04 December, 2014

12 Days of Christmas, Day 4: Sally Ann Cookies

My Momma has talked about these cookies for years, and never made them.  I'm not exactly sure WHY, but I believe it MAY have something to do with the fact that cutting these babies out involves going to the store and purchasing....SPAM.  

**'Scuse me while I gag over here in the corner and tell a story.**

(Yeah, I am from Minnesota and I am loyal to my state to a fault, but by golly...SPAM is a whoredom that just never should have existed.  Ever.  I ate this concoction multiple times while growing up and I'm sure you can figure out why.  Just like lutefisk...it is "tradition".  Or something.  All I know is my father used to cube up a "loaf" of SPAM, a block of medium cheddar, and some white onion then mix it with 3 parts mayo to 1 part mustard and toss in a dash of garlic powder and black pepper...then, spoon it onto bread and bake it under the broiler in the oven.  I ate it...and loved it.  That is, until I learned what SPAM was made out of.  Good Lord!...never ate it again.  Not with SPAM.  I made it once with cubed up organic smoked ham and it was pretty great, but still...that is tons of processed food lobbed onto a slice of bread.  Not a recommended healthful meal on a regular basis...)  

*Back to the baking...*

Needing a SPAM can to make these cookies may stop a lot of folks, but hey...guess what, you can throw it away lol...  That's what I did.  Had the Mister go to the Dollar Tree and look for SPAM....or something shaped like it and that's what he came home with.  Something shaped like it.  It gets the job done.

There isn't much of a history that I could find on these, just old recipes in the "Pine to Prairie" cookbooks that my parents gave to me for Christmas the year I got married.  They were written around the time I was born.  My step father's dad worked for MA Bell back in the day and that's how these cookbooks were compiled, recipes made by folks in Minnesota and North Dakota.  So we're talkin' tons of Scandinavian, German, and Native American eats here.  You wouldn't believe how many recipes there are for things to do with wild rice.  Yeah...grass.  200 ways to cook it, who knew...  But, lurking in those pages are also about 4-7 recipes for the cookies my Momma reminisces over, Sally Anns.  She and my Auntie Tari both remember these cookies and remember that they weren't around every year, but they were a beloved addition every time they showed up.  

Those were the days before stand mixers and most likely before EVERY single farming house had a fridge.  For those two reasons, I can see how these would maybe not be made every year.  They require you to whip the frosting until it is the consistency of marshmallow creme and you have to refrigerate the dough before you are able to roll it out without making a mess.  This dough is naturally egg free, so don't read it and think I left them out on accident.  For those of those that don't drink coffee...you'll need to find some somewhere for these cookies.  It is necessary.  I found that it really brought out the molasses flavor in a distinct way.  The traditional recipes call for lard and that is what I use.  I would NOT recommend using butter in this recipe.  These cookies puff and spread plenty with the lard involved, if you use butter...the shape will be lost almost entirely.  Trust me lol...

Sally Anns
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. lard
2 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. molasses
1/4 c. strong coffee (I used 1/4 tsp. instant espresso in water!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of cloves

In a large mixing bowl cream together the lard and the sugar.  Beat on medium high speed until the mixture lightens a bit in color and looks fluffy and creamy.  Add in the remaining ingredients, blend well and wrap it up in wax paper and toss it in a ziploc to cool for a minimum of 3 hours.

When you're ready to make the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Use parchment paper on each cookie sheet or grease them all.

Roll the dough out to roughly 1/4 inch in thickness on a floured surface and cut the cookies out with a SPAM shaped can.

Every time you cut a cookie with the can, dip it in flour again before cutting out another cookie.  It is absolutely necessary that you do this.  NO!...shhh....just do it!

 Now...the can you see in the picture above is smaller than a typical SPAM can, even though it is identical in shape.  This made the cookies a more sane size for eating.  The traditional SPAM can is a good 1/2 inch larger than the can shown in the photo, so with spreading, a couple of those cookies could end up being half a meal.  No bueno.  This smaller can proved to be a boon in that regard.

Bake the cookies 8 to a sheet for 16-18 minutes, watching each pan carefully because rolling thickness will vary and some sheets may complete before others.  Watch your cookies, people...

While you're baking those off, in a medium sized sauce pan begin making the frosting.

1 c. sugar
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (I used Knox)
1 c. cold water
2-3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla paste or vanilla extract

Stir together the sugar and the gelatin in the sauce pan, then add the cup of cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, then reduce to a simmer.  Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes uncovered.  I recommend stirring at least once every minute.  In the bowl of your stand mixer dump in your bag of powdered sugar.  When the sugar/gelatin sauce is ready, pour it into the stand mixer bowl and with your whisk attachment on, whip the SNOT out of that stuff on 9 for about 15-20 minutes.  I just put my timer on and walked away (the high pitched tone just killed me...).  When it resembles marshmallow creme in consistency and color, add in the vanilla while still whipping and just whip until the vanilla is incorporated.  Turn out into a room temperature bowl (heat will ruin the frosting!!) and cover it tightly with plastic wrap until you're ready to frost the cookies.

When the cookies are completely cooled frost the BACK of the cookies (yeah, the side that was on the pan when you baked them...) and allow the frosting to set.  Then store them in an airtight container and enjoy.

These cookies are just as fabulous as my aunt and my momma made them out to be.  I've always been a molasses lover, but these are a "growed up" (as we'd jokingly say) version of my favorite crackle top molasses cookies.  The addition of the frosting really makes these cookies sing.  The cookie by itself is "okay" but the frosting really gives them the extra push that they need to take you over the edge and fall in love.  I hope you'll give them a chance...even if you have to buy a can of SPAM lol...  Its worth the trouble.

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