By the time I came into my husband’s family, Seedy Buns were only a memory in the minds of the older generations. My father-in-law said they were cookies featuring caraway seeds and a treat eaten at Christmas, but perhaps he got them mixed up with Seedy Biscuits? Because a bun is bread, we all know that, whereas a biscuit can be a cookie if it is in the British Isles. But what if you take a bun and sweeten and shorten it up? Might it be like a little cake?
I never thought of a cookie as being a little cake until I read The Little Book to my children very long ago. “A cookie is a little cake,” it says right there. I know that type of cookie, and I don’t really care for them. I like mine chewy or crispy, but not cake-y.
In my joyful Christmas cookie project, which is my art at this time of year, I had the idea to make a modern Seedy Bun that would hearken back to the ancestors who brought their Cornish traditions to California.
Once a cousin had taken a box of sugar cookie mix and thrown in a can of caraway seeds to create a simple reenactment, and I scoured the Internet to see what else might be out there as inspiration.
A fascinating collection of recipes from newspapers dating 1891 to 1981 gave a hint as to the possibilities, and included two poems mentioning a grandma or an aunt making caraway cookies. Here’s one of the recipes that even claims to make a crisp cookie:
It was published in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1919, and I think is interesting for its use of the word “butterine,” which I’d never seen before.
Early American cooks also used seeds liberally in their cookies, often coriander or caraway, and I liked the looks of a glazed cookie based on one from the first American cookbook published in 1796.
Cooks are like folk-singers, changing and adapting their material freely, and it’s not as though I am looking for The Original Seedy Bun recipe to cook myself, but it would be nice to know what those cookies were like, that my husband’s grandma made.
In the meantime I decided to try this recipe for lemony cookies, calling for ground caraway seeds which I didn’t have. I tried grinding some in the blender, but they only burned from the heat, so I used whole seeds.
Some of the baked cookies were a little skimpy on seeds, like the one I picture below. I’ll have to see how everyone receives them before I decide whether to make these the same way another time. If I make a different Seedy Bun, I might bake these again as well, without the caraway, because I agree with their creator about their appealing “depth and intensity” from the lemon juice and zest.
After my Seedy Lemon Biscuits were put away in the freezer, I heard from an older grandchild of my husband’s grandmother who, I was so happy to hear, had made a collection of Grandma’s recipes, and the first cookie in the collection was indeed called Seedy Buns.
Seedie Buns – 5 doz. These are similar to sugar cookies.
Sift and set aside: 3 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/4 tsp t salt
Cream in bowl: 1 1/4 C butter
Beat in until fluffy: 1 1/4 C sugar
Add: 3 eggs one at a time, beat well after each.
Blend in: 1 t grated orange peel, 1 t vanilla, 2 T caraway seeds
Chill several hours.
To form cookies take about 1 T dough and roll into ball.
Place on lightly greased baking sheet
Flatten to 1/4″ with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 min., or until lightly browned.
If any of my readers have favorite seedy cookie recipes, I’d love to hear about them. It’s not too early to start brainstorming for next year!
7 thoughts on “A cookie might be a little seedy bun cake.”
Hi GJ! The book is so sweet! Seedy Buns. Hmmmm. I remember an old book titled Poppy Seed Cakes. Have you heard of it? I'll be right over for tea and cookies.
I loved reading of your cookie investigation. After all your research, and then, voila! Out comes that seedy bun recipe. A fun read, indeed.
It's interesting how they spell “cookie” as “cooky.” And only in 1919! Fascinating how quickly language changes, even when it's in print and everyone is being educated and taking spelling tests and all. Your cookies look delectable.
love seedies – i grew up on them. here is one recipe: 1 yeast cake softened in 1/2 c lukewarm water. add 2c lukewarm milk. beat in thoroughly 3c four, let rise. then add 1 c sugar, 1 tsp salt, 4 t caraway seeds, 2/3 c lard or butter, enough flour to knead. (add flour slowly, not too much). let rise, bake rolls in 375 oven “until done”.
Thank you, Gigi! How kind to pass along a recipe. I would love to make these when I don’t have time for the several-days bread recipe using caraway. 🙂
they were pretty common in my little town, populated by mostly cornish emigrants. i wish i had my mother’s recipe.
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