That may seem like a presumptuous title; after all, everyone thinks their cookies are the best, right? But I have yet to come across another recipe that evokes the responses this one does: I made them this week, and after one bite a guest asked if I would give his wife the recipe! I’ve had people groaning with pleasure after the first bite, and they’re seriously addictive, as light as air, and melt-on-your-tongue delicious.
But what makes these cookies so special to me personally is the story behind them: My paternal grandmother, Mary Mae Herring-Higbee, was a Kansas farmer’s wife; she crossed the prairies with her parents in a covered wagon around 1902 as a baby, and they settled in the wild prairies of Kansas, where she met my grandfather and set up house. She lost seven or eight children before my father came along when she was 40, and he remained an only child. She was a no-nonsense pioneer, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in a town so small that if you were driving through it at 10 miles an hour and sneezed, you’d miss it (really). These were her cookies. When she was baking these even the air was edible they smelled so good, and I burnt my tongue on several occasions because I couldn’t wait for them to cool to take the first one.
Being the simple farmer’s wife she was however, she figured everyone knew how to make these so she never wrote the recipe down, and took it to the grave with her. One day as a teenager I determined to figure out the recipe before it faded from my memory, and spent all day trying to find the secret ingredient and combination that makes them melt on the tongue. I was at the end of my rope, batches of failed (but very good) cookies up to my eyeballs, when in walked my brother, hands stuffed into his pockets. “Watchyadoin’?” When I told him, he casually tasted a cookie and said, “You don’t have any applesauce in ’em” and walked to his room. I didn’t know whether to strangle him or hug him.
So without further ado:
Kansan Farmer’s Cookies
1 tsp. baking soda + 2 Tbs. hot water; disolve soda in water
1 tsp. baking powder
1 C. melted butter (or oil of choice)
¾ C. brown sugar
¾ C. white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. each of vanilla & almond extracts
2 C. + flour*
1 C. raisins (light or dark)*
~1 C. chocolate chips*
3/4 can (average size) apple sauce – should be added until it lightens the dough colour & texture; not drippy, but light and viscous.
Drop onto a baking sheet by the spoonful, far enough apart (they will spread a bit while baking). Bake @ 190°C for 10 minutes, or until glazed light brown. While they’re still hot remove to a cooling rack with a spatula that’s large enough for the cookie – they’re especially soft while warm.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen palm-sized cookies.
* If you toss the raisins and chocolate chips in the flour before adding to the liquid ingredients, it prevents them from sinking to the bottom during the baking process.