Margaret Button: Vanilla Rolled Cookies a sweet, blank cookie canvas

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During college, I worked part-time as a dietary aide at Plunkett Hospital in Adams. While searching out holiday cookie recipes, I came across one for vanilla rolled cookies that came from the cook, or maybe the dietitian, at the hospital. Everything on the hospital's menu was homemade and Sunday afternoons were spent making cookies for the week — and I and the other aide were allowed to help.

We didn't have many shaped cookie cutters and, to be honest, for the variations that have solid add-ins, it's probably best to use a round cookie cutter.

VANILLA ROLLED COOKIES

(Makes 6 dozen thin cookies)

INGREDIENTS:

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

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DIRECTIONS:

Sift flour, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cream shortening; add sugar gradually and continue to beat until light. Add well-beaten eggs and blend thoroughly; add vanilla.

Combine the dry ingredients and the creamed mixture; mix all thoroughly and chill.

Roll as thinly as possible on a lightly floured board and cut with a cookie cutter or form small balls and place on a greased baking sheet; flatten the balls with the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar or with the tines of a fork in a criss-cross pattern.

Sprinkle with sugar, chopped nuts or coconut. Bake at 400 degrees F for 6 to 10 minutes.

Variations:

Butterscotch cookies: Substitute tightly packed brown sugar for the granulated sugar.

Saigon chocolate cookies: Sift 1 teaspoon cinnamon with the dry ingredients. Add 3 squares (3 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled, to the shortening, sugar and egg mixture. Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon.

Raisin cookies: Add 1 cup raisins to the to the shortening, sugar and egg mixture.

Nut cookies: Add 1 cup chopped nuts to the to the shortening, sugar and egg mixture.

Date-nut cookies: Add 3/4 cup each chopped dates and nuts to the shortening, sugar and egg mixture.

Coconut-orange cookies: Omit the vanilla and add 2 teaspoons grated orange rind. Add 2 cups shredded coconut to the shortening, sugar and egg mixture.


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