Mr. and Mrs. Wagner were a retired couple who lived next door to my family during my childhood. They became like “extra grandparents” to us. We’d bang on their back door hoping for cookies, or to be let into their house to play with the toys they kept there for us. For me and my sister, there were two little dolls, with homemade cradles made from berry baskets and lined with tiny mattresses, pillows, and blankets, plus baby-doll clothes–all handmade with love. I forget what my brother had over there. I still have that doll today; it’s the only toy from my childhood that I still have.
They treated us like family, right down to letting my mom know when we were getting into something we shouldn’t!
Mrs. Wagner made these cookies all year 'round, but only decorated them at Christmastime. She shared the recipe with my mom, and now my sister and I bake these with our families every year.
I have a few tangible things that help me remember these very special people. Besides that doll, I have the game board they used to play with us. It’s an old German game that is basically the same as “Trouble” but without the famous “Pop-o-Matic.” I have a three-tier candy plate. And I have the cookie recipe. If I could only keep one of these, it would be the recipe!
Mrs. Wagner’s Cookies
Makes at least 10 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutter and how thick you roll the dough
1 pound butter — softened (margarine works also)
7 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
5 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 heaping tsp. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bourbon (we use Jack Daniel’s)
1 cup milk
5 egg whites
Colored sugar/sprinkles for decorating
Mix flour and butter like pie dough.
Beat remaining ingredients (except egg white and colored sugar) and add to dry mix.
Dough should be STIFF. Chill dough in refrigerator at least 1 hour.
Roll thin and cut into shapes. Brush with egg white and decorate. (Yes, you decorate these BEFORE you bake them!)
Combine dough scraps with remaining dough and keep rolling until you have used up all the dough.
Bake on greased sheet, 6 minutes at 375. Bottoms should be light brown; tops should be white.
This cookie dough can be frozen if it's well wrapped. I've tried reducing the quantities in the recipe to make a smaller batch, without good results. It works better to freeze extra dough and bake again on another day!
Copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS.
Photos copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. She is editor at CatholicMom.com. Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count. Her booklet, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer, is coming in May 2021 from Our Sunday Visitor.