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1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sherry


Cream butter, add sugar and cream until light-colored. Beat eggs and add to butter and sugar. Mix flour with salt and spices. Mix it in, alternating with the sherry. Chill overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thick and cut shapes with cookie cutter. You must use a greased baking sheet for this recipe: parchment will burn at 450 F. Bake about 7 minutes or until barely brown at the edges. Check frequently. A very hot oven will take the cookies from raw to burned in a minute.


This is one of my two favorite recipes in this first batch of eight. This is a shortbread-type cookie, and I am sucker for shortbread. One quality that I especially admire is its delicate use of nutmeg. Nutmeg has a very penetrating flavor, and even a little too much will spoil a recipe (in my opinion). These cookies have exactly the right amount, just enough to hint of the Orient, an allusive whiff of mystery and distance and wonder.

Questions: I don’t understand the use of sherry. It’s too small an amount to taste, at least for me. I don’t understand the need for a 450 F oven. 350-375 F is a more normal range for cookies, and a higher temperature makes it too easy to ruin a pan of cookies by leaving them in 30 seconds too long.

Incidentally, the Gourmet photo shows a light blue icing. This was not in the original 1946 recipe. I don’t know why it was added. The technique, in the back of the book, is a fiddly business, using three piping bags, two nozzles, icing of two different colors and two different densities, and three separate applications. I can’t imagine it improved this already splendid cookie, and I elected not to bother.

Next week: our third shortbread cookie, also a winner.

Below: first photo Gourmet, second photo by me.

DATE BARS — Gourmet, September 1945


14 graham crackers
3 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups chopped dates (an 8 oz package)
1 cup coarsely chopped or whole walnuts
Confectioners sugar


Pre-heat oven to 375 F

Reduce graham crackers to coarse meal in food processor. Mix in salt and baking powder. Add dates and walnuts. Beat the eggs well and mix with brown sugar. Mix this into the dry ingredients. Line a 9″ x 9″ pan with parchment paper and butter it. Pour into pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove, cool, and when firm enough, cut into 36 pieces and toss in confectioner’s sugar.

This recipe has a curious history. It supposedly came from Katish, a colorful Russian emigre cook for a wealthy Los Angeles family. Stories of Katish’s adventures in America, along with her recipes, appeared in Gourmet magazine during the post-war years and were later collected into a popular book. However, Katish seems to have been entirely a fiction, whipped up for the purpose of selling stories and a Russian recipe book. Katish and her book are patterned off an even more famous book, Clementine in the Kitchen, about the adventures of a French girl who is hired to cook in an East Coast kitchen.


These bar cookies are very firm, chewy, and overpoweringly sweet. So sweet that the sugar blots out other flavors. Edible (I finished them all), but not something I would make again. However, I got to thinking that the recipe oddly has no shortening. Would that help? I made it again, this time creaming a stick of butter with the sugar, then adding the eggs, and then the dry ingredients in the usual order. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla. The results were, I thought, improved. The crumb was more open and tender, and the butter somehow cut the overwhelming sweetness. I was reminded of a dense carrot cake.

I think this recipe has possibilities. Suppose we replace the dates with dried apricots, the walnuts with almonds, and add 1/4 tsp or so of almond extract, along with the added butter and vanilla? Will be be trying that soon.

First photo below from Gourmet, second photo mine.

SCOTCH OAT CRUNCHIES – Gourmet magazine, January 1943


1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup cold water
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter until almost white. Add brown sugar and cream until as light as possible. Mix the cake flour, the baking powder, the salt and the oats in a bowl. Add almond and vanilla extracts to the 1/2 cup water. Add dry ingredients alternately with the water to the butter/sugar. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter. May be baked on unbuttered parchment for about 12 minutes. When ready to serve, spread with any sweet filling (I used cherry jam) to make cookie sandwiches.


This was one of my two favorite recipes among the first eight I baked. I have a weakness for shortbread, and although this cookie isn’t quite shortbread, it’s adjacent, as they say. It is both crisp and chewy, the latter from the oats. The oats also lend a pleasant oaty flavor, unusual in a shortbread-type cookie.

