Friday, December 7, 2012
Aunt Chick's Santa Cookies-
I have a special, childhood memory attached to this cookie. My aunt made these every year for all of the grandchildren. This started in the 1950's and she made these cookies with a special cookie cutter called Aunt Chicks. When I married, my aunt bought me an Aunt Chick's cookie cutter and I began the tradition with my kids and now over 50 years later for my grandchildren! They are a labor of love. I have found the orignial 1950's cutters on EBAY and ETSY, but you can purchase them new here. Aunt Chicks Cookie Cutters They use the same original molds as Aunt Chick. You will love them too... the little raisin eyes, the sparkly sugar, the coconut "fur"...
1/2 Cup Butter
3/4 Cup Sugar, Cream butter/sugar
1 Egg, Beaten
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Orange Rind, Mix Vanilla/Rind
2 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Soda
1/4 tsp Salt, Sift dry ingred.
2 1/2 Tablespoons Milk
Cream Softened butter and sugar. Beat 1 egg and add to creamed butter and sugar mixture. Mix the vanilla and orange rind and add to the creamed mixture. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and the salt. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the creamed mixture, using 2-3 Tablespoons of milk. Roll out dough on a floured surface to approx 1/8" thick. Cut out with SPECIAL SANTA CLAUSE COOKIE CUTTER. Bake 375 for 8-10 minutes. Makes about a dozen. These cookies should be thick enough to pick up the imprint of the cutter so that you will be able to decorate. Cookies can be made ahead and frozen for 2 months before decorating.
Decorating the Cookies
1 Box Powdered Sugar
1/2 Stick Margarine, Melted
1 tsp Butter flavor
1 tsp Vanilla
Red Food coloring
Mix icing, add enough hot water while decorating to spreading consistency. Put icing on the red part of Santa's Hat. Sprinkle Res Sugars on. Next ice ball of hat and fur of hat, and beard.
Use a Q TIP and spread egg white that you have colored with red food coloring and paint his cheeks. Use 1/2 raisin dipped in egg white ( not egg white with the food coloring) and stick for his eyes. Sprinkle flaked coconut on his beard. Lastly put a maraschino cherry dipped in egg white for his mouth. Let cool completely. Cookies can be wrapped and re-frozen until ready to use. You may have to call me on this one to borrow my special cookie cutter.
This article was published in our local area about Aunt Chick and the cutters!
Carrie Greno, from the great state of New York, faced a problem. Christmas was right around the corner and the Aunt Chick cookie cutters that had become a tradition in her family were falling to pieces.
Carrie’s grandmother found the kits at a hardware store in the winter of 1949, one of those seasonal items brought in for the holidays. They were sturdy plastic molds of “Santy,” a stocking filled with toys, an angel, a tree, and a star. She filled her basket with five sets, one for each of her daughters.
In the Decembers that followed, the families gathered mixing bowls, dropped in flour, eggs, sugar and vanilla. They’d let the kids help as they mixed the dough, and watch as they formed dozens of Christmas cookies. The kitchens grew cozy with the warmth of ovens and the smell of baking cookies. And for a while, at least, everything in the world seemed right.
When the cutters, which were more like embossed cookie molds, began to wear out in the late 1980s, Carrie’s family tried to save them, using glue at first, and when that failed resorting to dental molds to try to recreate the originals.
Nothing worked. So Carrie began to search for replacements. She eventually tracked down a seller in Tulsa, who had the Aunt Chick “Merry Christmas” set. She bought it on the spot. “I called him up and asked where he’d found them – they hadn’t been in production since the 1970s - and he told me there was a gym teacher in town who had a warehouse filled with 18,000 of them.”
The gym teacher had gotten his stash from Aunt Chick’s granddaughter and intended to sell them to local vendors. Carrie offered him another option: he could sell the whole lot to her.
At the time she was working as a graphic artist and web designer, and hadn’t been looking to switch careers. Her quest had only been to return a part of her family’s tradition. What she’s uncovered was dizzying. She took a deep breath, turned over several sets to her cousins, and then to her cousins’ kids, who were thrilled to have the originals back in their possession.
The question then became: What do you do with the rest of the 18,000 cookie cutters? If you’re Carrie Greno you build a website called grammascutters, take out an ad in Martha Stewart Magazine and hope for the best. “Within three months,” Carrie said, “I’d made my investment back.”
Carrie was now in the cookie cutter business. Something else was going on as well. She was getting to know Aunt Chick’s story. Aunt Chick, whose real name was Nettie McBirney, landed a job with the Tulsa World in 1935, smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression, earning fifteen dollars a week for a cooking column that ran from Tuesday through Saturday.
Nettie should have been celebrating with her husband, and she likely would have, if she’d told him beforehand that she’d applied for the job. According to a story posted on Tulsa’s library site, Sam, who was the vice president of National Bank and Commerce, had a few concerns about his working wife, even though she was using the pen name “Aunt Chick” in the Tulsa World column.
"That crazy woman will start a run on the bank if people think she has to work!" Sam said.
Sam survived, the run on the bank didn’t happen, and plucky Aunt Chick, a former home economics teacher, continued to write. Housewives from across the city clipped her recipes, and followed her directions to a tee.
