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The British Cookie That Taught Me About My Grandmother

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What is it about family recipes that recall such vivid impressions of the people we love?

Even though I've never tasted the brandy snaps my grandmother made every holiday season, there’s something about their style, technique, and flavor that make me feel nostalgic.


I only knew my grandmother when I was a little girl, so it's the stories, photographs, and recipes (rather than the brief time I knew her) that have given me a stronger sense of her vivacious character and warm heart.

Photo by Linda Xiao

Now, inspired by Food52’s Cookie Map, I have dug up another one of her famed recipes—brandy snaps—and have been reminded of the generous spirit I’ve heard so much about.

My mother passed the recipe to me, recalling the way Muggy, my grandmother, used to put them in pretty tin boxes for friends around the holidays. I can imagine her making batch after batch for all of her close friends, delivering them at various holiday parties or making special trips to give them to friends she didn’t see regularly.

Muggy and Dadu, my grandfather, at a Christmas party in the ‘70s.
Muggy and Dadu, my grandfather, at a Christmas party in the ‘70s.

I’ve always believed that homemade, personal gifts are the most meaningful, and I imagine that Muggy’s friends felt touched knowing that she’d put so much time into rolling the fragile cookies into perfect tubes. As I think about gifts for my friends and family this holiday season, I hope to imbue the gifts I make with the same loving spirit as Muggy's.

Who knows? Maybe my friends will be lucky enough to receive her brandy snaps!

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Brandy Snaps

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Makes 60 to 70 cookies (feel free to halve the recipe)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons brandy
  • Heavy whipping cream (optional)

Tags: brandy snaps, british, cookies, cookie world map