Great-Grandma Helen’s Peanut Butter Cookies


My kitchen has been off-limits for baking lately because we’ve been keeping the house super clean in case any potential buyers decide to stop in. We’ve decided to sell our house & downsize a bit, which is really exciting and scary at the same time. But I felt like I’d been away from here too long, and got inspired this morning to go ahead and make a mess.

When I imagine peanut butter cookies, I imagine them as palm-sized, fluffy & chewy, slightly salty and VERY peanut-buttery little pieces of heaven. They’re probably my favorite cookies ever, so when I stumbled upon this peanut butter cookie recipe from Great-Grandma Helen’s collection, I knew it would be just the thing to jump back into the swing of this project.

The first thing that worried me was that the base of the cookie is shortening. Shortening sort of yicks me out, and I really don’t like the whole super-awful-for-you nature of it, plus I really love the buttery awesomeness that only butter can provide… But sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the sake of experimentation and historical accuracy, so I pulled out my can of Crisco and got to work. The recipe is super straightforward:

Cream together 3/4c shortening with 1/4c peanut butter.
Add 2c sugar
Add 3 eggs (beaten)
Add 3c flour, 1/4t baking soda, & 1c chopped peanuts.

Place 3/4″ diameter balls on cookie sheet & press flat with a damp cheesecloth stretched over the bottom of a small glass.

So for the first round of baking this rather large batch, I followed the instructions to a T. The only alterations I made to the recipe were adding a pinch of salt, because, really, what cookie doesn’t need salt? It had to be done. And also, since I didn’t have any cheesecloth around, I used the bottom of a sieve to achieve a small gridded pattern that I imagined would come close to cheesecloth.

I always bake cookies on my silpat just for ease of release and saving myself from having to cut parchment, and it worked well for this recipe, but whatever you’ve got is fine.
Because there were no specific cooking instructions, the first batch I just took a wild guess based on other similar recipes and baked them for 5 minutes, rotated the pan, and then about another 6-7 minutes until I started to see a little golden brown around the edges. I let them cool a little while so I could test their texture, and despite the fact they looked perfect and the flavor was lovely, the texture told me immediately they were overdone. The color on the bottom is REALLY subtle, but apparent nonetheless:

The second batch, I brought down to about 10 minutes total, rotating in between, and it seemed much better. Despite the fact there was no color at all on the bottom, they were slightly crunchy on the outside but still chewy on the inside. I smashed half of this round with the traditional cross-hatch fork pattern, too, just to compare. This is the color you want to see on the bottom:

My third and final oven round was doubling the size of the cookies, so going from a tiny ice cream scoop to a larger one, and baking just til the sheen disappeared: approximately 12 minutes. I also sprinkled a tiny bit of kosher salt on the tops of these to give them a little flavor punch. Also I love salt on cookies. So, the size was quite a bit larger, about 1.5″ balls to start with, flattened out to almost palm-sized like this:

I’m not at all used to peanut butter cookies looking anything like this… They are almost white, and sort of have the look of pecan sandies, but when you bite into them — especially the larger, less-cooked version, there’s no mistaking that these are simple & spectacular classic sweets. I think next time, I’ll give this recipe a shot with butter instead of shortening, just to experiment. If you try it that way, let me know how it turns out!

Categories: Easy Peasy, Sweets | Leave a comment

Vegan Fruit (‘n Nut optional) Bread

Okay, so this isn’t a historical recipe, but it tastes as classic as anything, and was just too awesome not to share. It’s so moist and amazing, especially for being relatively healthful! It’s incredibly versatile, and it’s a perfect weeknight ‘hey, I want something sweet but not complicated and nothing that makes me have to go to the grocery store’… Just use what you have on hand; I’ve recommended some substitutions below. This is a great place to start if you’re just getting comfortable with putting your own spin on your favorite recipes.

Based on a recipe from Lois Dieterly’s Sinfully Vegan — an AMAZING resource for vegan desserts. 1 serving of this cake is huge, though, and it only sets you back about 400 calories. I am pretty happy with 1/3 of a serving and a cup of coffee. 🙂


1.5c unbleached white flour
1.5c whole wheat flour
2t ground cinnamon
2t baking soda
1/4t salt
1.5c maple syrup
1 small can (15oz) pureed pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 mashed ripe banana
4t flax powder
1/4c water
1/2c canola oil
1/2c apple sauce
1 large baking apple, peeled, cored, & diced
1c dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins, whatever you have handy)
1/2c nuts (optional)

This recipe is very flexible. If you don’t have flax powder, you could use egg replacer, and if you don’t care if it’s vegan, you can use 2 eggs. If you don’t have pumpkin, you can use more bananas, and vice-versa. If you don’t have applesauce, you can use an extra 1/4c oil or some melted butter. If you love warm spiced things, double the cinnamon and add in some freshly grated nutmeg and/or ground ginger. It would be awesome brightened up with some orange zest and OJ in place of the water. Add in some English Walnuts for some extra omega 3’s, use a higher percentage of whole wheat flour for a heartier version. Use what you’ve got — including your imagination!! — and it’ll still be amazing.

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Grease a large bundt pan (or two small ones) with vegetable shortening or nonstick cooking spray.
  • Combine flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine maple syrup, pumpkin, banana, oil, and applesauce in another bowl. In a small bowl, combine flax powder and water. Add to liquid ingredients and comine.
  • Add diced apple and fruit/nuts to liquid ingredients and stir. Slowly add flour mixture to liquid ingredients, and fold it in slowly, just til combined (don’t stir, don’t overmix).
  • Pour batter into prepared pan(s). If using large bundt, it’ll take about 80 minutes to bake. If using small bundts, it’ll take about 45 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick inserted to the middle of the ring comes out clean. Leave in pan on wire rack for at least 10 minutes before inverting the pans & letting them cool completely on the wire rack before putting away. It’s best within the first 24 hours, but also refrigerates well (in an airtight container) for
    about 4-5 days.
Categories: Breads, Easy Peasy, Sweets | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ruth Henning’s Date Candy

My late mom’s birthday seems like a good day to start something new. So here it is! The Old Kitchen Range’s inaugural post, and our very first success.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I did not expect to adore these like I did.

Ruth Henning was, we think, Great-Great Grandma Ursie’s friend. Or maybe her cousin. We’re not totally sure. She was around the farm in Illinois a lot. There are several recipes in her collection that are labeled (Ruth Henning) or (Ruth H.), so wherever Ruth’s descendants are, we appreciate your Great-Great Grandmother’s contribution to our collection, too.

We have all had that moment: where you take your first bite expecting one thing and experiencing something completely different — and at the same time magical.

This recipe is ridiculously easy. Totally straighforward. Ridiculously good. And did I mention, ridiculously good?

Date Candy (Though it’s more akin to a rice crispie treat with dates in place of marshmallows)

Put 1 stick of butter, 1 c sugar, & 1c dates into a pot, cook till thick, cool, then stir in 2c rice crispies. Shape into pieces (we made mini logs), then roll in powdered sugar. 

That’s it.

They’re beautiful, too, in a rustic sort of way. I can definitely see including these in my holiday cookies or serving them at a party. They are very sweet, with sugar + dates that are already sweet + more sugar on top. Sometime I might work up a healthier version with puffed brown rice and agave, but for now we’ll just enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth butteryness of these little gems.

Categories: Easy Peasy, Sweets | 2 Comments

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