One of my Christmas gifts this year was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.  

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

The woman who wrote down the recipes in this book liked quick, easy recipes for flavorful, family-friendly food.  These Molasses Cookies are a good example.  They go together very quickly and a 2-½ inch cookie cutter produces a big 3-½ inch cookie – one is enough in most cases.  The recipe below is one-half of the original.  I really liked this cookie – it is crisp, spicy and very satisfying.


  • Servings: 2-3 doz., depending on size of cutter and thickness of dough
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  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Have ungreased cookie sheets at hand and cookie cutter (I used a 2-½ inch diameter cutter)

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar and molasses.  Add the egg and beat well.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Add the flour mixture gradually to the shortening mixture and mix well.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured board.  This is a nice dough to handle.

Roll 1/8 to ¼ inch thick and cut with a floured cookie cutter.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes until cookies are golden brown on top.

Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size.