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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lady Baltimore Cookies

Once upon a time in the first half of the 20th Century there was a popular novel by Owen Wister set in Charleston titled Lady Baltimore. This romantic tome was highly popular among the ladies of Charleston and inspired two to open a tea room called "The Lady Baltimore Tea Room." This tea room became quite famous in its own right serving such delicious treats as the famous Lady Baltimore Cake - a delicious concoction of fruit, nuts, spices, meringue and layers of delicious cake. By the time Charleston Receipts was printed at mid-century it had been adapted into a cookie recipe. While the cookie is a much simpler version, it remains delicious with its heaping assortment of spices, walnuts (or pecans), and raisins.

I decided to give this old recipe shared by Mrs. Gladys Hay Walker in Receipts a go. For added flavor, soaking the raisins in rum makes a nice variation (something not done in the original). The cookie has something of the delicate crispness of shortbread but the use of vegetable shortening in place of butter allows the nut and spice flavors to shine through. It also produces a wonderfully "plump" little cookie instead of a flat blob! The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I found substituting self-rising flour gave these gems a little more oomph! so they could rise a bit and produce a nice texture reminiscent of holiday nut cookies. If you use this option, just delete the salt (but keep the soda for the extra rising power!) A sprinkle of powdered sugar finishes them off or for a more elegant finish drizzle with chocolate or royal icing.

: Lady Baltimore Cookies
: Spiced cookies with nuts and raisins based on a Charleston, SC recipe from the Lady Baltimore Tea Room.
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. clove
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs and mix until combined. Dissolve baking soda in water and add to mixture.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, and spices then add to mixture. Add raisins and nuts and stir and fold into batter until combined and evenly distributed.
  4. Using a medium cookie scoop (or teaspoon) drop onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges just begin to brown and cookies are set. Remove to wire rack to cool.
For an added taste boost, soak the raisins in dark rum until they plump up before using in the recipe.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar for decoration or drizzle with white or dark chocolate for a more elegant finish.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6 dozen cookies
Meal type: snack
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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