March 14, 2013

Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

We had several friends contribute to the latest Baked Goods Book Club and it was fabulous!

If you ever made cookies when you were a kid, the recipes were likely to have come from this book or another of Miss Betty Crocker's.  She was a made-up person, but a cultural American icon nonetheless.  According to Wikipedia, she was invented in the 1920s as a representative of General Mills, providing answers to home bakers' questions and customer service for the company.

My family did not have this book in particular, but all the cakes and cookies I made when I was little were from a general Betty Crocker cookbook. And these photos look familiar and nostalgic to the modern eye, with their acid colors and odd arrangements.

I remember being rather taken with the brightly colored photos, the gem-like candied fruits, and the recipes that sounded fit for a princess.  Petite fours, anyone? My mother, it turns out, was into healthful eating and did not (and does not) like to bake.  Luckily for me, she did allow me to bake my own sweets when and if I wanted them.  Luckily, for my dad, too, who loved some freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

French Lace Rolls, which taste like butter.  Delicious, if I say so myself.

In my opinion, this DIY approach was and is a great lesson in moderation, resourcefulness, and independence.  Also, the whole growing up on health food thing really taught me a lot about food quality and nutrition and a whole host of useful information about eating.

Cinnamon Jumbles, which are like Snickerdoodles and have a lovely soft, cakey texture.

But Betty Crocker isn't about whole foods and dietary lifestyles. Most of these recipes call for margarine or shortening, corn syrup, dyes, and/or bright candied fruits that can only be found in suburban grocery stores (direct quote from the Izaiah, maker of the Holiday Fruit Drops).  I think the majority of the Club's bakers followed the recipes exactly, but I have to admit, I replaced the margarine with butter and the corn syrup with rice syrup.  Sorry.

BonBon Cookies, filled with little surprises, take the top prize in the cookie beauty pageant!

As a result, the various forms of substitution, or lack there of, allowed us to see the difference in texture between old-fashioned goodness and new foodie ideals.  There really is something about shortening that makes cookies magical!

Also, I find the idea of calling a cookie a "cooky."  One can only assume that the spelling for cookie in the singular wasn't made official until more recently because cookies are rarely referred to in the singular.  Right?

The idea for this book selection came about during an annual cookie-decorating holiday party, for which my friend, Wendy, and her mother, Meg, make hundreds of sugar cookies from this book - and let a bunch of us kids decorate them.  It's a wonderful tradition and I wouldn't miss it for the world!  And the ladies will have you know, it's Ethel's Sugar Cooky recipe, not Mary's.

Betty Crocker's Cooky Book is a wonderful book, full of all the recipes of yesteryear.  If you have been craving that perfect cookie from childhood, this is a good bet on where to find it.  And it helps to share them with friends!

Not pictured: Caramel Refrigerator Cookies, Oatmeal Drops, Peanut Crisps, Ginger Creams, and Holiday Fruit Drops.  These were ALL wonderful, good-lookin' cookies without wonderful, good-lookin' pictures.  Seriously, I can't take photos without plentiful sunshine.


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