Just an ingredient list, an oven temperature, and a cooking time. However, I’ve watched my mom make these for most of my life that I remember the technique that achieves the cake-like texture.

May I draw your attention to “cinnomon?” How about “pumpkin peree?” I think I wrote this when I was 8.

I called my mom to confirm some of the quantities on the recipe and she clarified that this recipe is probably HER great grandma’s recipe and it’s been fool-proof as written for all these years. That makes these my great great grandma’s cookies. The cake-like consistency comes from creaming together the butter and sugar, combining the sugar into the softened butter until light and homogenous. The baking powder gives them some extra oomf. And oomf is right! I certainly dream of the day when I turn a couple of these cookies into an ice cream sandwich or a whoopie pie, abandoning all self-restraint in the name of fleeting festive whimsy. I admitted to my mom that I bought my first can of pumpkin puree and she assured me that despite growing up making these cookies with her fresh pumpkin puree, it’s perfectly fine to crack open a can and make the most of it. And what else can I expect from myself and others right now? Just crack open the can and enjoy the damn cookies.

Just one day after asking my mom for this recipe, my best friend said she had also asked my mom for it. My friend Sara is practically a sibling; we used to spend basically every day together when we were kids. She has spent more holidays with my family than any other friend or relative, including my mom’s boyfriend to whom Sara said “you gotta step up your game” when she hit the 10 year mark before he did. We know each other’s family traditions like they’re our own. These cookies are just as comforting to her as they are to me; they’re part of our own silly tradition that we’ve maintained for a miraculous chunk of our lives.

Honestly, it’s hardly the holiday season without Sara. That will likely be the greatest loss for me this year in terms of beloved traditions, but completely worth it to preserve our health and wellness. These cookies can be one of many connections we have to one another this year as we continue to limit our interactions. Next year I’ll tell Sara’s boyfriend that she’s already busy for the holidays and we’ll pick up where we left off.


Really Very Old Family Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. You will need at least 2 baking sheets and, depending on cookie size, may need to use them more than once.
  3. Cream together the softened butter and sugar. This can be done in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand with a rubber spatula. You’ll want the butter to be really soft, but not melted to achieve the ideal creamy texture.
  4. Beat the 2 eggs into the butter-sugar mixture.
  5. Add ingredients as listed, mixing after each addition. You want a homogenous looking cookie batter, but if some butter and sugar does not mix you will have some crispy sugary bits and that’s nothing to be mad at.
  6. Using an ice cream scoop, meatball scoop, or tablespoon scoop the cookies onto the parchment lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. The cookies will spread a little and rise, forming muffin-top-looking cookies.
  7. Bake cookies for 15 minutes. This is the minimum. Check at 15 minutes and see if cookie bottoms are slightly browned. I find that 18 minutes is usually my sweet spot, but that’s based on the size cookie I scoop.
  8. Allow to cool before breaking open a soft, fluffy cookie. These cookies freeze well in zip top bags or airtight containers.

These Anisette Cookies and a Pot of Coffee are a Match Made in Heaven

food, recipes

Everyone is getting engaged and married and truly I feel sorry. Because no one will have a stronger, more solid union than my great grandma’s anisette cookies and an entire pot of black coffee. Honestly, where’s that love comparison? I just want someone to compliment me the way anise biscotti compliments hot coffee. Where’s that romance?

“Ninety nine cents would get you a pound of these cookies.” Thinking about the light-weight of each crispy baked wedge made me realize the sheer volume that equates. “We would bring them home and drink a whole pot of coffee,” says my mom. It’s true, these cookies practically beg for a dunk before each bite, after which the harmonious union of coffee and anisette simply transports you to an old-fashioned Italian-American bakery of yore. So good you almost don’t feel bad about eating a few for breakfast. Oops.

This recipe, another mysterious find from my great grandma’s recipe box, was entirely written in English which could mean one of two things: it is once again not hers, or she had serious help writing it. In a comparison between this and her snippets of attempting English in other recipes, it appears that this is her handwriting. Impressive if so, but also curious. Someone definitely helped her, perhaps speaking the translation and showing her how to spell each word with some corrections on the way.

This recipe is also one of the rare recipes from the box that includes all measurements, oven temperature and a procedure. Truly miraculous when all others are written in at least two languages and have little clues pertaining to how the flour and baking powder eventually become a sponge cake. That being said, this recipe was also easy by most baking standards: add ingredients to the bowl, beating after each addition, then pouring the batter into a greased cake pan, baking until golden brown, slicing and baking again for maximum crispiness. This technically makes them biscotti.

Biscotti, though typically what Italians call a cookie, literally translates to baked twice. Most traditional biscotti have nuts or candied fruit in them and turn out just a touch drier, denser and tougher. Still absolutely delicious, but this recipe is unlike those cookies. These cookies are lighter and more tender. Still crispy, but you won’t have to clamp down on the cookie with your molars in order to take a bite. The coffee isn’t necessary to soften the cookie, it just tastes good.

I prefer espresso in general over coffee, but, as Ina Garten would probably say, if you can’t make espresso then regular coffee is just fine. Just try to resist eating them all.

My Great Grandma’s Anisette Cookies

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

3 tsp anise extract

3/4 cup cooking oil (canola oil)

1-1/2 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all ingredients in order given beating well after each addition. Pour into greased 9×13 pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from pan and slice into 1 inch strips.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet for another 10 minutes to toast.