Oftentimes, the best recipes are the ones passed down from generation to generation, from family to friends. My dear friend Joyce was kind enough to share her favorite childhood cookie recipe with me. Her grandmother made them for her when she was just a little mouse. They’re simple and straightforward to make—and waaaaay too easy to inhale.
Here’s part of the original, typewritten recipe from Joyce’s grandmother, Helen Blatchford Parlee, circa 1948.
This cookie is marvelously chewy, and gets its rich, butterscotch-y flavor from a hefty amount of brown sugar and vanilla extract.
What’s a refrigerator cookie?
You know those tubes of slice-and-bake cookie dough that are right by the eggs in almost every major market? Think of refrigerator cookies as their old-fashioned, made-from-scratch auntie.
I love refrigerator cookies because they’re so convenient. I mean, talk about having fresh cookies on command. Just make the dough, roll it up in wax paper, toss it in the fridge, then slice and bake as the mood strikes you!
The dough will stay fresh for about a week or so in the fridge. If it lasts, that is.
Shortening vs. butter
Now, normally, I’m an all-butter kind of gal when I bake. Sometimes, I even use olive oil. That said, there’s definitely a time and place for vegetable shortening—or lard, for that matter (hello, flaky pie crusts!).
When do use it, I usually buy Crisco in its relatively newfangled stick form, because it’s really easy to measure and store. If you don’t want to deal with shortening, substitute butter in this recipe.
A stick of Crisco shortening, cut in half
Make the dough at least a few hours before you want to bake the cookies, because it needs time to chill and firm up before slicing.
Joyce’s Butterscotch Refrigerator Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp. vanilla
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Make the butterscotch cookie dough
Put the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
Mix them together with a whisk to combine.
Put the shortening in the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, if you’re using a hand-held mixer). Beat it on medium-high for a few minutes to fluff it up.
You want it to look about like this:
Scrape down the sides of your bowl with a spatula.
Toss in the brown sugar.
Beat the brown sugar and shortening together for a few minutes until well combined.
Add the egg and vanilla extract.
Beat on medium-high to combine well.
Add in the flour mixture.
Beat quickly to combine well. Stop mixing when the dough just comes together and all the flour is mixed in. If you beat it too long, it can make the dough tough.
Chill the butterscotch cookie dough
When the dough is made, you’re ready to chill it. Grab a piece of wax paper that’s maybe a foot-and-a-half long and set it on your counter.
Spoon the dough out into the center of the wax paper.
With your hands, form it into a log that’s about 2 inches in diameter, give or take.
Pull one edge of the wax paper over it, like this:
Wrap the paper around the dough tightly and roll it up.
When it’s rolled up, twist the ends tightly.
Pop it into the fridge for at least a few hours to firm up the dough.
Slice and bake the cookies once the dough is cold
After a few hours, your dough should be nice and firm. (If you don’t let it firm up, it will be really hard to slice.)
When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Unwrap the dough and slice off as many cookies as you want to bake. Slice them about a quarter-of-an-inch thick or so.
Space the cookies out on your prepared sheet pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
You want the cookies to be just golden brown.
The bottoms will look like this:
Let them cool on the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
If you’re inclined, these cookies would make amazing ice cream sandwiches.