cookies Family first time for everything

Welsh Cookies (Cakes) – Clarks Summit PA

Nana's Recipe Box
Yesterday I went to the store. “Today is the day” I thought. “I have coffee beans in my basket, the store stocked lard, it’s my favorite kind of weather for baking, and today I will examine Nana’s recipes.” Well as you know that didn’t happen. I took the box down, opened it, took a picture, and then started to cry. Suddenly I was re-reading all of my birthday cards and letters from my grandparents, remembering distinctly that this kind of weather often led to treasure hunts, and feeling an intense amount of guilt that I didn’t tell them all of the things I wrote about yesterday until they couldn’t hear me anymore. Long story short, I cried a lot yesterday and didn’t get much of anything besides the dishes done.

Things happen for a reason, I believe. Because yesterday was emotionally intense and now the dishes are all done, I have room to work and the air conditioners remain in our windows so a good way to warm up this apartment is to use the stove. It’s time to look through Nana’s recipe box. I’m searching for something specific, something I’ve never seen outside of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, my white whale. The one recipe that I haven’t been able to find in the family records I’ve searched, and the one recipe that I know requires lard: Welsh Cookies.

Every summer we’d congregate in Scranton, PA at The Cottage for a weekend where we held the Steiner family reunion. We’d arrive after Grandma and Grandpa had already opened the Cottage, and it would be sunny, a little dusty, but welcoming to the 11 or so of us that had driven at least 7 hours and would stay there for the whole weekend. The Cottage was pink, had two bedrooms, two couches, two gliders, and two camp cots. We made it work. There was water into the kitchen, but we never drank it and always brought our own. The bathroom was a dual seated outhouse and you always went before bed with a buddy. That was not a walk you wanted to make alone in the middle of the night. The screen door perpetually slammed and the laurels on either side of the worn down stairs where we posed for the family picture every year were sticky with perfume.

Family Picture on the Cottage stairs.  My brother and I are sitting on Mom's lap in the middle.
Family Picture on the Cottage stairs. My brother and I are sitting on Mom’s lap in the middle.

After being cooped in the car for so long my brother and I would say hello like kids do then tear across the uneven mossy lawn and jump the one concrete stair down to the “pool”, a flat rectangular area that was once a croquet pitch, and climb our usual trees at the Lookout. The Lookout tradition was, everyone sleeping at the Cottage would watch the cousins who were leaving after coming for Reunion Day pile into their cars, then run full tilt down to the lookout (some trees that lined the woods at the side of the road) to get there before they drove by and scream, “GOOODBYYYYEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” while waving like maniacs and jumping up and down while the departing cousins drove by. It was tradition for the cousins leaving to honk the car horns, wave out the windows, and generally make as much noise back at us as possible.

Cousin Elizabeth and I running to the Lookout
Cousin Elizabeth and I running to the Lookout

Backtracking slightly, upon arriving at the cottage there would be two special things in the breadbox that Grandma and Grandpa had stopped to get before driving up the hill to open the cottage; Grandpa’s Tasty Cakes, and Grandma’s Welsh cookies. There was a little store on the way that sold both, and it was the only time of year I had access to them. The Welsh cookies came in a plastic sleeve with a red twist-tie closure, and with a glass of milk at the Cottage table they were just superb. They’re soft and dense with a griddle-crust and just sweet enough because of the currants that stud the dough. These cookies, their smell, their texture is something I’ve been searching for as a transport back to the Cottage and those memories.

Today I found it. In between yellowed recipe cards for date bars, Ruth’s oatmeal raisin cookies, molasses filled cookies, and marshmallow brownies there it was. It has been with me for years. I found it today because I needed to. I needed to feel close to my grandparents, to be able to sit in the cottage chairs that are now in my kitchen and remember the earthy smell of the cottage and the feel of the oilcloth that covered the kitchen table. Today is a good day.
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I’ve never made these before and Nana’s instructions were pretty bare bones. I elaborated on them a little to make the steps more clear to those who aren’t used to my family’s “you should know what I mean” style of note-taking.

Ingredients:
4 Cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups dried currants
1 cup lard, (or ½ lard, ½ butter)
3 eggs
milk (amount dependent on eggs, see instructions for details).

1. Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and sugar in a bowl.

2. Add the lard (or butter/lard combo) and work together until the consistency of damp sand (I used a pastry cutter and my hands)

dry ingredients and lard, unmixed
dry ingredients and lard, unmixed
dry ingredients mixed with lard
dry ingredients mixed with lard

3. In a liquid measuring cup beat the three eggs together, then add milk until the total liquid is a scant cup. Since my 3 eggs equaled 3/4 of a cup I only needed to add just under 1/4 cup of milk.

eggs

4. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients until partially combined, then add the currants

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5. Mix together until you get a sticky dough. I started with a spoon then ended up using my hands to make sure everything combined fully

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6. Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Pat into a disk and use a rolling pin until the dough is about ¼” thick.

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7. Preheat your griddle, the recipe I have says 350 but I just put it over the burners set to medium until it felt very hot (don’t have a brain fart and put your hand on it like I did, you can test it with butter to see if it sizzles).

8. While the griddle preheats, cut your dough into rounds and transfer them to a sheet pan with parchment in between the layers so they’re ready to go and don’t stick together. I use a biscuit cutter. Gather any dough scraps, re-roll them and continue cutting rounds until the dough is used up.

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9. There’s enough lard in these that you shouldn’t need to butter a non-stick skillet, but I always do because ours is weird and the first round of anything on it always sticks. Place the cut rounds on the griddle, evenly spaced and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Use a spatula to turn them, they get too hot to use your fingers. Yes I tried.

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10. Remove cooked cookies to a cooling rack and repeat with remaining cutouts.

