Quilter’s Favorite Recipes

The Story of the Test Cookie! (And the recipe!)

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(Since many quilters also love to bake, I thought I’d include a few of my favorite family recipes here from time to time…with accompanying stories!)

Attics are incredible places!  As long as you’ve taken measures to keep the mice away, you have got yourself a proper time machine right above your head.  There’s just something haywire in a human’s brain that says, “Don’t throw that away; you might need it someday.”  And into the attic it disappears.  Sometimes, that’s not so great.  Piles and piles of STUFF can be hard to navigate, but when it’s been there for a generation or two all of that STUFF goes through a magical transformation and becomes this thing called a memory- a wonderful little portal into a time gone by.

One day, my aunt went into my grandmother’s attic to do some much needed memory mitigation (a.k.a. plain old cleaning!).  While she was up there, she found my Great Grandma Grace’s hand-written cookbook.  In it was my Great Grandmother’s grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe!  (Yeah, that’s a BUNCH of grandmother’s!)  The fun part was that the measurements weren’t exactly measurements.  It didn’t say “6 cups of flour”; it just said “flour” & I guess you were supposed to make the dang old batch of cookies often enough that you knew how much to put in just by looking at it.  My favorite item on the list was “A walnut shell of baking soda…”  What a hoot!  So THAT’S how they measured things before there were measuring spoons!  Huh.  Mystery solved!

It took my mom & aunt quite a bit of experimentation to translate that hum-dinger of a sugar cookie recipe.  Later, when Mom and I were making it, she told me about the “test cookie” that Grandma Grace had always baked first when she was a little girl helping with the cookies.  With an old wood-fired stove (and walnut shells to measure with!) my great-grandmother would determine when the temperature was right to bake with by STICKING HER HAND IN THE OVEN & COUNTING TO 7!  If she couldn’t get to 7 it was too hot.  If she could get well past 7, it was too cool.  If it was right around 7 she stuck the test cookie in and timed it to see how long it took for it to come out just right.  Then she knew how long to time the rest of the batch for.  Mom said that she & Grandma Grace always ate the “test cookie” together while the others baked.

The older I get, the more I want to slow down and wait for the test cookie.  Modern life is full of instant conveniences that we spend every waking minute working to have enough money for.  We work like crazy so that we can have all of the conveniences that make it possible for us to work like crazy.  I can’t say that I really want to go back to all of the hardships of yesteryear, but I think it’s important sometimes to slow down & share a test cookie.  We don’t have to have the best of everything to be happy.  We really don’t.  We just need each other…


4 c. Sugar!

1c. Crisco (shortening or lard)

1 c. Butter

1 c. Sour Cream (8 oz.)

2 teaspoons Baking Soda

4 teaspoons Vanilla

4 Eggs

6 c. Flour

DIRECTIONS: Well, we figured out the amounts… So, I’m just going to say, “Good luck!”  ;-). The one hint that I will will give is that they are not roll out sugar cookies.  They are very, very soft!  We scoop them and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Yuuuummmmm!  ENJOY!


If you’re looking for something with actual measurements AND directions, check out The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook  on Amazon for some good Old-Fashioned and time tested recipes.

You can also try Better Homes and Gardens Old-Fashioned Home Baking.  BH&G is a classic!

I do hope you try the recipe above, though and have some fun with it.  Leave comments and let me know how it turned out for you!  It’s one of the best cookies I’ve ever had.  After I try it this year with my own mix of Gluten Free Flour I will let you know if it works with that as well.  Most of my recipes have…  Happy Memory Making!