Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Mystery of Joseph Smith and the Washboard Cookie.

Besides using actual cookbooks, there are often times I research recipes, and their origins, online.  Alright Google, give me some interesting results for, “Utah pioneers and recipes they cooked”.  First item was a blogger who referenced newspaper articles and cookbooks, gave recipes, and stated which Mormon “figure head” the recipe was a favorite of.  One such reference was for “Washboard Cookies”, a favorite of Prophet Joseph Smith, and came from The Mormon Pioneer Cookbook which I have used, and referenced, myself. 

Strange, I thought, but while the love of Johnny cakes was linked to Smith, many of the recipes within mentioned Brigham Young more often.  Now there is no index in this cookbook, so turning the pages slowly, my eyes scanned for the recipe, and the mention of Smith.  Nothing.  Alright, let me ask around, and see if those more educated in the Mormon culture could verify this for me.  Hit a roadblock there.  Then I thought to find the origin of washboard cookies, and see if that could get me a linkup.

Washboard cookies, aka lavadores, are Portuguese cookies which have horizontal lines, made with a fork before baking, and resemble the ridges of a washboard.  The original recipe uses lemon for flavoring, but the origin story is basically nonexistent; seems this cookie just always was.  Rereading the countries represented, by the Mormon emigrants who traveled to Utah, Portugal was not one of those countries.  Could there have been folks of Portuguese descent?  Maybe, but too few to get a mention in the cookbook.

Something else that bothered me about the blogger’s cookie recipe, and reference to Smith.  This was supposedly a recipe used by the 1847 pioneers, and instead of lemons, coconut was the main flavoring ingredient.  In 1869, the Mineral Point Tribune, a Wisconsin newspaper, printed the first ever recipe which used coconut as a main ingredient.  Hawaiians did not begin settling onto USA mainland soil, mainly in California, until the late 1800s, and they brought coconuts with them. 

Third issue I have with the blogger’s article was the timeline of how Joseph Smith could have possibly partaken of the cookies made by Utah pioneers.  He could not!  Joseph Smith, the founder and leader of the LDS religion, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were killed by a mob in Carthage, IL, on June 27, 1844.  They were awaiting trial, in the town jail, but became victims of vigilante justice by those in the anti-Mormon movement.  So, to that blogger, I call, “Shenanigans!” on her article, her made up historical reference, and any reference to the cookie recipe in The Mormon Pioneer Cookbook.

Now I am picturing, editor Bill Boyle, of the San Juan Record, rolling his eyes, as he reads my article, and thinking, “There goes Mary pretending to be Miss Marple; it’s just a cookie recipe for heaven’s sake!”

Have I piqued your curiosity about washboard cookies?  I certainly hope so, as I will be giving you an original recipe.  Since I have mentioned a recipe which uses coconut, I will give you that one too.  The original recipe is from Chef Gorete, born in the Azores, is of Portuguese descent, and, of course, can cook and bake the recipes of her ancestry.



Portuguese Washboard Cookies (Lavadores)



1⁄2 cup butter, room temperature

1 1⁄2 cups sugar, divided

4 large eggs, room temperature 1

 lemon, rind of, grated

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 dash salt


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the butter with 1 cup of the sugar on medium high-speed for 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each, until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon rind.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder & salt to combine. Fold the flour into the butter mixture using a spatula, mixing well. Gently knead the dough in the bowl for about 5 minutes.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow dish. Using a small cookie scoop, shape pieces of dough into balls, then roll in the sugar. Place the cookies on a parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Flatten the cookies gently using the tines of a fork or make the horizontal lines.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until a light golden color. I like to rotate the cookie trays from top to bottom, halfway through the cooking process.

Cool on the cookie trays for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy.

Now the second recipe which does not appear in the cookbook, as a blogger claims, but I will share it anyway.  Even though the origin of the cookie is Portuguese, over the many, many years of creating them, many variations have developed within the country itself.  So, I would rather give credit, for this recipe, to Portugal, and not a blogger with “imaginary facts”.


Washboard Cookies


1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup shortening

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup boiling water

1 cup shredded coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


Cream together sugars and shortening and beat in eggs. Dissolve soda in boiling water and add to above mixture. Blend in coconut and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and blend into mixture. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and flatten with fork. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes.

Would Joseph Smith have liked washboard cookies?  It is very unlikely we will ever know.  However, something tells me, if cornmeal had been used, the answer would have been a resounding, “Yes!”.

Mary Cokenour





Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Danes Did Not Invent Danish.

