Make your own cookie artifact

This article is posted by permission of the Alexandria Gazette.

Page updated on Dec 13, 2015 at 12:03 PM
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Make your own cookie artifact

December 5, 1996 
by Pamela Cressey

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A cookie decorated as an earthenware pan with slip decoration and pie crust rim at the Alexandria Archaeology Artifact Cookie Workshop. This cookie was made in Alexandria last year; the original artifact was also made here about 200 years ago.
Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology.

The cold and wet weather over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend brought out my baking instinct. Is this a prehistoric urge or just my own desire to be warm and cozy during a blustery day? The winter solstice is approaching. Perhaps there is a need for fire, light and warmth during the darkest time of year.

Many of us have family recipe favorites we can turn to for winter sustenance. They provide nourishment for the soul and body. Do you pull out the recipes which have been passed down over the generations for the holidays? Are you perhaps in the process of creating your own traditions to pass down? Food is fondly remembered, as are the dishes upon which the food is served.

Cookies are some of the most well remembered foods from childhood. The fun of eating small, personal baked goods is a great lure of cookies. There is also a child’s joy in mixing the ingredients (isn’t it magical how separate foods which taste so disgusting can be so marvelous when mixed and baked?) and licking the bowl.

Sugar cookies rolled and cut into shapes are classic favorites of families celebrating Christmas. Our family sugar cookie recipe comes from my mother’s grandmother "GG." Her double G nickname came from the longer name the grandchildren called her, "gollygol." Like many things in my family, we do not know the history of the recipe very well. My mom just wrote on the recipe card what she knew: "This is the recipe we always used for our decorated Christmas cookies."

The cookies are light and delicious, not like the refrigerated dough at the store. Here is Grandma GG’s recipe for you to use if you would like: Combine one well beaten egg, ½ cup sugar, and ½ cup shortening; beat well. Add the dry ingredients into the mixture after sifting them (1 3/4 cups flour, ½ tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt). Also add the liquids (1/4 cup milk and ½ tsp. vanilla). Mix completely. [Note from my childhood: the mixture gets very thick and difficult to blend without a strong wrist.] Chill overnight. Roll the dough out on a floured surface so it is 3/8 inch thick (No kidding! This is the exact measurement specified.) Cut out the cookie shapes you want. Try making your own patterns out of cardboard to represent your family, pets, or favorite heirlooms. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

You are all invited to our Annual Artifact Cookie Decorating Workshop after the Scottish Walk on Saturday, December 7 from noon to 4 p.m. Volunteers have been baking artifact cookies for weeks preparing for the event. Come up to the third floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center and into the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. Select your artifact cookie to decorate and also enjoy looking at the original Alexandria artifacts which the cookies represent. Then embark upon decorating the shape with your own design or copy the original artisan’s pattern. The cookie comes with a tag identifying the real artifact’s date and place of manufacture. Each can be hung as a tree or window ornament and is a great personalized gift.

There are two major differences between Grandma GG’s cookies and our archaeological ones--ingredients and longevity. The artifact cookies have no sugar and lots of salt; they taste terrible and are long lasting--just glue broken pieces together for that authentic artifact look! Call 703-838-4399 for information about the free Artifact Cookie event.