From My Grandmother’s Recipe Box: “Grandma Hanson Cookies” (Gluten-Free)

tea cookies text

This is my 100th post! I’m glad I realized this before I posted.  This is more exciting with the happy coincidence that this 100th post is on Valentine’s Day and I will be sharing the first recipe in my “From My Grandmother’s Recipe Box“.  I introduced this idea back in November, but didn’t have time to sit down and decipher the recipe cards until now.  We woke up to 14 inches of snow yesterday, and I took the opportunity to participate in such iconic snow day activities as: reading books, trolling pinterest, napping, playing board games, not going out in the snow…oh, and making cookies.

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The infamous Recipe Box

Given my snowed-in status, I had to make a recipe with ingredients that I had on hand.  This one truly intrigued me.  The recipe card has the type-written title “Grandma Hanson Cookies” with the recipe scrawling in green ink.  Grandma Hanson could be two people, depending on whether it was written by my Grandmother, Ginny, and her sister, my great aunt Mimi, or if is was written by their mother, my great grandmother, Helen.  The original Mrs. Hanson was my great-great-great grandmother Thea Hanson, but her son-in-law, Brady, took his wife’s (Thea’s daughter) maiden name for his surname.  Mary Jo Hanson was, then, the second Mrs. Hanson.  Thea would be the “Grandma Hanson” to Helen, while Mary Jo would be the “Grandma Hanson” to Ginny and Mimi.  I’m thinking this is probably Mary Jo’s recipe.

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Whomever it originated from, this recipe is pretty…basic.  Most of these recipe cards are missing some details that are usually deemed important in recipe making: cooking temperatures and/or times, mixing instruction, ingredient clarification–just to name a few.  In some ways, it makes me love these recipe cards more: the lack of instruction reinforces that these women and men in the generations before me trusted their instinct in the kitchen, and that many of these recipes were loved and made often enough to become partially memorized.   In this digital age, where hundreds of thousands of recipes are at the fingertips of home cooks, we are certainly exposed to an amazing variety of dishes.  We can share knowledge and ideas with people across continents.  But I also think it leads to a little bit of paranoia in the kitchen, or at least over-specificity.  We grow so concerned that the smallest details might ruin a recipe, where as our grandparents knew how to think on their feet to rescue a recipe gone awry.

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“Grandma Hanson Cookies” Original Recipe Card

  • 1/2 cup shortening (butter is best)
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (more if batter sticks)
  • 1 tsp soda

Bake about 12 min.  I usually make up a batch and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.

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Adapting this recipe was pretty difficult.  I had to fill in key information, along with converting it to gluten-free.  In the end, I had to step back and take a breath, and just try different techniques–even if they went against my own instincts.  I had to add a lot more flour, even when I used a scale.  I still had a sticky, loose mess of a dough and all I had left was to try refrigeration.  I put the whole bowl in the fridge overnight and crossed my fingers.  This morning, the dough still seemed too sticky.  But I decided to just try it anyways.  In the end, I found myself with light, crisp-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside, barely-spiced, lovely tea cookies.  To be honest–I have absolutely no idea how the gluten-ful result of this recipe would be.  I’ve never made them and my mother does not recognize them from my description of my end result.  I’ll bring her some for a taste test for a final verdict.  But I am perfectly happy to find myself with tea cookies.  As I mentioned, the nutmeg, lemon, and vanilla combined to barely spice these cookies–they have almost a floral sort of taste, simply because the spice elements are used in such small quantities.  They are light enough, and barely sweet–perfect for a bite in the afternoon.  I chose to add a little drizzle of lemon glaze over top of these cookies, just to bring out a little more citrus flavor.  I think these would also be wonderful with a drizzle of chocolate, as well.

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Gluten-Free “Grandma Hanson [Tea] Cookies”

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar (+ more for rolling)
  • 3 eggs (large)
  • 1/2 cup full fat* sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 c + 2 Tbsp white rice flour
  • 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. sweet white sorghum flour
  • 3/4 c. tapioca starch
  • 1/2 c. potato starch
  • 1/4 tsp ground psyllium husk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Optional Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Optional Chocolate Drizzle

  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil (or 1/2 tsp. liquid oil–olive oil, canola, etc)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly with each addition.  Mix in sour cream.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix well.  The wet mix should be similar in consistency to pudding.  In large, separate bowl, whisk together all flours, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, psyllium husk, and xanthan gum.  Add dry mix to wet in two parts, mixing well.  The dough will stick be kind of wet and loose.  It’s okay.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Sticky, slumpy dough is fine!

When ready to bake the next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and remove plastic wrap from dough.  Grease a pan and line with parchment paper.  It will have tightened up a little, but still kinda slump and be pretty sticky for cookie dough.  Again, that is a-okay.   Spread about 1/2 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.  Spoon a scarce Tablespoon of dough into the sugar.  Gently turn the dough until it is coated in enough sugar that you can manipulate the dough.  Roll the dough into a small ball, re-roll in sugar.  Space the cookies 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 13 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, but remove them from the sheet to a cooling rack while still warm.  Cool cookies completely.

Make the drizzle: lemon or chocolate.  For lemon: thoroughly mix powdered sugar and lemon juice into a consistency slightly thinner than frosting.  Spoon into ziploc bag (or piping bag) clip a tiny corner off of the bag and squeeze glaze over cookies.  For chocolate: put chips and oil in microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave in 30 second interval, stirring well in between, until melted.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes.  Spoon into ziploc bag (or piping bag) clip a tiny corner off of the bag and squeeze glaze over cookies. Allow to dry.  Store in airtight containers with layers of parchment or wax paper between the cookies.

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Happy Snow Day!

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