When I was growing up my mother had the Betty Crocker cookbook, the one that came out in the 60’s and was in a three-ring binder. It was the ONLY cookbook she owned. She would purchase women’s magazines that had recipes in them, and sometimes she would make those things, but for most things, she trusted her Betty Crocker cookbook.
My mom was the best cook I knew when I was a kid. She made the best apple pies, I loved her pumpkin bread or home-made batter bread, and even though I did not like potato salad, I liked her potato salad, because she made it.
One of my favorite things, that she only seemed to make in the winter, was Orange Juice Cookies. They were little drop cookies, she’d sometimes put a glaze on, other times would just make them plain. They weren’t pretentious or anything – they were just these little bites of sunshine in the winter. I don’t think any of her children could get enough of them – they disappeared quickly once they were made. She’d store them in the big Tupperware container with a lid, the one reserved in the summer for taking her potato salad to the picnics we were invited to. That might be why she only made them in the winter.
I learned to cook and bake from that Betty Crocker cookbook until I was 10, and my mother got the Family Circle Encyclopedia of Cooking. I thought she got it for ME. It was a set of 12 or 15 volumes, with all those glorious color photos of hideous 70’s “gourmet” food. I abandoned Betty to learn how to make laminated dough for Napoleons, and croissants, and bake different kinds of bread other than the soft white bread we ate. I fell in love with Chocolate Chip Cookies, and cannolis, and learned to make blintzes – and still, my mom made the Orange cookies every winter, and she never messed around with the FCE of C while I lived there. Mom stayed true to Betty Crocker.
The years passed, and my cooking repertoire far outstripped my mom’s ability to keep up. I started my own cookbook collection, which topped 500 at one point before my husband insisted I start culling books that I didn’t use anymore. I bought a computer with the express purpose of taking those recipes I found in magazines and entering them into a database so I could find them and keep them and get rid of the magazines (this was back in 1990) and all I did was end up with MORE magazines and cookbooks and soon the Internet was available to me and I was hunting out recipes in cooking forums on Usenet and printing out everything…
Then I had a child. After a few years passed, I remembered those little orange juice cookies my mother had made, and I asked my mom one day what had happened to her Betty Crocker cookbook.
“I don’t have it anymore. I gave it away.”
I was stunned. It’s so hard for me to give up a cookbook, how could she give up her only cookbook?
“I don’t have you kids to cook for anymore. Everything I need to cook I know how to cook.”
And this began my obsession with finding the One True Orange Juice Cookie recipe. I started searching, first at the library, and then amongst my friends, and finally on the internet and at every bookstore cookbook section, for the Betty Crocker cookbook. I would see one in the store, go to the index at the back of the book, looking for the Orange Drop Cookie recipe, only to be disappointed again and again.
20 years I looked for that recipe.
About 5 years ago or so, my husband and I were in a Borders bookstore. I once again headed to the cookbook section, and saw Betty Crocker had put out a cookie book. I picked it up, hands trembling a little, and turned to the index. No orange cookies.
“Dammit, I wish my mom hadn’t gotten rid of that three-ring binder Betty Crocker cookbook!”
“Like this one?”, my darling husband asked, holding up a red and white version of the cookbook my mom had.
I snatched it from his hands. It was wrapped in plastic, and there was no way I was going to buy this cookbook if it didn’t have the recipe I wanted, and there was no way I could see the index. We looked around, and there was one that was unwrapped. I checked the index, but there was no Orange Drop Cookie recipe.
“But it’s the right book! These are the drawings! I remember these!”, I cried in despair. Sighing, I decided to look through the book anyway.
I flipped through, found the Toll House Cookie recipe, and turned the pages listlessly. The recipe had been in the upper left hand corner of a left page – that much I remembered. What was there was a recipe for Lemon-Lime drop cookies.
And underneath the recipe. In italics. With an asterisk. It said:
“*For Orange Cookies, substitute 1 tablespoon dried orange peel and 1/4 cup Orange juice concentrate.”
I checked the version I owned at home. Yep, the recipe was in that one, too. It was never in the index, because it was a variation of the recipe in the index.
I own at least 10 cookie cookbooks because of this ONE recipe. It’s in none of them.
I have since given away my Betty Crocker cookbook. We parted on good terms.
1/2 cup orange juice (mom used orange juice concentrate for extra orange flavor)
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups all-purpose flour (low protein flour will give a softer cookie)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the icing:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets or use parchment paper.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In large bowl Cream shortening and sugar together. Mix egg into the sugar mixture thoroughly. Add orange juice and orange zest and mix until combined. Slowly blend in flour mixture into the wet ingredients until combined. Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set and slightly starting to brown.
For the icing, mix the confectioner's sugar with the butter until smooth. Pour 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the 1 teaspoon of orange zest into the sugar and butter mixture and mix well. Allow cookies to cool before spreading the icing.