Hey, there! I'm Sarah A. Chrisman, the author of the Tales of Chetzemoka, and today I'm going to show you how to make coasting cookies, which is a recipe that originally appeared in an 1875 cookbook, and is very popular with the members of the cycling club in my series. Kitty's always making them, and they're the ones she brings to Ken when he dislocates his elbow in A Rapping At The Door, they're also the ones that Ken and Felix are fighting over in Love Will Find A Wheel, and they pop up in Delivery Delayed, too, so you'll find the recipe in the backs of all these books. They're very tasty.
The recipe for coasting cookies, which originally appeared in an 1875 cookbook and is reprinted in a number of my stories, runs:
"One pound of flour
Eight ounces of butter
Half a pint of molasses
One tablespoonful of soda, beaten very hard in the molasses
One tablespoonful of coriander seed and of caraway, pounded in a mortar
Ginger to taste
Soften the butter, stir in the molasses, ginger, seeds and flour, roll thin, cut and bake in a quick oven
The first step of any baking project is getting the oven warmed up, and in my particular case that means lighting the stove. Our stove is a Charm Crawford size 7. This was a little smaller than the most popular models of stoves in the late nineteenth-century, but it is the biggest stove that would fit in our kitchen. There's a patent plate on one side which tells us the company started making this model on July 15, 1879, then updated their model a number of times. Our particular stove was manufactured in 1901, and later refurbished by a Rhode Island company called the Antique Stove Hospital.
My stove has three different dampers to control the air flow. You can see two of them here, and the other is controlled by a knob at the back of the range. Adjusting these dampers controls how much oxygen is getting to the fire, and how much heat is being directed towards the stove rather than up the chimney. When I light the stove, all the dampers are fully open to give the kindling enough oxygen to get going, then once the main log's caught I slide the range damper to the "bake" setting.
Now to mix up the cookies!
In America, butter is generally sold as quarter-pound sticks, so the eight ounces called for in this recipe translates easily as two sticks. Most historical recipes, this one included, were written assuming that the cook would use salted butter, because salt has historically been an important preservative. One of the really handy things about using a woodstove is that the warming shelf makes it really easy to soften the butter when I make cookies.
As soon as the baking soda gets added to the molasses it's going to start a chemical reaction, so it's best to grind up the coriander and caraway and have them ready before we do that. Bringing out the spices is a good reminder that everything in the world has its own endless layers of backstories, and there's always more to discover about even the simplest of things. Archaelogists have found coriander seeds from over two thousand years ago in the old middens left behind by Roman legionaries. The Ancient Romans also enjoyed flavoring things with caraway. By medieval times, not only was caraway still being used as a seasoning throughout Europe, but it was also recommended for alleviating dyspepsia. Maybe Nurse McCoy should see to it that Silas gets some of these cookies!
When the recipe calls for "ginger to taste" it means just that: you can add however much you like according to your particular taste. Personally, I add one tablespoonful of ginger, so it matches the coriander and the caraway. It makes it nice and well-rounded that way.
Half a pint of molasses is one cup, so that's nice and easy. And then when you add in the baking soda, you really do want to beat it good and hard, because baking soda is going to react with the molasses and that chemical reaction is actually what's going to make your cookies rise. You'll know the reaction is happening when the molasses starts to turn a really pretty caramel color —that shows you you've beaten it enough. And then, you just add the butter, and the spices, and the flour. And, by the way: one pound of flour is about 3 1/3 cups. Mix it all up together, and your cookies are almost ready. I usually start stirring with a spoon, and then when it gets too stiff to to do any more stirring with a spoon I switch to my clean hands.
Now, the original recipe for these tells you to roll them out: that will give you a nice crisp cookies. Personally, I prefer soft cookies; and since this is my own private kitchen and not a sound set somewhere and I'm going to be the one to eat these, and not some faculty members, because I don't have any faculty backing me up [laughs] I'm going to make them soft like I like my cookies. And to do that, instead of rolling them out, I'm going to roll them into little balls. You can make them either way, crisp or soft. Wonderful thing about making your own cookies is you get to make them the way you like them!
I usually roll them into little balls about —a little bit bigger than— the average walnut.
A quick oven is around 375 degrees, or as close as you can get your oven; and the bake times in historical recipes are usually pretty vague because it's hard to keep a wood-burning stove at exactly one temperature for a specified period of time so there's going to be a lot of variation. Usually I find that these are done in about 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. And in a woodstove of course, or a stove that has its heat more on one side than another, you want to remember to turn it halfway through.
Those look done to me!
So there I have my coasting cookies, just like my friend Kitty's always making. I hope she approves of them. I hope you liked this video. If you did, please give it a nice thumbs up, and remember to tell your friends about my books so they can enjoy the recipes, too. Happy reading!