If you are looking for something different to bake for Christmas cookies this year, I'll post the recipes for my Cracker Jills and my grandmother's Spicicles. The Spicicles took my grandmother to the 15th Pillsbury Grand National Bake-Off in Los Angeles in autumn of 1963. And the Cracker Jills took me as a junior finalist to San Francisco's 17th Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off in January, 1966. I was 15, so my mother came along too. What a grand time Pillsbury showed everyone, putting us up in the Fairmont Hotel and dining us all over town. We had Coq au Vin and Rhubarb Pie at the Mark Hopkins, and toured the city on buses--a wild ride up and down those hills after all those ladies had chicken with wine! My grandmother made several life-long friends at her Bake-Off, and I am still in contact with one, Edna, who is about 95 now. In fact, Edna was a finalist several other times also. They finally made a rule limiting the number of times that one person can win. Her youngest daughter and I were penpals for years, and actually relocated each other in the 90s and got together for a visit. Pat Boone was the host for the awards program, and wow, he was even better looking in person!
These two recipes are a bit more labor-intensive than those we are used to nowadays. Especially the Cracker Jills. You need a sturdy mixer for the dough, and to fold in the crackers and peanuts, use a stout wooden spoon and a lot of muscle. But the flavors are so good that they are worth the effort.
I hope you enjoy them! (Hint: you can tell the Cracker Jills are done by lifting one with a spatula to check the bottom--if it's just starting to brown, they're done. They will be very soft until they cool.)
(Stella Mergel, 1963 Pillsbury Bake-Off)
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. cardamom
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup raisins
¾ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped dates
¼ cup finely chopped candied pineapple (or other candied fruit)
powdered sugar for rolling before baking
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In large mixer bowl or food processor combine all ingredients except walnuts, raisins, dates and candied fruit. Blend well. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Using about 1 rounded tsp. of dough, shape into finger shapes, place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes (till bottoms begin to brown), cool and roll in additional powdered sugar.
Or, instead of rolling in powdered sugar, cookies may be frosted with buttercream vanilla frosting and dipped in grated coconut after baking.
(Lee Ann Reiners 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off)
1 3-oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
¼ cup molasses
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup salted Spanish peanuts
1-1 ½ cups coarsely crushed saltine crackers
about ½- ¾ cup sugar
Combine the 1st seven ingredients in a food processor or mixer until well blended.
Add the peanuts & crackers and fold into dough.
Cover and chill for about 2 hours.
Place sugar in a bowl. Shape dough into small balls using a rounded teaspoonful of dough for each. Roll in sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.