Brown Eyed Susan Cookies

Once a Prairie Tradition, now an Endangered Cookie

My maternal grandmother. Maude (yes, Maude), would make these  Brown Eyed Susan Cookies so big and flat and perfectly round, but for no special occasion whatsoever. That was the first reason I loved her. If I was staying with her, or the whole family was there, she would cook and cook and cook and cook whatever she had in the house that she thought we would enjoy. Her cookie jar was always full. Well, half full, actually. It got a really good daily workout. She had one of those mammoth glass mason jars with the wide metal lid that screwed on it. I am not sure what originally came in those jars, but they were everywhere when I was a child, and now there are replicas everywhere. Maude invented Costco-sized-cookies when it was bad manners to take more than two cookies. I loved her cookies. No one could ever eat two of them. These ones were my favourite because of the chocolate and the almond. Her other specialty – well, she had many others, actually. Her other most common cookie that filled that jar was her Sugar Cookie.

I love you grandma. I miss you, too. You were such a tremendous influence on me and these cookies, once so common in on prairie tables are almost non-existent. Is it possible for a cookie to become extinct? I suppose it is. Eating a family meal at the dinner table is on the endangered list, so I guest it would be fair to say that a cookie could easily have been overlooked, and at risk, as well.

And, I also have brown eyes. Brown Eyed Susan Cookies are my namesake cookie. Grandma would tease me and call them “Brown-eyed Valerie’s”. Even more reason to raise my wooden spoon in concern.

But, I do wonder what ever happened to the longevity of the Brown Eyed Susan Cookie named after a prairie flower (and me). You can Google it, and find recipes of it, but no one is making it anymore around these parts. I love it. Not as sweet as shortbread, but a tender bite of prairies past. I make them small. I always want to taste everything, and small is the only way to justify that. Besides, Brown Eyed Susan Cookies are the perfect counterpoint to the Turtle Cookie on my assortment plate. I do make an effort to present the positive and negative image of a cookie, or a tart side by side. Contrast is always good; even on a cookie tray.

So, I work to repopulate the endangered Brown Eyed Susan Cookie every Christmas. And, every season I notice there are more and more of them left on the tray. That would be a good thing in the living world of preservation. But this is Cookie World. In Cookie World the cookies have to get eaten, and the recipe has to be asked for and people have to run home to make them at their house.

Is this because they are not so sweet? They are a quiet, unassuming cookie. Pure in composition and strong in stature, but have just not kept up with the times, I suppose. Sugar, baby! Lots and lots of sugar! Maybe there is just not enough sugar?

I support the Preserve the Christmas Cookie Baking Foundation, and will continue to work my memories into this dough year after year. Someone will join the cause, eventually – or, let me know if they are already out there tending to their Brown Eyed Susan Cookies et al, as well.

I form each by hand, shaped as above. I told you they were flaky! I can never wait for the icing.

Hot water, cocoa and icing sugar are used instead of chocolate to make the glossy globules of goodness on top. I have thought of melting a great quality chocolate, but that would be so wrong. They are a taste of the paste, and changing that may not get me kicked out of the Preserve the Christmas Cookie Baking Foundation, but it certainly would muddle the genes for those working to preserve this, and other cookies on the endangered list.

4.5 from 2 reviews
Brown Eyed Susan Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Help me revive this endangered cookie! Grandma Maude used to make large round Brown Eyed Susan Cookies that she told me were named after my beautiful brown eyes and the flowers in her garden. They were often set out on Canadian prairie kitchen tables for coffee or tea time, but I haven't seen them on anyone else's table for years. This is a daintier version of Grandma's farmhouse snack for the holiday season.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookie
Cuisine: Canadian
Serves: 48
Ingredients
Ingredients for the Cookie:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the Icing:
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
Instructions for the Cookie:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF
  2. Cream all together and roll into balls, flattening slightly on cookie sheet
  3. Bake at 350ºF for 8-10 minutes, until bottom is barely brown
Instructions for the Icing:
  1. Combine sugar and cocoa; add water and vanilla
  2. Dot each cookie very carefully with icing, and top each with one whole blanched almond
  3. Freeze in a well sealed container
Notes
* Almonds must be really fresh; I don't toast them for this application
* When icing the cookie, use the smallest spoon and tiniest amount of icing; ensure it is glossy
* Hands must be super clean to not mark the cookie; hold it and turn it to avoid the icing from running down the sides (best to have a teardrop shaped dollop to match the shape of the almond you place on top of it)
* The icing can get muddy and loose its gloss; heat it and stir it up to regain its gloss and continue

Hey, Valerie! Where I come from, having brown eyes doesn’t mean you’re full of cookies! Now that’s a tail slapper!

Comments

  1. Vanja says

    What a lovely story and a memory of your grandma! Now I start to understand the passion in you as we sit together watching movies and you have your precious dough in front of you and you roll, and roll, and roll,…Maude would be so proud of you, and Beave certainly is!!

  2. Judy says

    I can taste these, they look incredible and although I can no longer eat them due to my nut allergies, I can still remember the taste and the texture! These were always one of my favorites!! :)

  3. Sheryl says

    I have been looking for this recipe for a while now and am thrilled that I found it. My great grandmother used to make these and send them to me. I agree its a shame they are an endangered cookie because they are such a great cookie!

    • Valerie says

      Sheryl!
      I am tickled pink that you have found a long lost family recipe here. Now, go forth and multiply (this cookie)! ;)
      V

  4. peggy says

    I bought some of these cookies today at a bakery in Huntsville,
    Texas. I love them!!! I’m glad I found your recipe. I will definitely make these this week.

  5. Heather says

    These are a family cookie for us too! In addition to making the cocoa icing, my grandma also made them with green and red buttercream icing for Christmas. I can’t make them without thinking of her. And my kids love helping with them too, another generation of bakers! Thanks for sharing your memories…it brought me back to my childhood…

    • Valerie Lugonja says

      Heather!
      How lovely of you to chime in to let me know that your family also has this cookie in their recipe archives. Where are you from? The red and green Christas icing idea is fun and funky! And, so 1970’s, no?
      Love it!
      :)
      Valerie

  6. Susan Kissman says

    My Mother in law has always made them, but tops them with a pecan. They are one of my husband’s favorites. We are in SW Michigan, no prairies here, just sand dunes and Lake Michigan.

    • Valerie Lugonja says

      Well, isn’t that amazing, Susan! Were they a cookie everyone in the neighbourhood made in your area, like mine – as a child? That is what happens when one person loves something, isn’t it? And then they move and the cookie has a whole new life somewhere else and it is so difficult to track where that life began.
      Happy Holidays!
      Valerie

  7. TinyPinkHobbit says

    Hi, Thank you so much for posting your recipe! My husband(of almost two years :) LOVES these cookies and I had to search high and low on the internet to find a recipe that was just the good oldfashioned lovable brown eyed susan. My son who is less than a year old is going to get his first one this evening after dinner and I have no doubt that he will love them too. The first time I had them was at the in laws place where they are a big hit every Christmas and you are not likely to find any leftover after dessert and late night snacking on the first day. Mom-in-law actually left half of them as unbaked dough last year so that they would last longer. Oh, We aren’t even on the prairies. Lots of mountains and snow round here. Happy New Year!!!

    • Valerie Lugonja says

      Hi Pamela!
      What a lovely message. I would love for you to find out the mom in law story about this cookie – where it came from in her family.
      So thrilled it has found a new home in yours!
      :)
      Valerie

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