Simple ingredients make tasty cookies

Hagerstown-area woman creates cracker confections

Hagerstown-area woman creates cracker confections

August 26, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Charlotte Shirley's cookie recipes put stale crackers to good use.

Butter, sugar, walnuts and chocolate can transform a saltine into a crisp, tasty Cracker Cookie. The recipe works on any cracker - stale or fresh.

Swap the Cracker Cookie's sugar for brown sugar, nix the chocolate, and swap saltines for graham crackers - then you've got a tasty Graham Cracker Praline Cookie.

"I use graham crackers from the dollar store," said Shirley, 77, who lives just north of Hagerstown with her husband, Vernon.


Shirley said she got the Cracker Cookie recipe from a cooking show years ago and later got the Praline recipe from a woman she met while on vacation in 2004. She makes the Praline and Cracker Cookies about three times a year.

Shirley got her first taste of cracker confections well before she found those two recipes.

As a little girl growing up during the Great Depression, "I can remember my mother (Mildred Haupt) putting crackers in a bowl and putting cinnamon on them, then pouring boiling water over it - steamed cinnamon crackers," Shirley said.

Shirley, who cooks at least six times a week, said the joy of cooking hasn't rubbed off on her two adult children, two grandchildren or her three great-grandchildren.

But she said the family does get plenty of joy from eating Shirley's cooking.

"I sent a plate (of the Cracker Cookies) over to my granddaughter," Shirley said. "She called me back and said, 'They're addictive. I ate a whole plate of them.'"

Shirley chatted recently while making a batch of cookies in her kitchen.

Q&A with Charlotte Shirley

Q: So what are some things you like to cook?

A: I like to make lasagna, big turkey dinners. I do make a coleslaw with whipped cream. It's a Pennsylvania-Dutch recipe I got from my mother. You shred the cabbage, then you whip the whipped cream, half-and-half and vinegar until it peaks. I also like to bake cakes, and I have a terrific recipe for fudge. I use corn syrup in my fudge.

I once went to a fudge factory and I asked the guy if he'd give me the recipe. He said he wouldn't because it's secret. I told him that I used corn syrup in my fudge and he said that was his secret.

Q: You mentioned you cook six times a week. What's a typical week like for you in the kitchen?

A: We do grilled steaks, grilled pork - very little fried food. I do make fried chicken and potato salad, though.

Q: Is there one thing you absolutely will not eat?

A: Liver. When I fix it for my husband, I can't stand to eat anything, just because of the smell.

Cracker Cookies

2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter and sugar over medium heat, stirring throughout. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Add vanilla.

Cover a jellyroll pan (roughly 18 by 13 inches) with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Cover with a single layer of crackers.

Spoon the mixture over the crackers. Put in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble.

Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips across the crackers. The chocolate will begin to melt. Spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers.

Sprinkle the nuts on top. Lightly mash the nuts into the crackers. (Shirley uses the wrappers from the butter to mash down the nuts).

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Once chilled, use a sharp knife to cut into squares.

Makes 24 to 30 cookies.

- Courtesy of Charlotte Shirley

Graham Cracker Praline Cookies

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup English walnuts, chopped
1 box of graham crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place graham crackers on a jellyroll pan (roughly 18 by 13 inches), covering the surface with one layer of crackers but leaving some space between the crackers so that they're easier to cut once baked.

In a saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar, stirring, over medium heat. Bring to boil for 2 minutes. Add the walnuts.

Spoon this mixture over the graham crackers.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies start to bubble.

Allow to cool for a few minutes. Cut into squares with a sharp knife and serve.

Makes 24 to 30 cookies.

- Courtesy of Charlotte Shirley

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