This chocolate cookie recipe comes from my maternal great-grandmother, Gertrude Hafey Norcross, known in our family as “Gram”. A passionate cook, baker and gardener, Gram was always working either in her kitchen or garden in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She and her husband, the school principal, raised four children at 528 Wheaton Avenue, now in the historical district of Kalamazoo.
Grandpa died long before I was born, but Gram lived until I was thirteen and I knew her very well. Although I have no memories of being in the kitchen with her, I have a treasure trove of her recipes, some in her handwriting, others penned and copied by my grandmother and my mother. I have no idea what the North Dakota reference means in Gram’s “North Dakota Chocolate Cookies”. There were Norcross relatives who farmed in Yankton, South Dakota, but that’s only a guess on my part.
I’m grateful for a brief recipe note my mother made in 1997, when our elderly cousin, Iva, visited here from Kalamazoo, adding an oven temperature and suggested baking time. Yes, old-fashioned recipes can be a little frustrating with their minimal instructions. There are no steps listed in Gram’s recipe, and she writes, simply, to add “nuts”. I used pecans, added a little vanilla, and cut back on the salt since I was using up salted butter leftover from the holidays. I had no idea what size cookie to aim for, as the instructions only say, “Drop with a spoon on ungreased pan”, nor did I know how many cookies a batch would make.
I love being the fourth generation in my family to bake Gram’s cookies. As I was making them, I thought of these three women I loved so much and wonder what they would have thought of me, inspired to write a food blog in their memory? Of course, “blog” and “computers” were not in their realm, although Mama loved to come over and surf the Internet before she died. I come from an amazing family of strong, bright and multi-talented women. Hope I am up to the test…
TIP: Anyone watching sodium in their diet might want to switch to a no sodium baking powder, such as made by Hain.
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups unbleached white flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 squares baking chocolate, melted
- 1 cup nuts, chopped
- 1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Using a standing or handheld mixer, beat the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the milk and vanilla.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and beat just until mixed.
- Using a plastic spatula or large spoon, mix in the melted chocolate, nuts and raisins.
- Drop spoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and or half sheet pan.
- Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on racks.