This is another of my resurrected posts, one that was originally published on the old Transplanted Baker a year ago, on August 12th. When a recipe is this good and this classic, there's good reason to re-publish it...
My Grandma Larson was a notoriously good cook.
I never knew her in person, but I have gotten to know her through her recipes as well as her apron collection, which I recently inherited for my 25th birthday. My grandma was not a small woman, which is given evidence from not only old family photos, but from the size of her aprons and her love of butter, mayonnaise, and deep fry oil in many of her recipes. She may not have always put a low-fat dinner on the table for her family of six, but what I do admire about her cooking repertoire is that unlike so many of the women from her day, she didn’t make shortcuts in her cooking and baking. The woman made her cakes from scratch, never dreaming of incorporating in a box of Betty Crocker cake mix or packages of Instant Jello Pudding. I can’t imagine her taking a trip to the grocery store and returning with Cool Whip, Margarine, or Wonder Bread. I guess they just didn’t have those things on the farm in the 1920s and 30s when she began to learn her way around the kitchen.
My parents came for their first visit to our little Norwegian town this past week and with my newly acquired vintage aprons, I decided to let my mom in on a little food blog action.
Now, if I ever want to come across a nice Americana recipe, preferably one that does not have a list of 50 ingredients, I take a peak into my coffee-stained, centennial cookbook put out in 2002 by my childhood church. You can find some pretty amazing stuff in there like, “Mother’ Boiled Raisin Cake” from Mrs. Betty Lockhart, as well as “Golden Pecan Tassies” from Mrs. Lorraine Steen, not to mention Grandma Larson’s “California Ice Box Cookies”, which was just what we chose to make. I guess you could say I like the novelty of using old, sometimes outdated recipes.
The charm of many of the church ladies’ recipes, including Grandma’s, is that they use very simple ingredients, never forcing you to hunt down imported liquors that you’ll never use again, or a specific type of ladyfinger that you can only find at one shop in town. No, these are not the recipes of Gourmet and Bon Appetite, they rarely require extra sifting, buying a candy thermometer or a brushing of rich egg glaze. These are the type that give you little more direction beyond “mix all ingredients together and bake at 350”. How long to bake that cake and whether to grease the pan is up to your discretion.
On to the cookies!
I had made this recipe once or twice before with wonderful results, particularly enjoying the citrus zing you get from both the juice and zest from a lemon and an orange. The recipe calls for a cup of chopped almonds, which of coarse, can be omitted for those with an allergy or I guess, a bizarre dislike of almonds- I must point out that the extra little crunch of the nut was surely what Grandma liked so much about these cookies (or maybe it was the whole cup of butter...). The other fun bit is that they are “Ice Box Cookies”, which automatically makes me think of something Aunt Bee would serve Opie and his friends with a nice glass of lemonade in Mayberry. Rolling up the dough and chilling it over night before slicing into nice little rounds the following day is sort of fun too! Not only do you end up with impressively uniform cookies, you can bake them off as you like without having a bowl full of hardened cookie dough in the fridge.
Grandma Larson’s California Ice Box Cookies
Farmors California Kjøleskapekjeks
Recipe originally from “The Smorgasbord and Other Recipes”, compiled by the St. Anthony Park Lutheran Ladies’ Aid in 1940.
*Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies
(I have added my own, necessary additions to the recipe in (parentheses), only to help you end up with the results grandma would have approved of).
1 cup (230g) butter (softened)
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 beaten egg yolks
2 T. orange juice
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. orange rind
(1 T. lemon rind)- if desired, I think it adds a lot
2 2/3 cups (350g) flour
1/2 t. salt
1 small tsp (1/2 t.) baking soda
1 cup (80g) finely chopped almonds
(Put on your favorite apron, preferably one with a fruit or flower pattern).
Cream butter and sugar (in a large bowl).
Add egg yolks and flavoring (juices and rinds).
Add dry ingredients (then add the almonds).
(Separate dough into two, rolling each into a long, medium-thick log, wrap each in parchment paper or plastic).
(Place on a cookie sheet, an inch apart).
Bake in a hot oven, 410F/200C. (or slightly lower, 390F).
(Bake until cookies are golden, but not browned, roughly 10 minutes).