Readers Share Favorite Family Cookie Recipes

Plymouth Magazine readers and staff share their favorite holiday cookie recipes.
Danielle Biers' Peanut Butter Rothies

If asked to summarize your happy holiday memories with a list of words, the list might likely include things like tree, lights, presents, bows, sharing, giving, family, food… and cookies! Who doesn’t anticipate sampling all those decorative, tasty cookies at Christmastime? Whether the cookies are sprinkled or iced, made of ginger dough or are fruit filled, the holidays tend to bring out the fanciful baker and cookie taster in all of us.

For inspiration, a few readers and staff of Plymouth Magazine have provided some of their favorite family cookie recipes. Add these to your recipe box, bake up a batch and continue one of the happiest of holiday traditions around.


Recipe courtesy of Wendy Short-Hays, choreographer for Plymouth Playhouse

“Skeppies were a Christmas favorite in our household—buttery cookies lovingly made by Grandma Emma Skepstrom, who was a family friend. She was a dear heart, had rommegrot [Norwegian porridge] arms for sure and spoke with a Norwegian accent.”


2 cups flour

1 egg yolk

1 cup brown sugar

½ lb. butter


Cream butter and sugar until very creamy. Add egg yolk and mix well. Add flour. Make small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down till very thin with the bottom of a juice glass that has been dipped in flour. Make cross marks with a fork dipped in flour. Bake for 9 minutes in a 400 degree oven, but watch carefully.



Recipe courtesy of Misa Chappell, staff writer

“My mother was a great cook, but she wasn't much for desserts. She hated the finicky precision of baking, and was worried about getting diabetes like her mother and aunts. I do remember her shortbread cookies. Partially because they were delicious, but also because every time she made them, my father would sing the shortbread song all day:

Mammy's little baby loves short'nin', short'nin',

Mammy's little baby loves short'nin' bread

“I don't know why we found it so funny. I looked through my mother's recipe box today, the first time I cracked it since her death last year, and found three different recipes for shortbread. For one of them, she added a note at the bottom: ‘Great—better than Kate Miller’s.’ This is that version.”


¼ cup confectioner's sugar

1/3 cup rice flour

1 2/3 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

1 cup butter


Blend all of the above. Press into a round or square pan and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes or less.

Chappell adds, “The fun thing about shortbread is that you can add all kinds of different flavors to it: almond extract, chocolate chips, orange rind. I have a friend who adds rosemary or thyme with a little salt. They’re divine with cheese!”

 Shortbread, Misa Chapell

Mom’s Molasses Cookies

Recipe courtesy of Drew Jansen, composer/lyricist for Church Basement Ladies and How To Talk Minnesotan: The Musical

“These were my late father's favorites. Grandma Jansen shared the secret formula only after she was thoroughly convinced that mom was indeed the right girl for her oldest child. Mom and Dad had 58 years and 8 days together as husband and wife. I'd say it was a good match.”


¾ cup fat (Jansen’s mom uses a 50/50 mix of butter and margarine)

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 scant cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

1 egg

¼ cup molasses

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. salt

Extra-granulated sugar set aside in a small bowl


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend all ingredients (except the extra sugar) together until well mixed. With a heaping teaspoon of dough, make a small ball (about the size of a walnut). Roll the ball in the extra sugar until completely coated. Place balls about 3 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Do not place directly on a cookie sheet. Dip a small, flat-bottomed glass in the extra sugar and flatten each cookie. If the glass starts to stick, dip it in more sugar.  Cookies will spread, so allow room.

Bake for 10–12 minutes, turning the cookie sheet once or twice during baking to ensure proper doneness. Remove cookie sheet from oven, cooling for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then gently move cookies to wire cooling rack. Makes 5–6 dozen cookies.

Jansen says, “Once completely cool, the cookies should be very crispy and almost translucent. They break very easily, but nobody has complained yet!”

Mom's Molasses, Drew Jansen


Recipe courtesy of Kate McBride, editorial advisory board member

“When I was very young, my great uncle used to talk fondly about Fattigmands, a cookie that his Norwegian mother used to make. While that is an everyday thing for folks in Minnesota, encountering persons of Norwegian descent was much rarer for those of us growing up in Chicago. In those pre-Internet days, my mother searched cookbooks to find this special cookie. I remember her rolling out the paper-thin dough and dropping them into the hot oil, the scent of cardamom filling the house. My great uncle was deeply touched and declared them to be as good as those his mother had made. Needless to say, he received them for Christmas every year thereafter.”


3 beaten eggs

3 Tbsp. cream

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 ½ Tbsp. melted butter

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. ground cardamom seed

¼ tsp. salt

4 ½ to 5 cups sifted flour (McBride recommends starting with 2–3 cups of flour)


Mix together eggs, cream and sugar. Stir in butter, lemon juice, cardamom, salt and 2 cups flour. Mix well. Stir in enough more flour to make a stiff dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Remove 1/4 of the dough at a time and roll out on a lightly floured board until paper thin. Cut into 2-inch diamonds. Cut a slit in the center of each and pull one corner through. Fry in hot deep fat (at 350 degrees) until delicately browned.

After frying, place on a brown paper bag or paper towel to cool. Once cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Makes about 10 dozen.


Peanut Butter Rothies

Recipe courtesy of Danielle Biers, art director

"When ny Grandma Roth first made these in the 1940's, she's use homemade rendered pork fat. Though I've never tasted the original version, this recipe's always a favorite in our family."


1 cup brown sugar

1 cup shortening

2 eggs, well beaten

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup peanute butter

1 tsp. soda

1 cup chopped nuts (Grandma always used walnuts)


Mix all dry ingredients together, adding flour and nuts last. Add shortening and eggs; mix well. Roll the dough into small balls and palce on an ungreased cookie sheet, pressing down with the back of a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.


Grandma Fleischman's Old-fashioned Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing

Recipe courtesy of managing editor, Laura Haraldson

“My mom comes from a family of 15 kid; as such, a trip to Grandma Fleischman's was always a big treat for its bustling activity. At Christmastime, the entire kitchen was filled with rolled dough, half-cut-out gingerbread men, cooling Christmas trees, and icing. Grandma baked simply with staples that guaranteed an excellent product and pure flavors; I've elaborated a bit as spices are more readily available today.”


4 1/2-5 cups flour

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp baking soda

I cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1cup molasses


Whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda. Cream butter and sugar unti light and fluffy; add egg and molasses. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter until blended. Turn dough onto a work surface, and form into equal portions. Roll to desired thickness, and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough into desired shapes. Bake on the middle rack for 12 to 16 minutes or until they to brown on the edges. Cool Completely.


For Piping:

4 cups confectioners' sugar

6 Tbsp. egg whites (pasteurized, or powdered equivalent)

2 Tbsp. warm water

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

For Flooding:

4 cups confectioners' sugar

6 Tbsp. egg whites (pasteurized, or powdered equivalent)

6 Tbsp. warm water

2 Tbsp. lemon juice or extract


Combine all ingredients in a bowl; beat on high for 10 minutes. Note: Use water amounts as starting points, but be prepared to adjust accordingly. When desired consistency is reached, cover immediately or divide into separate airtight containers for coloring.

Grandma Fleischman's Gingerbread Cookies, Laura Haraldson