Chanukah Cookies (poppyseed sugar cookies)

Every family has their go-to cookbook. I know friends who head right for Joy of Cooking and others who have a well-worn copy of Better Homes and Garden. In our family it is the 1946 edition of Mrs. Simon Kander’s Settlement Cookbook. This classic volume is the source of many of my family’s Jewish staples. As well as its collection of recipes it can also tell you about invalid cooking, how to make soap, and how to set a proper table; all the while adhering to its cover aphorism: “The way to a man’s heart.”

This cookie recipe is adapted from the sugar cookie recipe in The Settlement Cookbook. My mother added a good measure of poppy seeds and rolled them just as thin as possible, making a cookie so crispy and delicate that it’s easy to munch them by the handful. The poppy seeds give them a subtle flavor, very rich and not too sweet. Mom made these every year for Chanukah, although the only thing that says “Chanukah” about them is that she used Chanukah cookie cutters.

This week I made a double batch of the dough and used a variety of shapes so that I could take some to a holiday lunch party, others to a piano recital, and the rest to a Shabbat Oneg at temple. None of these events fell during Chanukah this year, but I did take my mother some of the Jewish stars, since they were once her favorite.

My copy of the Settlement cookbook was beginning to loose it’s cover so Doug got me a “new” copy of it on eBay. I gave the old copy to Joe (Joe, who is 12, wants to be a chef when he grows up), and in that copy are a lot of hand-written notes. I couldn’t remember how much poppy seed to add to the recipe so I called Joe on his cell phone and asked him where I could find his cookbook. “It’s in my underwear drawer, Mom, to keep it pristine.”

Cookies for Joe's piano recital.

Poppy Seed Cookies (adapted from The Settlement Cookbook)

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. poppy seeds

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg. Mix the baking powder with the flour. Add half of the milk to the creamed butter mixture, then half of the flour. Add the rest of the milk and vanilla, then the rest of the flour and the poppy seeds. Mix just until blended. Do not over mix or the dough will not be as flakey. Chill the dough for at least an hour in the refrigerator. Roll out very thin on a floured board. Bake on a greased cookie sheet, 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Keep a careful eye on the cookies while they are baking, remove them promptly when they begin to brown.

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