The Shopper Kitchen: Sweet new cookies from a sweet old cookbook

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By Angela McRae, The Shopper Kitchen

Do you like to try new cookie recipes? I do. I’m sure we all have our favorites—chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, oatmeal-raisin cookies—but I was curious about a cookie recipe I came across in a very old cookbook. It calls for dates and nuts and nutmeg, and the result is a most complex and luscious cookie flavor. It’s rare to come across a cookie that strikes the taste buds as truly new and different, but this one sure does.

I found the recipe for these Brighton Rock Cookies in a charming 1927 cookbook, The Old Vanity Fair Tea Room—Recipes gathered from far and near. Written by a Caro F. Chamberlain (not Carol, but Caro), the book says, “These recipes are used in the Dining Room of the Women’s Athletic Club of Los Angeles, Calif.” The introduction notes that “in compiling this little book, it has not been our object to introduce a comprehensive cook book, but to pass on to our many friends these recipes which we have tried and liked and found most satisfactory.”

Why are these called “Brighton Rock” cookies? I have no idea. There’s a Brighton, California, so maybe that’s the connection. I’d heard of Brighton Rock candy, a traditional British seaside confection in the UK, but that’s a stick candy usually flavored with peppermint or spearmint, so that doesn’t appear to be related.

As with a lot of old cookbooks, this one’s author seems to assume that readers know the temperature at which the foods must be cooked and for how long. The original instructions say this: “Do not touch this till it is all in bowl, then work with hands. Drop by teaspoons on greased pans.”

That’s it. No “preheat oven to 350,” no “cook for 10 minutes,” no nuthin’. Now if I’m not told a recipe’s temperature, my go-to temperature is 350 degrees since that one is so common, and happily, it works for these cookies.

When these yummy cookies finished baking, I piled them onto one of my favorite thrift store finds, a vintage pink plate with gilded edges, something that I picked up for $1.99 at a thrift store in Wisconsin. If you’re going to have cookies that originated in Los Angeles, it seems appropriate to have a little gold “star power” in the picture.

Of course, any pink plate will make these perfect for serving for Valentine’s Day. I hope your celebration is sweet!

Brighton Rock Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 heaping cup of chopped dates
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1 cup of chopped nuts (I used a mix of almonds and pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir just until combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls two inches apart onto cookie sheets prepared with cooking spray and bake for 8-10 minutes, until tops are no longer shiny and edges are just starting to brown. Yields approximately four dozen cookies.

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