Granny's Mitten Cookies

A beloved Golden Book inspires a sweet family tradition.

By Beverly Beckham

"Can you read me the Granny Glittens story, Mimi?" Adam asked, though he is nearly seven now and likes to read to himself. "I like chapter books," he told me the last time he slept over. Mercy Watson was his choice then.

But this night he wanted Granny Glittens and Her Amazing Mittens, a story from an old Golden Book collection I loved when I was his age.

Granny Glittens is about a cheery old woman who knits mittens for little girls and boys, but not just ordinary, run-of-the-mill mittens. She knits ducks into their centers, or snowmen or sleds, or anything a child wants.

All the children love her mittens.

One day Granny orders yarn from The Store, red yarn and green yarn and brown yarn and black yarn and yellow yarn. But when the yarn arrives, it’s all white!

The Store apologizes. "All we have is white," The Store writes. "We asked other stores and all they have is white. We are sorry."

What can Granny Glittens do?

She sits and she thinks and she thinks and she thinks.

Finally, she gets up to feed her cat and an idea dawns. In her cabinet, she finds red peppermints and green wintergreen and brown chocolate and black licorice and yellow lemon drops, just the colors she needs for her mittens.

She gets big pans and fills them with water and in one she adds peppermints and in the next wintergreen and in another chocolate. And then she adds the yarn and what do you know? She has the exact colors she needs.

By now, Granny Glittens is hungry, too, and the yarn looks, well, good enough to eat, so she tries a little. And the yellow tastes like lemon drops and the black tastes like licorice and the red tastes like peppermints and Granny Glittens smiles.

Now the children don’t just love their mittens. They eat them, too. Which means Granny Glittens never has to worry about paying her bills.

And this is the end of Granny's story but not the end of my tale. Years ago, when my kids were little, I learned to knit solely because of Granny Glittens. I knit scenes just like she did. My snowmen were great. My sleds perfect. My reindeer? Not so much. But the biggest glitch? I continually knit just the right hand, and after many failed attempts, I retired my knitting needles.

And then came Adam and his love for the story.

A Fairy Tale Ending

I found the substitute for knitting in a kitchen store in Maine. I was visiting my friend Anne. She needed cheese. The cheese store was part of the kitchen store. And what do you know? There, on a rack I practically walked into, hung one just-the-right-size, perfectly-shaped mitten cookie cutter.

"I could make Granny Glitten cookies," I thought. Except the truth is that dyed yarn would probably taste better than my rolled cookies.

I showed the cookie cutter to Anne.

"You have to get it," she said.

"But I can’t make sugar cookies."

"Yes, you can," she said, and spent the next two days teaching me how.

First, she made me buy a pastry cloth and a rolling pin cover. Then she painstakingly showed me how to draw a snowman with white frosting and a sled with red. And then she shared her always-perfect, foolproof, recipe.

This is it:

Old-Fashioned Rolled Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Colored sugars or frosting

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cream butter until light and fluffy.

3. Beat in sugar, egg, vanilla, and milk or cream. Sift together and then beat in flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

4. Roll dough out on floured pastry cloth with cloth-covered rolling pin as thin as you can (no more than 1/4 inch thick). Use cookie cutter to cut dough into mitten shapes. Place cut cookies on greased cookie sheets.

5. Decorate with colored sugars (or frost after they are cooked). Bake until cookies just begin to turn golden around edges, about 3 1/2 minutes, depending on how thin they are.

6. Reroll scraps just once, then start over with another glob of dough from the bowl. Refrigerate the bowl of dough while you’re rolling out cookies.

The cookies are a big hit. Especially on snow days. I make them, Adam rolls them, and all the grandchildren decorate them.

They’re not exactly Granny Glitten mittens, of course. But they have the same effect. The kids eat them, and they smile.

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