Seemingly, my grandmother saved everything. We always knew she was a bit of a pack rat. Remember when I found the untouched, still-in-plastic Sunbeam mixer? I’ve also got some of her vintage jadeite in perfect condition. So we knew she liked to keep things, and she definitely was the queen of saving things, and some of that was inherited by me & my mom (albeit in much weaker forms). But since she passed away, we’ve found some fantastic things in her dressers & desk drawers. Things that hadn’t been touched in 40-something years, unblemished by time. Things like one of her wedding invitations, my great-aunt & great-uncle’s wedding thank you & photograph, birthday cards from the late 1950’s and more. One of my personal favorites of all the things I found; untouched, unused matchbooks with my grandparents’ photos on them from the supper clubs they went to in the ’40’s and ’50’s. So spiffy. They just don’t do things like that anymore.
So one day back in August I went to meet my friend Brianne for coffee at Starbucks, and while I was gone, my mother was busy sorting through some of my grandmother’s things. She opened a drawer and underneath a stack of miscellaneous papers, found a Family Circle magazine from December 1963. In almost perfect condition, mind you.
As a matter of fact, some magazines I subscribe to currently arrive at my house in worse shape than this magazine is in. Of course, my mother texted me, knowing I’d love it & appreciate it more than most. I have no idea why my Nana saved it- there aren’t any pages folded over, or recipes circled. There aren’t any notations made and just flipping through it I didn’t see anything that I’d say was definitely something she’d have saved it for. But I’m certainly glad she did.
One of the first things I thought of when my mother gave it to me was “HOLY SHIT THIS IS AWESOME!” I love vintage everything & anything, from pretty much any time period (except the 1970’s- that was just a dreadful time, for clothes, music, everything). The color of the magazine was still so bright, it was almost as if it was printed this month. And the ads! I felt like I was getting a firsthand lesson in Don Draper‘s Mad Men school of advertising. Amazing.
The second thing that came to mind (other than, “They spell cookie with a ‘y’?”) was that nothing in this world is in fact ever “new.” The funny thing is that so much of the crafts or recipes in this magazine are just slightly different versions of things that I’ve seen very recently in not just Family Circle, but Better Homes & Gardens and also in Martha Stewart‘s Living. Like those wreaths! Hello, Martha, I see you taking those ideas from 1963!
And finally the third thing I thought was, “I wonder if there are any interesting recipes?” I knew that I wouldn’t be making anything from it for a few months, so after looking through it I put it aside in a safe place and waited until Christmas was closer before taking it out again. And whaddaya know… that’s NOW! I unearthed it once again & like I said a few days ago, I was immensely inspired by the awesome retro-ness of it. I decided I’d make one of the cookie recipes, and because they’ve always given me shit… I settled on their version of thumbprint cookies, using my homemade strawberry jam, among others, as the fillings.
So may I present to you the 1963 Family Circle version of ‘thumbprint cookies’… Ring-A-Lings!
RING-A-LINGS (from December 1963 Family Circle, adapted slightly by yours truly)
- 1 cup sifted flour
- dash of salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- assorted jams & jellies of your liking
- Sift flour and salt onto waxed paper or foil.
- Cream butter and sugar until well-blended in a medium sized bowl; stir in dry ingredients, half at a time, blending well to make a soft dough; stir in pecans and vanilla. Chill several hours, overnight, or until firm enough to handle.
- Roll dough, a teaspoonful at a time, into marble-size balls between palms of hands; place 2″ inches apart on greased cookie sheets or cookie sheets covered in parchment.
- Make a hollow in the center of each with thumb or end of a wooden spoon; fill with about ½ teaspoon jelly/jam. Bake in a slow oven (300°) for 20 minutes, or until they’re starting to turn very slightly golden but not totally. Remove from cookie sheets and cool completely on wire racks.
*I omitted this ingredient completely
To quote Family Circle:
Here’s another buttery-good cooky that can be made as much as two weeks ahead. To store, layer with waxed paper or transparent wrap between; cover.
Side note: if you’re going to be making cookies, get cooling racks. Do not let your cookies cool on the pan! They will get mushy on the bottom & the texture will change. You need that air circulation to properly cool them. Of course, it’s recommended for cupcakes & cakes too, but I find it’s especially important with cookies.
Anyway re: the recipe, I changed a few things, one being the ingredient list included not unsalted butter but “butter or margarine.” So I changed it to what I thought was better baking-wise & flavor-wise. Also, they only mentioned a greased cookie sheet, but I prefer to use parchment myself, so I added that. I like my baking sheets to stay clean & my cookies to not stick, so parchment paper is my BFF. I’d also chill my dough for a bit next time before using, just so they kept a nicer shape. Last but not least… I’d make my indents or “thumbprints” bigger & deeper next time; the wooden spoon trick I included above was what I did, and while it was one I’d read in quite a few cookbooks, aesthetically, the cookie to filling ratio isn’t what I’d like. *big, long, dramatic sigh*
On that note, I will state here for the record that thumbprint cookies are not my jam (pun intended). I can’t quite get them to look as perfect as I’d like, ever. That’s what I meant by they give me shit. I can make the most complicated cake or cookie with no problem, but give me something simple & I can’t get it right. However in the interest of 1960’s baking research, I plodded on ahead & finished the batch instead of getting irritated & stopping. I also experimented with a variety of my homemade jams & jellies as filling; the best was the strawberry jam by far. Fig jam just melted into nothing, the cherry preserves pretty much absorbed itself into the cookie like a dark red stain leaving just a sad lump of cherry and the tea jelly stayed really nicely in shape, but the color was kinda meh. I didn’t even photograph them because they weren’t worth it. I didn’t want to open more jars unnecessarily but I was indeed curious about using my mint jelly & also perhaps making some lemon curd & using that. Next time! The strawberry jam & mint jelly would’ve looked so cute. And next time, I WILL make them look perfect. If it kills me. Not to get all Black Swan about it but seriously. It’s frustrating.
Although despite that- they were amazing! Everyone loved them. Of course I had to wrap ’em up in my little jars to give away!
I used an old Christmas stocking pin & some pretty sheer green ribbon & it’s amazing how just doing that can dress up any old jar & make it look so cute. Plus, using old pins or brooches is a great idea because long after the cookies are gone, the recipient can wear it. Or at least see it & think of you & your delicious cookies! Another awesome idea is hanging an ornament off of the jar, so they can use it on their tree after the jar is empty.
And on that note… let the holiday baking begin!