I’m going to hand over the content for this cookie over to Zach. Because this is his family’s recipe and I have no idea what the history and tradition is behind it! Better for it to come from him, so here he is!!
These chocolate drop cookies have been a long-standing tradition in my family, especially on my father’s side. The recipe that we bring to you today is the same recipe that my Mom-Mom (my paternal grandmother) made year after year. Unfortunately, in the beginning of June, 1989, at a rather young age, she succumbed to liver cancer. She was the sweetest soul to ever set foot on the planet and she loved her children and grandchildren more than I love ice cream. While I may have been just 4 years of age on the day that she passed away, I have fond memories of her before she became ill, joyous memories of her smiling and loving life. She left us with many great memories.
Even to this day, I struggle to watch the VHS tapes of her at Christmas-time. The last time that someone watched one, I had to left the room in tears. It is so sad that someone who loved life and her family as much as her had to leave us at such a young age. Unfortunately though, dwelling on the past does not help one cope with a loss and nor does it make life after a death any easier. What we can do though is carry with us the memories of those loved-ones lost, especially during the holiday season. That is just where this recipe fits into the story.
Each and every year (well, at least each and every year that we could find the recipe), following her passing, we made it a point to bake her famous (at least within our family) chocolate drop cookies. The recipe, at least as far back as I can recall, has always been hand-written on the back page of an old Betty Crocker cookbook. The recipe is simple but contains no instructions except for the oven temperature and baking time. We have included here instructions for how we have made them based upon what I remember from my child-hood.
These cookies are even more special to me because the walnuts used in the cookie dough are actually not your standard walnuts that you pick up in a nice and neat bag at your local megamart. The recipe actually calls for black walnuts. I have never seen black walnuts at the local store. However, growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, it was not uncommon to have a large walnut tree right in your own back yard. In fact, after my family moved out of the city in 1991, we had several large walnut trees in the backyard. Each and every year, like clock work, they would shed their fruits of labor to either be gathered by hand or run over with the lawn mower to watch them bust into a million pieces. I suppose that they suffered another fate as well . . . the squirrels, but that has nothing to do with these cookies.
My Dad would collect as many walnuts as he could from the yard (often filling several 5-gallon buckets) with them. He would painstakingly, over many days, shell them and clean them all. If you have every shelled and cleaned walnuts, you understand why even a small bag at your local megamart is not inexpensive. Finally, a whack or two with a mallet (or the bottom of a heavy saucepan) to crush them and they were ready for baking! There is something special about not cutting corners and instead taking something from its natural state, converting it into something useful in the kitchen, and finally making something delicious out of it. Since we live in Colorado and the only tree that we have is the one that was cut down for us to bring inside and hang lights on, we had to go to the market to get the walnuts. Bummer.
That about completes the story of the origins of these chewy, almost fudge-like chocolate drop cookies with walnuts. I know that if my Mom-Mom were still with us today, she would be smiling from ear-to-ear knowing that her recipe is still being made today. We added one small thing, solely for presentation purposes (powder sugar). Other than that, our recipe for chocolate drop cookies with walnuts is exactly that which has been made for more than a half-century in my family. Enjoy.
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 egg, well beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup black walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment attached, cream the shortening and brown sugar together until it's soft and creamy.
- Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix until well combine, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula if you have to.
- In another medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder baking soda and flour. In 1/2 cup increments, slowly start adding the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until all is incorporated. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in the walnuts.
- With a spoon, begin dropping dollops of batter onto the prepared cookie sheets: allowing for a dozen cookies per sheet. They don't have to be perfect. That's the point!
- Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, or until you stick a toothpick through one of them and it comes out clean.
- Remove immediately from the cookie sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing or serving.
Hardware: Stand Mixer (or hand mixer) Fixed with the Paddle Attachment * Measuring Cups * Spatula * Whisk * Medium-Sized Bowls * 2 Cookie Sheets * Parchment Paper * Spoon (for dolloping) * Wire Rack (for cooling)