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This recipe makes about 54 cookies. Like I said, for old time’s sake I had these with a glass of milk, but they also go nicely with tea and coffee. I hope you enjoy them.

Author's note: this photo is not color corrected, I just have weird hands.
Author’s note: this photo is not color corrected, I just have weird hands.

24 comments

  1. Old recipe boxes with food stained cards or old cookbooks, well-used, indicate to me there was a lot of love going into some specials recipes. Linking family history, bonding, fun times is priceless 🙂

  2. Love this recipe, the card looks just like the one I had my recipe on which I lost. My family came from Wilkesbarre and Scranton. Thank you

  3. My Grandma lived in Scranton, but was raised in Old Forge. Her mom was Annie Evans. At her house was where I met and fell in love with Welsh cookies. Thanks!

  4. I’ve been looking for a Welsh Cookie recipe and yours fits what I remember about them. I’ve got family roots in Dunmore and Scranton, and spent two weeks every summer at Grandma & Grandpa’s cottage out at the Paupak. Your story brought back a lot of memories! Thank you.

  5. I grew up in Clarks Summit. Monthly treat at our house was a bag of Welsh cookies. I believe they were made as a fundraiser by the ladies at the Chinchilla United Methodist Church. This recipe tastes just like those heavenly creations. Thank you!

    1. Today I made them and thought “oh I’ll just use some of this buttermilk instead of plain milk” then said “wait a minute this is one of my don’t mess with success recipes” and left it alone. Mmmm, just as I remember. Happy to hear they’re what you were expecting!

  6. I grew up in Scranton, and my family had a cottage in Susquehanna County. Not sure where or when I fell in love with Welsh cookies, but it was definitely as a child. After closing the cottage yesterday, I stopped at the Scranton Farmer’s Market specifically for Welsh cookies which came I a plastic sleeve with a twist tie. I was excited to find this recipe from “the area”, really connected to your story when it involved a cottage, but was reduced to tears when I saw your family piled on the steps of the cottage for a picture. My family photos don’t have as many people in the pictures, but we always sat on the steps for pictures. So glad I found your recipe and your sweet story!

    1. I just grabbed my husband’s arm and said “Listen!” And read him your note. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I’m so happy this resonated with you. Part of the reason we bought the house we now own is because in one spot I think the yard, on the right kind of day you can close your eyes and swear you’re back there. The cottage property isn’t until the family anymore but I was in the area four or so years ago and the owners of the land had left it standing, almost exactly as I remembered it. So many memories. Thank you again.

  7. Clark’s Summit, huh? This is pretty much the recipe my Aunt Jean (great-aunt) in Wilkes-Barre made. And she attended the Welsh Presbyterian church only about two blocks from her house on South Sherman St. on “the hill”. Me? I lived up the road (611) from Clark’s Summit and graduated from LTHS decades ago! Thanks for the recipe and your wonderful post!

    1. Was born in Clarks Summitt and raised in Reading PA. My Grandmother, Ruth Williams made the Welsh cookies, and then my Mom, Ruth Williams Thomas. Born and raised in Scranton, and my Dad lived on Washburn Street in Scranton, E Robert Thomas. Love this recipe as I lost my mom’s.

  8. Both my parents were from Ashley, PA Lucerne County. My folks moved to MD for jobs in Washington but all the relatives were in Ashley. Every summer we would make the pilgrimage to see everyone. We always stayed with my Mom’s parents, the Rovinsky’s. Christmas we always received a care package from Granny Rovinsky, a box of Welsh cookies and fudge. My grandfather was a coal miner and I once read that Welsh cookies were given in the old country to miners to sustain them in the mines. I have been looking for quite sometime for a Welsh cookie recipe. Thank you for your story and posting your family recipe. Grateful in Hebron, MD.

  9. How exciting!! I grew up in Clarks Summit! My grandmother was from Dickson City, and my grandfather was from Olyphant. I’ve made this recipe for many years, and then, somehow, I misplaced it!! Thank you for sharing! It’s sounds exactly like the one I had growing up!!

    1. Awesome! I’m glad it’s what you remember. I wrote this blog 7 years ago, and only just recently updated the title to include the area, and I think it’s great how many people are discovering it and sharing their stories!

  10. My grandparents lived in the Green Ridge section of Scranton. We had Welsh cookies once a year when the local church did their fundraiser. My mom did try to make them when my grandmother passed and we didnt go to Scranton as much. She used veg shortening instead of the lard and its true…they were not as good as the church ones. Thanks for the recipe and the memories. I am going to try to make these for my kids.

  11. I recall a sign saying ‘WELSH COOKIES’ at a week-end market in a bank parking lot as I come into Dunmore on the O’neill Highway. I’ve wanted to stop and check it out. Does anyone know if these are good??

  12. I’ve lived in Dunmore for the past 25 years and just this last May had my first taste of Welsh cookies. I’ve been looking for a recipe since then and this caught my eye with the Clark Summit in the title. Thank you for sharing the story of your childhood memories and your Grandma’s recipe!

  13. Our cottage was at Gravel Pond, Clark’s Summit. Talked about Welch cookies with my sister yesterday. Will compare my mother’s recipe with yours. I’ll use raisins as currents are hard to find where I live now. Thanks for updating your post.

  14. My family is from Scranton and Clark Summit and I remember having Welsh cookies from a very young age. Cookies made lovingly by aunts and the ladies of Dr. Jones Church. Moved away but have kept the tradition of Welsh cookies at Christmas. It just isn’t Christmas without Welsh Cookies. This is the recipe by Grandma used and I have baked for the last 37 years. Getting ready to make this year’s cookies (in Arkansas) and send to my sister in New York. I can’t find currants locally but now get them from Amazon. Making with raisins is just not the same. Thank you for sharing your story, it brings back many fond memories from my childhood.

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