Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Heinz Ketchup. Mister Rogers. The Carnegie Libraries. These are just a few of Pittsburgh's great innovations. Equal to any of them is the Cookie Table.
You'll find a Cookie Table at nearly every Pittsburgh wedding--a proflitude of shapes, flavors, and textures. Relatives and friends compete to bring the best cookie. Wise old women hide carry-out containers in their handbags so they can take cookies home. My niece's wedding album has more photos of the Cookie Table than of the cake (the lower-case "c" for the cake is intentional).
Pittsburgh Christmases often involve a smaller (but no less elaborate and varied) version of the Cookie Table. Every year, my sisters and I return to Route 19 on December 25, bearing as many cookies as our roll-aboards can stow.
This year, I'll share my Cookie Table on this blog, as I bake.
The earliest batches must freeze well and store compactly, so I always start with bars and sturdies.
That's what Marilla kept in the pantry at Green Gables, too. For Anne's memorable tea-party, Marilla allowed her to "cut some fruit-cake and have some of the cookies and snaps."
So yesterday I set dried fruit to steep in brandy for fruit-cake bars. And I made a double batch of


I have two dear friends named Judy. One writes on this blog; the other copied this recipe out for me from her vintage Milwaukee Settlement Cookbook. The original recipe doesn't use allspice or nutmeg, and it calls for shortening. I use butter, so my cookies spread flatter and carry a subtle caramel smoothness alongside the "snap."

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 generous pinch allspice
  • 1 tiny pinch nutmeg
  • Extra sugar for dipping
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in. Chill. Form walnut-sized balls and roll them in the extra sugar. Bake 2" apart on greased, light-colored sheets at 350 for 10-12 minutes. (Dark sheets bake cookies faster.) Remove after cookies collapse and start to wrinkle, but before they brown on the bottom. Cool on sheet for 2 minutes before removing to rack. Store airtight in freezer, or in tins. Makes about 5 dozen.

LIFE'S LESSONS LEARNED: When chilling dough, I use snap-top containers, and bag the containers in plastic. Fussy, perhaps. But tuna-garlic infused cookies don't "go" in my fambly.


  1. Yum, Susan. My family loves ginger snaps too, so these will be added to our holiday Christmas table.

    I'd never heard of the Wedding Cookie Table until I moved to Pittsburgh 20-some years ago - but now it's my favorite wedding tradition of all. I've already told my gluten-free daughter she can do everything for her wedding her way when the time comes - except there WILL be a cookie table (with plenty of tasty gluten-free ones for her - I keep finding good GF cookie recipes). Thanks for this recipe, and I'm looking forward to the others.

  2. To cookie recipe sound great, Susan. To me, the Christmas holidays would not be complete unless I've baked a cookie to share or eat. (No rhyme intended.)

  3. Upon moving to Pittsburgh I immediately fell in love with the cookie table. Thanks for another recipe to add to my collection!