Welcome September, and the beginning of the “ber” months.  This is also when home cooks and bakers begin thinking about the holidays, and what creations should come from their kitchens.  I have already thought about soft, puffy pumpkin cookies loaded with white chocolate chips and chopped pecans.  Then there is a new cheesecake creation; toasted and ground pecans mixed with crushed shortbread cookies and butter to make a crust.  A vanilla laden filling containing chopped pecans and toffee candy bits.  Well, once made, maybe I will tell you about those, but for now, it is all about Danish which is not Danish.

Culinary historians trace the creation of Danish, specifically cheese Danish, to a number of sources in the Denmark and Austria regions of Europe.  The Vikings (800 until 1050 AD), when celebrating an event concerning the tribal leader’s daughter, baked flower shaped breads for the occasion.  As flour, yeast, milk, eggs, and butter became more readily available, breads, rolls, pastries and other baked confections bloomed in ovens.  Alright, side note, the French state

Danish pastries were invented, by French bakers, in the 1700s.  It is claimed that Claudius Gelee, a French apprentice baker, who forgot to add butter to the flour, folded flour lumps into the dough to make it look like butter was added.  I cannot find a recipe from the 1700s, from France, but the recipes I have looked at need butter added to get the correct consistency to create a flaky pastry dough. 

Therefore, I am leaning, origin wise, towards the creation of the pastry dough to Austria.  In the 1840s, a “laminated” dough was created.  What exactly is laminated dough?  Laminating dough is the process of folding butter into dough multiple times to create very thin alternating layers of butter and dough.  In other words, puff pastry.  If you have ever eaten croissants, strudel or a Napoleon dessert, then you have eaten laminated dough.  In 1850, there was a bakers’ strike in Denmark, and bakers from many countries came to help the Danes.  Austrian bakers, from Vienna, traveled to Copenhagen, and shared their pastry making ideas and skills.  The Danes, though, instead of using the same fillings as the Austrians, used a sweetened cream cheese, and the cheese Danish was born.   Of course, once immigrants came to America, and introduced puff pastry, and the confections made with it, all sorts of new pastries began to be created.

Puff pastry contains a lot of fat, due to the amount of butter used.  Yes, margarine, the hard stick kind, not spreadable, can be used.  However, with the work involved in making the dough, do not skimp, and go for the quality.  With all the work the dough is put through, the gluten strands get stretched and worked out throughout, so NOT gluten free.  An excellent alternative, to making your own, is buying premade from the supermarket. I do recommend Pepperidge Farm brand as I have used it for years, and it has never disappointed.  However, if you want to challenge yourself, and make fresh dough, there is a very good recipe from King Arthur flour you can find at:    Prep time is two hours, so that gives a good hint on the work needed to make laminated dough correctly.

My baking patience level has not reached that limit as yet, so I use the premade, and here is my recipe for Cheese Danish.  Individual squares can be made, braids, or squares and a braid; It is all up to what you would like to serve. 


Cheese Danish



For the Danish

8 ounces cream cheese, softened 

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar (or sugar substitute meant for baking)

1 egg yolk

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 box (2 sheets), thawed

1 egg white 

For the Glaze:

 1 cup powdered sugar (or substitute like Swerve)

 2 Tbsp. milk

 ¼ tsp. vanilla extract


Position oven rack in center of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.


In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, lemon juice, and vanilla on medium-low speed until well combined, and smooth.


On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry into a 12 x 12-inch rectangle, cut into quarters, creating 4 squares.   Brush the edges of the squares lightly with egg white.  For the second sheet of puff pastry, either repeat with making squares, or roll out into 16x12-inch rectangle, brush edges with egg white, then cut 1Wx2L-inch strips along the long sides.












Spread 2 Tbsp. of cream cheese filling into center of each pastry square; fold two corners, diagonally over filling, then do same for other two corners.   With the long sheet, spread 1 and ½ cups down the center, leaving one inch of room at top and bottom of sheet.  Create a braid: At top and bottom, fold down pastry over filling, then alternate strips across the filling, cross strip right strip over left, and repeat till reaching bottom. 




Brush remaining egg white over tops of squares and/or braid. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate pan, and continue baking, for another 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed.  Carefully move parchment paper to cooling rack. Let cool, for 5 minutes before carefully removing parchment paper.  Let Danish finish cooling on the cooling rack; when completely cool, make the glaze.



Option: Spoon a tablespoon of fruit, fruit pie filling, curd (lemon, lime, passion fruit), or jam over cream cheese filling, before folding pastry over.

Makes 8 squares, or 4 square and 1 braid, or 2 braids.


For the Glaze:

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Drizzle over the cool pastries before serving.  Putting glaze on hot or warm pastries will melt the glaze into the pastry, creating a shine, but softening the crisp pastry.






Mary Cokenour