There are few tests as reliable as leaving a batch of warm cookies on the counter and finding them gone an hour later.
The taste testers in this house love these simple chewy bites of buttery goodness. They require nothing but pantry staples. Even better, cooks who hate cleaning up will be happy to know this one requires only one pot.
I’d suggest their inclusion in your first spring road trip or picnic—chances are, they won’t make it that far. For that, you can thank one of my favourite baking sources, writer and philanthropist Edna Staebler.
Edna Staebler lived until she was 100, making food like these butterscotch squares into Canadian classics. Her writing on “jolly, creative cookery” earned her thousands of admirers and shone a light on the heritage of the Mennonite pioneers who came to Waterloo County, Ontario in 1800.
Throughout the county, recipes were generously swapped and invented till a way of cooking developed that is unique and indigenous to this heaven-blessed area that rejoices in its cultivation, preparation and tranquil digestion of irresistibly good-schmecking(tasting) food.
-Edna Staebler, author, Order of Canada recipient
Simplicity, economy and experience are the keynotes of Mennonite cooking, Staebler writes, in the first of her series of cookbooks, Food that Really Schmecks, and there’s no better example than these cookies.
I was first introduced to these books as a very green baker, eager to pore through my mothers’ cookbook collection.
Since then, I’ve baked up Staebler’s many pies, cakes and cookies collected from her family and friends “little old black-covered notebook with the handwriting faded and often obscured by splashes of butter and fat.” Staebler had no directions, just vague instructions for most of these copied recipes, and only included them in her books after committed trial and error.
That, friends, is dedication from where I stir, mid-project as I am.
Forgive me, please, if you find some of my directions inadequate. If you test and taste for yourself, you might achieve something fantastic; anyway you’ll have fun and a feeling of enthusiastic adventure-integral components of Waterloo County cookery.
Contemporary bakers can’t get away without explicit instructions so here’s my key note: this one needs the nuts. I don’t suggest you leave them out, as I often do in other recipes.
(adapted from Food that Really Schmecks)
What you need:
¼ cup (½ a stick) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup chopped walnuts
What you do:
Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease an 8 inch square baking dish.
Melt butter and brown sugar in medium pot, stirring over medium heat until well blended.
Remove from heat and cool a few minutes.
Add egg and beat well.
Add flour and baking powder, then vanilla and nuts.
Spread dough in baking dish and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Look for a shiny golden colour across the top and don’t worry if they appear too soft. The cookies get crispier as they cool.
Cool on rack 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
I’m fairly certain the instinct to bake up these gems came after picking up some vintage cloth from the One of Kind Craft Show earlier this month.
I’m making up my version of Staebler’s rhubarb pie this week. If you want to see the results, sign up for my newsletter. I’d love you to join my table.