I thought making jam sandwiches was painting the lily. These cookies are delectable naked. I couldn’t detect the almond flavor though. When I make them again (and I will, you can’t stop me) I will try increasing it to 1/4 tsp, and perhaps the vanilla to 1/2 tsp. I love the oat flavor, but it tends to overpower subtleties.

You will note in my photo that the cookies have little nubbins on their edges. These are oats. A cookie cutter will not cut an oat. The Gourmet photo has no nubbins, probably because they have been cut off by the food stylist who took the photo. Food stylists are sneaky that way.

The second time I made these I tried turning the oats into coarse meal with a food processor. The result was no nubbins, but the chewy character of the cookie was gone. Still tasted fine, of course. I recommend leaving the oats whole.

Next week: a little sweetheart of a cookie, so crisp and flavorful it’s hard to stop eating them.

Below: Gourmet’s photo, my photo

CAJUN MACAROONS – Gourmet magazine, February, 1941


1/2 lb almond paste
3 eggs
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Mix the flour and sugars thoroughly. Put the almond paste through a food processor until smooth. Separate the eggs. ‘Slightly’ beat the egg whites, per the recipe. There are three recognized stages of beaten egg whites: soft peaks, firm peaks, and stiff peaks. ‘Slightly’ is not one of them. I settled for beating the whites until they were white, foamy, visibly increased in size, but still did not form peaks at all. Add the egg whites to the almond paste and blend. Add the flour/sugar mixture.

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and butter it. (I actually use solid Crisco for such tasks.)

The recipe says that you may put small lumps of dough on the parchment with a cookie press or piping bag. I have never used a piping bag, and I thought the dough was too soft for a cookie press. I dropped teaspoonfuls off the end of a spoon.

Bake about 30 min, or until pale golden brown. As always, baking a few test cookies first to check for timing is advised.

Notes: 1) You can buy almond paste in many grocery stores, but I opted to make my own from a recipe on The Spruce Eats. It’s not hard. 2) I have stopped sifting flour. I consider this voodoo home economics. When flour is called for, I simply spoon it lightly into a measuring cup and level it with a spatula. Do NOT tap the cup. When a recipe calls for sifting dry ingredients together, I mix them well in a bowl, with a whisk. 3) These recipes are from 80 years ago, and some ingredients may not be readily available. For ‘fine granulated sugar’ I say sugar, for ‘powdered sugar’ I say confectioners sugar, for ‘pastry flour’ I say cake flour.

I have started using parchment paper on cookie sheets for recipes cooked at less than 400 F, but this is the only one for which the paper had to be buttered, or the bottom of the cookie remained on the paper. These cookies have no shortening in them.

The book suggests leaving all cookies on the pan for 2 minutes after removing from the oven, before moving to the cooling rack.


A lighter than air (almost), crisp macaroon, quite sweet, with a hint of almond flavor. These go quickly. A pleasant cookie, though to my tastes, somewhere in the middle of the pack in this group of eight. As usual, my cookies did not match the perfect photos in the book. In this case, my cookies mostly came out ovals, not perfect rounds. Perhaps I should seek enlightenment from a master of the piping bag.

Below: Gourmet’s photo of its cookies, and a photo of my results.

May be an image of oatmeal cookies, cookies and coconut macaroon


For the past several years I’ve been a member of the writing critique group Bucks County Writers Workshop, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. During 2020, we put together an anthology of our work. I was the managing editor, with co-editors Lindsey Allingham, Natalie Dyen, and Candace Barrett. We acquired fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from present and former members of the workshop. I’m pleased with the result, and if you like short fiction, memoir, and contemporary poetry, I commend it to your attention. You should be able to order it from any bookstore, or from Amazon.


Sandy Spring Friends School visit, April 2019

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of returning to my high school, Sandy Spring Friends School, meeting with several groups of middle-grade and high school students, talking about writing fiction, and taking questions.

For a cantankerous old hermit like me, it was quite an adventure. However, everyone treated me gently, and the experience was very enjoyable. I meant to take selfies with the students, but the moment never seemed quite right, and I thank Sharon Kathryn Yntema for providing this one, by someone else.

My thanks to Ariel Voorhees, Mimi Youmans, Kiki Vargas, Lisa Penkowsky, Sara Jameson and Lauren Mossman, who made this trip possible and held the fort together.