Sunday, June 13, 2010

My First Cookie Recipe - Petticoat Tails

There are various landmarks in my culinary journey. My first cookbook was the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. The first cake I decorated had white frosting and blue piping. I was in elementary school and the cake was for my parent’s anniversary. Much later, I baked my first baguette at the French Culinary Institute. And, my very first cookie recipe was for “Petticoat Tails.”

As I recall, baking Petticoat Tails was an elementary school class project. Here’s the actual recipe card which I wrote out by hand, and my mom still had in her collection of recipes. Based on the style of penmanship, it appears to be circa 3rd or 4th grade, but I’m not entirely sure. It was some time ago…

As far as junior bakers go, I appear to have been a bit of a rebel, and refused to organize the list of ingredients in the same order as their use. And, there are a few critical directions that seem to be left to the imagination. Maybe I was just a little confused. Fortunately, in attempting to revisit the recipe for Petticoat Tails, there is plenty of more specific direction online.

It’s a simple recipe - easy enough for a child to handle - although as an adult, I found that shaping the dough into a log proved just a bit challenging. Maybe I haven’t kept up on my modeling clay skills.

Considering this artifact a little further, I got curious as to the source of the name and recipe. Petticoat Tails is a shortbread cookie. The name always conjured up images of Colonial America for me. Not true. The origins appear to be French. “An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language,” by John Jamieson, D.D., (MDCCCXXV) offer some clues to the the name:

"PETTICOAT TAILS, the name given to a species of cake baked with butter, used as tea bread ...

"For Petticoat tails, take the same proportion of butter as for Short Bread," &c. Collection of Receipts, p. 3 ...

"The general idea is, that this kind of cake is denominated from its resemblance to a section of a petticoat. For a circular cake, when a smaller circle has been taken out of the middle, is divided into eight quarters. But a literary friend has suggested that the term has probably a Fr. origin, q. petit gasleau, a little cake ...

"The old form of this word is petit gastel. There is another similar term, Petit-cote, which is the name of a kind of biscuit or cake, baked for the purpose of being eaten with wine. It is shaped somewhat in a triangular form; and it has been supposed that it receives the name, from the thin or small side being dipped in the wine."

Petticoat Tails dipped in wine? My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hall never mentioned that. But, they are sweet and buttery, and if you indulge in a few, you might just find yourself fondly reminiscing about spelling bees, recess, school assemblies and Snoopy lunchboxes.

©2010 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved

19 comments:

lostpastremembered said...

It is interesting about cookies and cakes and wine. One cake I have been wanting to make is the madeira cake. I saw it researching my new favorite wine. I had thought it meant the cake was made with madeira. No, it was meant to be eaten with madeira... a common thing in times gone by. I know madeleines were dipped in wine... now these sweet little cookies.. in a banyuls, perhaps?? Great recipe, TW!

Julia said...

What a wonderful memento of your childhood!!

It's not that unusual to pair cookies with wine -- I first discovered it in Tuscany - biscotti dipped in vin santo.

To me, the penmanship is 4th or 5th grade. I recall learning cursive in 5th. :)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

What an interesting story about the Petticoat Tails cookie. I especially like that you've thought of dipping them in wine.
Sam

Kalyn said...

I love seeing your fourth grade handwriting! That's the grade I taught the longest, so it looks familiar. Very fun post.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Hooray for your mom for saving the recipe card! I doubt I baked my first cookie until I was in high school. Or college.

~~louise~~ said...

Welcome home, T.W. I hope you had a delicious trip!!!

What a cherished memento your mom has preserved. I still have the first cards my kids "designed" for me. They keep telling me to get rid of them. Who knows, someday they may post about them!

My grandmother was not much of a baker either but the one cookie I can remember her making were wine biscuits. As children, my sister and I were "allowed" to dunk just one cookie in a bit of wine. As I remember this, the harmonious taste comes to mind:)

I recall reading about the resemblance to petticoats. However, I'm surprised to discover the lineage of those crumbly snaps. I always thought they were remnants of Colonial America.

Thanks for sharing, T.W. Not bad hand writing for a fourth grader:)

Mary said...

Who knew at what an early age your love of cooking began :-). I loved your history and that of the cookie as well. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Fresh Local and Best said...

The recipe index card is a precious momento from your the early days of cooking. I wish I had such records, but I didn't have the same foresight to keep them.

This cookie looks perfect with tea ... or wine.

Barbara said...

Interesting history and they sound so good I could swear I got a whiff of their buttery scent. Who doesn't love a good shortbread cookie!

Colette Burke said...

Petticoat Tails are the perfect accompaniment to traditional English afternoon tea! How appropriate that you show them being served on beautiful china and with a strainer to catch real tea leaves! Even here in England it is all too rare to be offered proper tea in proper cups as opposed to bags in a mug!

Stacey Snacks said...

I love that robins egg blue cakestand!
and the petticoat tails name!

veron said...

Glad you are back safe and sound. Love the look of the old recipe card...it's fun reminiscing about your childhood days specially the ones in the kitchen whether eating or cooking. :)

tasteofbeirut said...

How charming! I love that recipe card; you display signs of a perfectionist yet rebellious nature. (sorry I can't help it I am a graphologist in my spare time)
Love these simple yet classic cookies for their timelessness and relevance - anytime someone needs that cup of tea at 4 o'clock-

Velva said...

I think these cookies would go well with the right wine. I know they would go perfect with a good cup of morning coffee.

Love the note card with your recipe. I could only wish that my son's handwriting was that good now at twenty-one.

Chef Dennis said...

looks like a great cookie! its always nice to reach back into the past, memories are a wonderful thing!
and I have heard of dipping cookies into wine form my Italian friends

Magic of Spice said...

Great cookies!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

What a cute recipe card! Cookies dipped in wine, huh? I've never tried it, but I'm game. Shortbread cookies are my faves. Great read on your childhood memories... great recipe, too!

Mary said...

I'm just jumping back in to say hello and send good wishes for this coming weekend. Blessings...Mary

Lori Lynn said...

I love this post.

Last November I helped my nephew, Stone, 7, make his first pancakes from scratch. He had to write the recipe off the computer as we did not have a working printer. His recipe is still on my refrigerator, looks a lot like your handwriting. I'll be keeping it, for a long while.
LL