Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welsh Cookies - Classic Family Recipe

This a very different type of cookie recipe, one that has been in my mother's family for quite a long time.  Whenever my grandmother (my mom's mom) came for a visit from upstate New York, this seemed like one of the go-to recipes we would cook together.  I have so many memories of cooking these - from the bowls we used (a nice 70's orange) to rolling out the dough, to the cookie cutters.  I always looked forward to making these with my grandmother since it was something special we would do together.  As I became more into baking myself, these Welsh cookies always seemed to be the first recipe I would pull out of the recipe box.

Welsh Cookies!

I think these seriously were passed down a couple of generations (I know they were at least done by my great grandmother).  However, this recipe does not call for butter.  Instead, Welsh cookies use lard.  I use to be able to go to the grocery store and find one type of lard (Armour) next to the butter, but Whole Foods really had no idea what on earth I was talking about, to the point where I actually go nervous - what if no one was selling lard anymore?!  I had not made these for a few years.

On our way home, Nick and I decided to stop in at Savenor's and see if they had some lard since they always seem to have some of the weirder things.  Sure enough, we walked in and asked the register attendant and she immediately brought us over to the meat cases.  Once I thought about it, of course they had it!  Savenor's has the best butcher group and really have anything related to meats.  However, I got nervous because they had multiple varieties - did I want pork lard, duck lard or lamb lard?  Who knew there were so many types!  After double checking with Wikipedia, I settled on pork lard as it seemed the most standard.

Pork Lard
The Necessities...
  • 1 pound of lard
  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup of raisins
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of milk
In the past I would make the whole recipe and ended up kneading the dough as though I was making bread!  This time I actually decided to halve the recipe above and the amount was perfect.  To begin, I combined the dry ingredients (nutmeg, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in the largest bowl.

Dry Ingredients
Using a pastry blender I slowly added the lard to the dry ingredients.  Because this lard was "fresh" is was really soft and easy to manipulate.  The dough should be a bit crumbly after the lard is fully incorporated.  The pastry blender works so well and allows you to cut the lard into the dry ingredients.

with the lard..
I then added the milk to the dough, but only a bit at a time because depending on the lard and the temperature of the room, you may need more or less of the milk.  In this case, I used about half of the amount called for by the recipe.  Finally, I added the raisins and gave the bowl a big stir.

The Dough
I broke the dough up into four smaller balls, sprinkled a generous portion of flour on the counter top and dropped one of the balls on the surface.

Dough ball
I rolled out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick - it really should be thicker rather than too thin.  Using a glass with a good cookie circumference, I cut out simple circles and placed them onto a greased cookie sheet and slid it into a 400 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes.

Cutting Cookies
Ready for the oven
The cookies are done when they turn golden on the bottom and maybe slightly brown on the top.

These cookies have a bit of shortbread consistency, but with a great nutmeg flavoring.  I love the raisin taste and texture in contrast to the shortbread.  The cookies are not overly sweet but really more like a biscuit than a cookie.  Maybe that is why the Brits refer to cookies as biscuits (mystery solved?!?)  The lard makes the cookies nice and flaky.  I am sure you could substitute the lard for butter or shortening, but I could not imagine they would have the same texture and richness.

Yummy Cookies!
Every time I have these it brings be back to when I was little and standing on a stool next to my grandmother making these.  These are so simple, which makes them perfect for a little family bonding in the kitchen.  This is a recipe that I cannot wait to pass down to my children.  Being Welsh, we do not have too many recipes that are from the homeland so I will take it where I can get it.  If you make the full recipe you should have plenty of dough that you can freeze to break out later when you are wanting a bit of nostalgia ;)


  1. This is awesome! I don't eat meat but I've always said I'd happily eat animal fat in a baked good because everyone says lard makes it amazing. I'd love to try these.

  2. Such a neat recipe - and even better that it pays homage to your roots!

  3. Leave it to Savenor's to have lard! So nice making something that has such a history!

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