Season's Greetings, one and all! During last year's holiday season, I wrote an extensive post about a Christmas sugar cookie recipe that has been handed down in our family for at least four, going on five, generations. In that post, I explained that while the cookie recipe survived, the caramel frosting recipe, alas, had been lost; this despite myriad cousins, second cousins and third-cousins who probably had the good fortune to enjoy these gems.
Late this past summer, the lost recipe turned up in a most unexpected and serendipitous way: from someone outside the family. Imagine the joy when my aunt received a call from a family friend who found a caramel frosting recipe in her mother's cookbook. The recipe included Grandma Poss' name, along with a note, "Wonderful frosting." As my aunt says, "No kidding!"
Given the tardiness of this post, you may not be making these cookies for this holiday season, but consider this a head start for next year's festivities. You will want to read through three posts to make these cookies from start to finish, and when you embark on this cooking-making venture, you'll want to give yourself a couple of days head start, because the frosting recipe relies on home-made sour cream. This current post is focused on the frosting, but you'll find instructions and photos for the cookies themselves, as well as the frosting process (using a substitute caramel frosting), in last year's post, Happy Holidays: Sugar Cookies with Caramel Frosting. Don't be scared by the lengty preparation, the cookies are well worth the effort, a fact attested to by many of my relatives!
Frosting Yield: Enough frosting for 3 dozen cookies; double the batch if you are making the full sugar cookie recipe, which yields 5 dozen cookies.
Preparation Time: Make sour cream 1-2 days prior, 2 hours to cook and cool frosting, 30 minutes to frost cookies
1 1/4 C sour cream (made from scratch)
1 3/4 C whole milk
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C finely chopped pecans (preferrably native Missouri pecans)
The key component to this frosting's creamy smoothness is the fat content, which displaces protein content and also helps reduce potential crystalization of the sugar. So when trying to recontruct this recipe, I have learned from experience that commercial sour cream doesn't quite do the trick because it's lower in fat than if you make your own sour cream from heavy cream. (This is a culinary-oriented, food science discussion...nutrition moves to the back burner for these once-a-year cookies!) My mom related to me that Grandma and Grandpa raised Jersey and Guernsey cows. That's an important piece of information because the butterfat content from these dairy cows is quite high, and these breeds of bovines would have been the source for Grandma's cream that she soured. Therefore, I highly advise that you not try to reduce the fat content of this recipe. Use heavy cream for the sour cream and whole milk, not 2%, 1% or nonfat.
Let's commence making frosting. Assuming your sour cream has been made in advance, place all ingredients except nuts in a 2-quart sauce pan.
Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Let boil, stirring frequently. Note, you do not need to stir constantly, which is a good thing, because you'll be cooking about 90 minutes! I find this is a simple recipe to prepare when I have other tasks to accomplish in the kitchen. For example, this frosting tops apple cake very nicely, and you can start the frosting and let it cook while you are preparing the cake.
At about 60 minutes, the frosting will start to caramelize. Continue boiling until mixture thickens and turns golden brown.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer to a flat pan and let cool. Place chopped nuts in a second flat pan. (I use pie tins.) To frost, turn cookie upside down and dip surface into frosting, twisting slightly for an even coat. Dip frosted side into chopped pecans, and place cookie on a cookie sheet. See cookie recipe for step-by-step photographs. Here are cookies (with improvised frosting) from last year. We're baking a batch later today with Grandma's frosting.
Grandma did not whip the frosting, but I have whipped it with good results. Let cool before whipping. Here's the whipped frosting on apple cake.
Per-cookie Nutritional Profile (includes cookie and frosting):
Fat, 11 g
Saturated Fat, 6 g
Cholesterol, 40 mg
Carbs, 24 g
Dietary Fiber, 1 g
Protein, 2 g
Sodium, 75 mg
Vitamin A, 6% Daily Value
Vitamin C, 0% Daily Value
Calcium, 2% Daily Value
Iron, 4% Daily Value