“Cookie lady writes a book”
On Thursday, June 12, 1980, The Milwaukee Sentinel published an article on page 1, part 4 (the Food section) titled “Cookie lady writes a book”. The article highlights Bess Hoffman on her come back tour for her famous cookie cookbook, Cookies by Bess.
The Milwaukee Sentinel article is one of many showing up in newspapers all across the United States from Florida to Wisconsin to California. “Cookie lady writes a book” is a perfect example of Bess at her best, talking about baking, sharing recipes, and of course sharing her famous cookies.
Below is the article as published by Dorothy Kincaid, way back in June 1980. I have a copy of the original newspaper article, but as you can see it’s a bit worse for wear. As you read the article, you’ll notice I’ve taken the liberty of including some digitally remastered images taken back in 1980 to support Bess’ promotional tour…they weren’t in the original article, but as you can see, they certainly provide a wonderful view of Bess’ cookies!
I hope you enjoy “Cookie lady writes a book” as much as I did reading it for the first, second, and third time!
“Cookie lady writes a book”, by Dorothy Kincaid
When Bess Hoffman and three family members boarded a plane in Los Angeles recently, each carried a large shopping bag. In the bags were 28 meticulously packed and labeled boxes, layered with waxed paper, wrapped in foil and plastic.
The contents totaled nearly 3,000 small and elegant cookies. They rode under the seats as hand luggage and arrived at their destination – her granddaughter’s wedding reception in Madison, Wis – without one broken.
Mrs. Hoffman, a former Wausau resident known as “the cookie lady,” has been baking all her life, and that particular effort was nothing special. She just baked, packed and froze 27 varieties of cookies for four months, keeping an inventory, until her daughter, June Sherman of Northbrook, ILL., declared, “Mother, that is enough!”
What is unusual is that now, at 72, Bess Hoffman is into a whirl of activity surrounding the re-issue of her 20-year-old cookbook, “Cookies by Bess.” Bess Hoffman was here recently to publicize her book and visit family.
Cookie baking is love and art and relaxation for Bess Hoffman.
“In my house, cookies were not a dessert. I always had two jars going,” she recalled. “I love cooking…it never tired me, just gave me a lift. Any time I was sad, I’d bake. Even in the middle of the night.”
The first “Cookies by Bess” was published in Wausau in 1960, but she had started it when the family was living in Menominee, Mich., and when her twin sons were 2 years old. Some of the 215 recipes had come from her mother, some she had gathered and adapted, some – like her delicate Cinnamon Logs – were her own invention.
After the twins and two daughters were in bed, she would clip and paste, to the amusement of her husband, Abe. The children were grown before the cookie cookbook finally was published, selling more that 35,000 copies.
Hoffman handled the business end. Son-in-law Sy Sherman, did the marketing, limited by choice. It was sold by Marshall Field & Co, in Chicago and through the mail-order catalog of Maid of Scandinavia, Minneapolis, Minn.
Bess Hoffman had great satisfaction in her cookbook. The modest profits put a daughter through college and paid for some pleasant vacations. By 1967 it was out of print. Five years later, Abe Hoffman retired as credit manager of Winkelman’s Department Store, and he and his wife moved to California.
Richard Hoffman recalls vividly how his mother baked 10,000 cookies for the grand opening of the drug store he and his twin, Ronald, runs in Appleton. Her cookies left the same impression there as they did at weddings and fancy teas in Menominee and Wausau.
“People still come in and ask, “How’s the cookie lady?’ he said.
“My mother put so much tenderness into those cookies. I ate them as a kid; I always had a hand in the jar. And not just one or six – a couple of dozen. If that cookie jar was not full, there were problems.”
Maybe that is why she make small cookies, he mused. A child could eat a lot of them. But he never had a cavity in his life, he said. The whole cookie-loving family has pretty good teeth and nobody is fat, even June, whom her mother called “the king’s taster.”
Mrs. Hoffman said that she had been a tomboy, yet she loved everything about housekeeping. Whenever her mother baked, “I looked and watched and listened. She would put in a little of this and a little of that, but I’d break down her recipes.”
She is particular about details because they make or break a batch of cookies. The cookbook contains her tips and all the original recipes augmented by new ones plus frostings and fillings. The cover is a color photograph of a bright mosaic of cookies.
Mrs. Hoffman’s children have incorporated with Richard as vice president and treasurer and his wife, Toba, as president. The new “Cookies by Bess” is being marketed nationally with television interviews, book-autographing parties – the works.
“I told her when they moved to California, we would not let the book die,” Richard said. “It’s not all about the money. We were’t able to help with the first book, but now we can.”
They were not sure how to proceed until they read a story in The Milwaukee Sentinel’s Food Section about how the Wisconsin Home Economic Association released a popular old cookbook with the help of it’s executive secretary, Mary-Beth Kuester, and her firm, Communications Resources.
“Cookies by Bess” brings together the best of the cookie recipes that Bess Hoffman has tested on her family and friends during 54 years of marriage.
The former Wausau resident, who now lives in Los Angeles, Calif., also offers tips on baking, freezing and storing cookies.
• Always use the exact size pan specified in the recipe. Have eggs at room temperature. Bake only one filled cookie sheet or pan of cookies at a time or the heat will not distribute properly. You can conserve heat by having another sheet or pan ready to pop in the oven when the first sheet or pan is removed. Also, don’t double a cookie recipe. Make it twice if more cookies are needed.
• Cookies may be frozen, even refrozen. They will keep for a year if properly wrapped. Small ones will thaw in a few minutes. Always use butter, unless a recipe specifically calls for another kind of shortening. The taste give you away if you try to get by with a substitute. “I’m a pure butter girl,” she said. “You cannot beat Wisconsin dairy products, no matter where you live.”
That’s it for the article except for Bess’ trademark of listing 5 or 6 recipes of her favorite recipes. How she was able to pick favorites, I don’t know…I have yet to bake a recipes that isn’t just awesome!
There are so many recipes, it’s going to take by about 4 to 5 years to bake them all…if I keep going at the rate of one per week or so. It’s a big commitment, but a sweet one for sure! I’ll keep baking, just like Grandma Bess…it’s a passion I guess I inherited from her. My family and friends are surely glad I did!