By Lisl Unterholzner
The Gasparilla Cookbook will be turning 50 this year. Dave Kempf, the President of FRP Books, pointed out recently that not many cookbooks are still in print at 50 years old. This historic book contains a wealth of cherished family recipes. The recipe I tested today, however, isn’t one of them.
Last year, as part of the development of Capture the Coast, I spent a good deal of time going through the Gasparilla Cookbook. Since we wanted Capture the Coast to reflect the culinary traditions of our area, what better source? That’s when I discovered, to my great wonder and amazement, my grandmother, Mildred Lewis, was credited with two recipes in the Gasparilla Cookbook.
Mildred, “M” as she is affectionately known, is an amazing woman and I am proud to be her granddaughter. Although it’s not polite to discuss a lady’s age, she is approaching nine decades on this Earth, and still driving, gardening and in her own home. But spending hours in the kitchen baking is not one of her favorite activities, so to see her name in this venerable old cookbook in the dessert section was a surprise.
I give my grandmother credit for this: when The Junior League of Tampa asked for recipes, she found a few, by golly. When I first read through one of her submissions, Marmalade Cookies, I was curious enough to ask about it, but not brave enough to make it. She said it was given to her by a friend, and not of her own creation, which I took to be a good sign. Today I decided that the time had come to give her friend the benefit of the doubt, and my daughters and I made the Marmalade Cookies.
- 1½ cups flour
- ¼ teaspoon soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup shortening
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ orange marmalade
- Nuts if desired
Sift flour, soda and salt together. Cream shortening; add egg, sugar, dry ingredients, then marmalade. Drop from teaspoon into greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.
It seemed pretty simple, with not a lot of ingredients. The one thing I did differently was to cream the butter (not shortening) and sugar together before adding egg, etc. To keep the little ones busy, we made the batter by hand, using a potato masher to cream the butter.
And voila! Just as advertised, 12 minutes later, we had cookies. Keeping a 3- and a 5-year-old away from freshly-baked cookies wasn’t easy, but we managed to avoid any burned fingers.
I gave them each a small bite at first, since their previous encounter with orange marmalade had not been a happy one. Surprisingly enough, in cookie form it’s a hit. The cookies do taste strongly of marmalade, but the bitterness is mostly covered up. As suggested in the recipe, I topped one sheet of cookies with walnut pieces, and that’s the version I prefer. The walnut flavor hits you first, followed by a more subtle orange flavor. These would be particularly good with tea, and my kids are happy to have them (without nuts) for a snack. With how tender the cookies are and how simple, I would also consider trying other types of jelly if marmalade isn’t your thing.
I would venture to guess that my grandmother has never made these cookies. We have no holiday memories attached to this recipe. But I can recommend them as an easy and flavorful cookie, and a good way to spend time in the kitchen with the ones you love.