I love Girl Scout cookies (you'll pry the Thin Mints from my cold dead fingers), so it's no shock that once I learned that the original recipe for their very first cookie was floating around, I simply had to test it out.
You know that friend in high school who had a car and laughed at your jokes, but you weren't exactly BFFs with? This cookie is exactly that, and here's why.
The Challenge of a Vintage Recipe
Recipes that are handed down over the years or were from early kitchens are usually a little thin on directions and words, and assume a great deal of knowledge on the baker. This recipe for the original Girl Scout cookie, the one that started it all, is no different.
Now, assuming you've baked a shortbread cookie before, there are a few things that aren't specifically called out. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at the recipe that was released. It's originally from 1922.
It doesn't look tricky, right? In fact, it looks slightly dull by today's overly creative cookie standards. There isn't a rainbow swirl in sight; it isn't stuffed with anything at all; and there are no fancy salts, frostings, dips, or toppings to be seen. But then again, most shortbread cookies don't. They're simply shortbread.
Baking the Original Girl Scout Cookie
Most modern shortbread recipes will specifically call out the need to freeze the dough, then roll out and then re-freeze dough before baking. It keeps your corners crisp and your browning even, and creates a thin, flat cookie that doesn't lend itself to puffing up. I tried to follow this version to the letter of the law and instead chilled my dough in the refrigerator for the suggested hour before rolling.
The recipe doesn't mention how the dough should be treated before it hits the chill chest, so going against all better judgment I just popped the bowl in the fridge for an hour to sit. This method worked out as well as one might think and, after the hour had passed, the dough was still practically unworkable and stuck to everything in sight — so to the freezer it went for another hour.
The result was the dough below: soft enough to work and firm enough to not melt upon rolling. That said, I still had to apply powdered sugar to my work surface, the rolling pin, and the top of the dough before rolling. In addition, I also had to re-sugar the top and apply a second sheet of parchment paper and flip it over, peeling the now top paper off slowly so the dough wouldn't tear.
If you plan on making this yourself, I suggest tossing it back in the freezer for 30 minutes, between the sheets of parchment, so it removes cleanly and with less hassle before applying a cookie cutter.
You can see above how even though I took extra precautions, the extra measures still resulted in some sticky dough on the parchment that was peeled back. Likewise, had the dough been formed into a flattened disc before freezing, it would have rolled out smoother and with less broken edges. Because this dough is still incredibly soft after a trip through the freezer, the less rolling you need to do the better!
I used the same fluted cutter I often do for shortbread, and did I struggle. I had rolled the dough to an eighth of an inch and I think it would have created a better bite of cookie if it would have only been rolled out to a quarter-inch instead. Since the recipe is a little vague, in the back of my mind I had the idea of the word thin, being represented by the modern day Thin Mint cookie and went from that mental dimension.
So, How Were They?
I've never met a cookie I didn't like. In my head, everything has its place. Maybe you're dunking it, icing it, filling it, crumbling it into a topping on another dessert, using it for the base of a cheesecake, or just sucking spicy air through it (gingersnaps, I'm looking at you). Every cookie has a place.
These cookies, while they tasted like a butter-laden, sugary snack, aren't anything that I'll be whipping up for the next PTA meeting or baby shower I have to attend. I've had better shortbread and I've had worse. This basic recipe would be greatly helped out with a little lemon zest and shake or two of cardamom. It also would have been great made in a springform pan and cut into wedges, eliminating all need for individual cookies and keeping them thick and delicious.
Many of the issues outlined in the photo above would have been remedied with a longer stay in the freezer, but wouldn't have changed their basic flavor.
In short, I won't be replacing my Thin Mint habit with this cookie recipe anytime soon. It's good to know that the Girl Scouts have come a long way in their offerings of delicious cookies. This year they even came out with two surprising s'mores cookies that everyone seems to be talking about.
Make Them for the Historic Nostalgia, Not the Taste
If you have a Girl Scout birthday party on the calendar for your little and her troop, then have at it. Otherwise, it's of my own opinion it's better to use a few sticks of good butter for another recipe that will tingle your tastebuds a little more.
More (and Dare I Say Better?) Shortbread Recipes
Have you tried this recipe? Did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments.