Today I’m using an ingredient I haven’t talked about yet in this project — cocoanut. I generally avoid making things with cocoanut as so many people don’t like it and it isn’t my first choice in flavour or as an ingredient. I decided to try making Cocoanut Cookies using Millie Musselman’s recipe in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. This was an easy recipe to cut in half so that I could avoid waste if they were nasty cookies or excess calories if they were nice cookies.
I had assumed it would be easy to find out a bit about Millie Musselman. Her full name is listed and it is a somewhat unusual name. However, in 1901 in Waterloo County that surname is incredibly common. Probably in part because Joseph Musselman had eight children with his first wife and twelve with his second wife. I found out about him by tracking a Mildred Musselman through Waterloo Generations. She was born after 1906 but I thought perhaps the name had been used previously in her family. I’m trying to imagine other names which might be shortened to Millie. Could the 23-year-old Minerva in the 1901 census be nicknamed Millie? She’s working as a servant of some sort in a hotel owned by Mr. Dopp in Berlin. She’s Lutheran but she’s not one of the cooks. Would Melissa end up as Millie? She’s living in Elmira with her married brother in 1911 and working as a dressmaker in private homes. I’ve looked for middle initials starting with M. and so far no success. I’ve looked beyond Waterloo County as well. I’ll have to dig deeper to find out about this contributor.
Miss Musselman’s instructions are reasonably straightforward so I creamed the 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar, added an egg, a cup of cocoanut, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and approximately 1 1/4 cups of flour. I used unsweetened shredded cocoanut. I attempted to roll this dough thin and tried using a crinkle cookie cutter. Crinkles and cocoanut do not mix. Instead I used a small drinking glass to cut out the cookies. I placed them on a greased cookie sheet. I baked them at 375 degrees F. and started checking them after 5 minutes. I think the intention is to end up with a nice crisp cookie so I removed them quickly from the baking sheet to cool.
So is cocoanut common in 1906? Prepared cocoanut in the form of dessicated and shredded style cocoanut was available in many grocers. There was a brand called dromedary that actually sold cutters in the shape of a camel so that people could make shaggy cocoanut camel cookies for Christmas.
How do they taste? I liked Miss Musselman’s Cocoanut Cookies. They are basically a sugar cookie with cocoanut which is great for anyone who likes both the style of cookie and the ingredient. A modern cook might ice them after baking or add some coloured sugar before baking but they are good left alone. I might make these cookies again if I know I’m around cocoanut fans. I imagine Millie, whoever she is, making them for a tea party in 1912 as they are perfect for that sort of event.
2 cups white sugar, 1 cup butter, 2 cups grated cocoanut, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder. Mix with enough flour to roll easy, roll very thin, bake in a quick oven, but not brown.