Soon, Aunt Chick was getting recognized outside the Tulsa area. She toured, showing other cooks the tricks that made her recipes so invaluable. She invented a fail-proof pie tin, developed a cover for rolling pins that kept dough from sticking, and created a new kind of cookie cutter. “Aunt Chick’s was one of the first companies to use plastics in baking products,” Carrie said. “They’re easy to use. The dough pops right out. And they have character. You can dress them up or leave them simple. And they have a little bit of quirkiness, especially the Santa.”
Carrie was soon getting a taste of the success Aunt Chick had enjoyed. The 18,000 cookie cutters didn’t last long. In 2004 she bought the original injection molds that were in a storage unit in Tulsa. “They had to be altered a little bit for today’s assembly lines. But it’s not like I had to reinvent the wheel, and I love that I have them made in America.
“I put a lifetime guarantee on them because they’re quality products. They’re actually stronger than when she made them sixty years ago, and hers lasted forty to fifty years.”
The New Yorker doesn’t know where this adventure will end. Right now, she’s collecting the stories of those who owned the original cookie cutters, and researching Aunt Chick’s rise from local columnist to one of the most respected cooking authorities in the nation.
Before her career ended Aunt Chick had sold her products to the likes of Macy’s and Wrigley’s Gum. Wrigley’s ordered 70,000 of her cookie cutters for one of its nationwide promotions. They sold out in six weeks.
Her most impressive sale, however, happened “across the pond.” In 1952 Princess Margaret bought a set because she wanted her nephew, Prince Charles, to have Aunt Chick’s cookies.
But no matter how successful her business became, Aunt Chick kept a level head, offering straightforward advice she printed and included in her cookie cutter kits. "If you don't follow directions, Heaven help you," she wrote.
Even at ninety, she gave cooking lessons to the staff and residents at her nursing home. She’d often talk about her twenty-year career at the Tulsa World, remarking on her salary of fifteen dollars a week. She’d smile and tell those listening she would gladly have written about good cooking without making a dime.
Today Carrie continues to piece together Aunt Chick’s history. Right now she’s focusing on the Oklahoma cook’s work with a shortening company called Swift & Company. She wonders what her life would be like if she hadn’t found a gym teacher who was holding on to the last of Aunt Chick’s famous cookie cutters. She certainly wouldn’t have found out the story behind the Oklahoma legend. She wouldn’t have gotten the hundreds of calls and letters from people across the country who’ve told her what it means to find the cookie cutters, which are verifiable pieces of family history, stoked in nostalgia, and filled with holiday cheer. “That’s what I wasn’t expecting,” Carrie said, “those stories. People call, sometimes they cry. The stories are of their families, their past, their childhoods. They make Aunt Chick’s cookies and take them to their mother in the nursing home, where she hasn’t seen anything like them in years.
“I can bring back the memories of that time with their families. It’s meant a great deal. That’s worth more than money. And I think Aunt Chick would be proud that I’ve kept that tradition alive.”
Aunt Chick’s Can’t Fail Christmas Cut Outs
• 1 cup butter
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 1/3 cup eggs (1 to 2 eggs, depending on size)
• 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Combine butter, sugar, salt, flavoring and eggs
Beat until smooth and light
Stir in flour
Chill dough for at least 2 hours
Because it is so important to work only with chilled dough for these cookies, we found it best to pat the dough to about 1″ thick, and wrap in waxed paper for chilling. This makes it easy to divide into small portions, also to roll to desired thickness with the least amount of handling.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a pastry canvas and covered rolling pin. Flour both lightly. Now, take out 1/4 or less of the dough. Always keep remaining dough chilled. Roll dough to 1/4″ thickness. Flour inside of cookie completely, but lightly. Tap cutter against hand or table to remove every bit of excess flour, leaving stippled surface with lightest coating of flour possible. Place cutter on dough and press down firmly with fingers all around edges to make sure the entire edge is cut. Slap cutter down on table or cookie sheet and dough will come right out. Wipe inside of cutter with a towel to keep it clean. Flour it each time before cutting. Do not allow small holes in cutter to become plugged.
Bake cookies on cookie sheet 12 to 15 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Remove from cookie sheet and cool thoroughly on cake racks before decorating.
Then comes the decorating! You will need:
• egg whites
• red, yellow, green food coloring (other colors optional)
• red, yellow, green colored sugar (other colors optional)
• small decorating items (raisins, silver balls, etc)
• 1 bag of confectioner’s sugar
• 1 stick butter
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• small, inexpensive paint brushes
Slightly beat egg whites. Divide into 3 cups or small containers. Mix a few drops of food coloring into each – red, yellow, and green. If you can’t buy colored sugar, make your own. Own a piece of waxed paper, add about 1 teaspoon food coloring to 1/4 cup granulated sugar. As it dries, stir with a fork or crumble with fingers. For decorating icing, mix confectioner’s sugar with milk, vanilla extract and butter to desired consistency: a thick paste. Add more milk or sugar to get the right consistency. Dip a paint brush in colored egg yolk and paint the area of the cookie you want to color. Then sprinkle the colored sugar on top of it. Shake off any excess. Use the icing for Santa cookies (beard, eyebrows, rim of hat), Snowman cookies, etc.
Aunt Chick’s cookie cutters are available at Creative Kitchen in downtown Fort Smith and at grammascutters.com.