My grandparents’ kitchen was the happiest place in my childhood. I spent a lot of time there, especially the year my parents were busy building a house themselves. Cousins from Ireland, Hillary and Camilla, were staying, too, and they taught me Gaelic, words and phrases and childhood rhymes, which I still remember. We had lots of Sunday dinners together, usually the pheasant or fish my grandpa had caught and cooked with plenty of butter and gravy. I loved everything about being in the kitchen and at the table with them. My grandpa always sat at the head of the table with a stick of butter at his side to smear onto farmhouse rolls. I always sat next to my grandma, and felt very lucky. She was a dainty eater with impeccable manners and a quiet manner. We’d eat and then my grandpa would head to his den to watch Benny Hill and enjoy a pipe while my grandma did the dishes by hand and wiped them dry. Sometimes I helped.
In my grandparents’ kitchen, 1971
Since my Norwegian grandfather did the lion’s share of the cooking, I can only remember my grandma making a handful of things: potato salad, lemon meringue pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and these ginger cookies. Oh, they were all so good! This is the only recipe I have of hers, and I still get a little teary every time I bake these cookies. She was so very dear to me.
These cookies are chewy and soft and very flavorful. They are a simple, homey cookie—they aren’t the fanciest girl at the party—but they have a little sparkle. And unlike Pfeffernusse and Lebkuchen, which can be an acquired ginger cookie taste, these cookies seem to appeal to everyone. (One of my son’s friends mistook a Pfeffernusse for a brownie last year and now, I fear, suffers from a case of cookie apprehension.)
Sweet sweet Rachel came to bake with me and have tea, and stayed to help with the pictures, too. Lucky me.
Music for baking my Irish Grandma’s Ginger Cookies:
The Chieftain’s The Bells of Dublin
This recipe is part of the Cookie Baking and Candy Making Plan for Christmas 2010 (here).
Ginger Cookie Tips
I would usually substitute butter for a cookie that called for shortening, but I make these exactly the way my grandma did. The shortening acts to keep the cookies’ dainty shape. Substituting butter would produce a richer cookie with nice flavor that spreads rather than puffs.
You may also make larger cookies. Simply increase your oven temperature to 375 degrees and your baking time by about two minutes.
Grandma Fladeboe’s Ginger Cookies
Yield: about 70 small cookies
1 ½ c. shortening
2 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ c. molasses
4 large t. baking soda
4 c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
2 scant t. ground cloves
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- In an electric mixer, cream the shortening and the sugar.
- Add the eggs and molasses and beat.
- Sift together the dry ingredients and add them, mixing only until they are incorporated.
- Roll the dough in the palms of your hands into balls the diameter of a quarter.
- Dip them into sugar and place them, sugar side up on a baking sheet.
- Bake nine to ten minutes and take them out of the oven while they are still puffy.
*Storage tips here.
Nollaig Shona duit. Siochan leat. Oiche mhaith, codladh samh. Mo mhíle grá.