Sarah Chrisman shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe just in time for baking season! These “coasting cookies” bring to mind the cold-cheeked fun of sledding in the chilly air of winter.
This holiday season, we’re celebrating all things Victorian with our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. She and her husband Gabriel live like it’s 1889–and have become first-hand experts on Victorian life. Here, Sarah shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe for “coasting cookies” and the story behind it. The original recipe appears below, edited to a modern recipe format, along with Sarah’s notes (in parentheses) on adapting the recipe for modern cooking.
Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies
1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)
8 oz butter (1 cup, softened)
1/2 pint molasses (1 cup)
1 Tbsp (baking) soda, beaten very hard in the molasses
1 Tbsp coriander seed, pounded in a mortar
(crushing whole seeds retains more flavor)
1 Tbsp (whole) carraway [sic], pounded in a mortar
(yields about 1 3/4 Tbsp when crushed)
ginger to taste (1 Tbsp powdered ginger)
1. Soften the butter.
2. Stir in the molasses, ginger, seeds, and flour.
3. Roll thin and cut.
4. Bake in a quick oven.
Sarah’s updated Coasting Cookies instructions:
1. Crush the caraway and coriander together,
add the ginger and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the molasses and baking soda 2-3 minutes; it will turn a very pretty pale caramel color as the alkaline soda reacts with the acid in the molasses.
3. Add the butter and flour and mix well.
4. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.
The Original recipe appears in In the Kitchen by Elizabeth S. Miller. (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875), p. 365.
Sarah explains the story behind “coasting cookies:”
Gabriel was attracted to this recipe because the word ‘coasting’ in the name put him in mind of bicycles. However, it turned out to be a sledding reference, as seen in this excerpt from an 1877 short story:
“‘Coasting’ and snow-balling were the bloom and glow of those long, icy months; and the very thought of my youthful exploits in these cold Vermont days makes the blood tingle in my veins… [T]here were lots of ‘fellers,’ small boys, so utterly extinguished beneath their big caps and mufflers, that, to the uninitiated, it would seem necessary to dig them out, like potatoes out of a hill, before they could be recognizable. Well, these ‘fellers’… had glorious times together, and considered it the great business of life in winter to coast, and skate, and fire snow-balls, being somewhat apt to resent such interruptions as going to school, doing ‘chores,’ or eating regular meals.”—Church, Ella Rodman. “A Story of “Doughnuts,” Petersen’s Magazine, July, 1877, p. 65.
Although they were originally named for the sport of sledding, Gabriel and I found them to be equally delicious after cycling expeditions. Consequently, in my Tales of Chetzemoka cycling club series, these cookies are special favorites with the club members. Here’s a fun excerpt from Book Two, Love Will Find A Wheel:
…”You’re all coming here afterwards, aren’t you?” She asked the club in general. “My sewing circle ladies will be here again.”
Mr. Goldstein leaned on his fifty-inch wheel and laughed. “Since my wife will be here I won’t get much peace if I don’t come!”
Felix and Ken exchanged put-upon looks, then a thought seemed to occur to Felix and his face brightened. “Are you going to be making those coasting cookies again?” He asked Mrs. Brown.
She smiled indulgently. “I already made them. There’s five dozen of them on plates in the pie safe, just waiting.”
“Only five dozen?” Ken whined in mock disappointment.
Felix punched him lightly in the shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll save you half of one—if you’re nice to me.”…
Sarah will join us in the December Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts. Click here to learn more about her and her Victorian-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction. For more Victorian recipes: click here for roast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy and Sarah’s homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash.