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Cookies Of Verona: Gingerbread Snowflakes

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When MyVeronaNJ.com put out the call for holiday cookie recipes, the first one we got was from Barbara Misrendino. It pointed us to a recipe for “Gingerbread Snowflakes” that had appeared in a 2002 issue of the (alas) now defunct Gourmet magazine.

The spices and sugars are heated on the stove and bubble up when you add the baking soda.

“These are soft gingerbread cookies that can be decorated either with decorating icing or I’ve also used M&M’s,” Misrendino wrote us. “My family loves the taste of these cookies and can’t wait till they come out of the oven.  I make them other times of the year using different cookie cutters.”

Just reading the recipe was appealing: It’s packed with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and alspice–and lots and lots of butter. Two sticks of butter to be exact, and more for the greasing the cookie sheet.

The dough turns a lustrous caramel color after kneading.
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But as I read the recipe again, something seemed familiar.  It wouldn’t have been unusual if I had baked it from Gourmet: I had a subscription from just after I graduated college to its demise.  But that wasn’t it.

Then, when I started to stir the ingredients together on the stove, it hit me. I knew this smell and I knew where it came from. This was a Swedish cookie that my grandmother had made, and often. My maternal grandmother was German, not Swedish, but she married a Swede and lived in one of the more Swedish neighborhoods of Minneapolis. What Gourmet called “Gingerbread Snowflakes” are Pepparkakor, and I hadn’t had them in ages: My grandmother died more than 20 years ago.

Grandma would have approved (I hope)

The recipe (which we can only link to because it is copyrighted to Gourmet) calls for cutting the cookies out with snowflake-shaped cutters. So since Barbara said she makes them at other times of the year, as my grandmother did, I used a flower, a hand and a pig cookie cutter. Pig-shaped treats made of marzipan are a German Christmas tradition, so the cookies felt just right.

And as I ate one (OK, two or three), I thought of Margaret Rau Saf, an extraordinary baker and a frugal cook who knew how to make the best of whatever was at hand and feed a lot of people in the process. Thanks, Barbara, for letting me have another Christmas with my grandma.

Waiting to be iced

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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