Company continues Aunt Chick's cookie-cutter legacy
BY NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Sunday, December 02, 2012
12/02/12 at 3:54 AM
Decades have passed since Tulsa's own Aunt Chick began selling her world-famous cookie cutters.
Yet, like the inventor herself, the celebrated cookie cutters made an indelible mark in the lives of many.
The molded cookie cutters, one of many kitchen creations dreamed up by former Tulsa World food writer Nettie McBirney, will be celebrating their 75th anniversary next year.
That's three-quarters of a century of cookie-making memories for families who cherish the unique molds.
Just ask Carrie Greno Falzone, owner of Gramma's Cutters, the company that now makes and distributes the molds.
By the time McBirney died in 1982, her cutters had not been produced in decades, causing families to stockpile the cutters. But Falzone, on a search for replacement cutters for the set her grandmother left her, discovered in 2001 that there were 18,000 of the cutters in a warehouse in Tulsa - and the idea for reviving Aunt Chick's cookie cutter legacy was born.
She bought the cutters, as well as the rights to make them. Now those who discover that the cutters are available for sale call Falzone, overwhelmed with gratitude.
"I just so enjoy the feedback from the people who have been looking for them for years and years and all of their heartfelt stories," Falzone said.
She told the story of one woman who became overwhelmed with emotion after seeing a picture of the Santa cookie cutter in an ad.
"When I picked up the phone, I just heard screaming. She was so excited. She was on a cellphone on the Chicago L train, and it took like a minute before I was able to understand her," Falzone said. "Her grandmother had been making these for years, and she passed them on to her mother and then to her, and she could not believe it because their cutters were lost in a move and these were available now. The picture of the Santa she saw in the ad just brought tears to her eyes because it brought back so many memories."
Falzone also recounted another time when a man, whose family lost the cookie cutters in a fire, found the Gramma's Cutters website about midnight one night. He was so excited that he stayed up the entire night until he could reach Falzone by phone the next morning.
"He probably kept me on the phone for an hour telling me his stories," she said.
Piece of Tulsa history
The story of how Aunt Chick's cutters came to be is an important part of Tulsa's history and an important part of Falzone's life.
In 1909, Nettie McBirney moved to Oklahoma from Wisconsin to teach home economics. After stints teaching in Claremore and Muskogee, she married Sam McBirney - vice president of the National Bank of Commerce and coach of the University of Tulsa football team - and the couple made their home in Tulsa in 1916.
But Nettie McBirney still had the desire to share her knowledge of cooking and arranged to start writing a cooking column for the Tulsa World in 1935. So, without telling her husband, she began the column under the pseudonym "Aunt Chick."
Once suspecting that his wife may be writing the column, Sam McBirney is said to have exclaimed, "That crazy woman will start a run on the bank if people think she has to work!"
Yet she wrote the Tulsa World cooking column for 20 years, quitting in the early 1950s.
Nettie McBirney is credited with inventing kitchen tools such as a nonstick pastry canvas, a rolling pin cover and a pie pan that prevented the soggy-bottom crust. But it's her "Cooky Molding Cutter" that was her biggest claim to fame. The molds, first sold in 1948, have a 3-D appearance and small bumps inside, designed so the mold will release the dough.
It's said that Princess Margaret even purchased a set in 1952 for Prince Charles.
Enamored by the history of Aunt Chick, Falzone has gotten to know McBirney's grandchildren and has kept the story of the creative, independent inventor alive.
"I don't know if Aunt Chick knew she was going to touch as many people as she did for as many years as she did, but it has really been a blessing in my life," Falzone said.
Making molded cookies is a little different than other cutters, so Falzone has many recipes on the Gramma's Cutters website tulsaworld.com/grammascutters
Here are two of them:
This recipe is an Aunt Chick's original and the spices of nutmeg and cinnamon accent the molasses nicely for a mild flavor. Decorate with a little cream cheese icing if eating them plain.
AUNT CHICK'S MOLASSES CUTOUT COOKIE
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup molasses
Sift and measure:
4 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1. Make a well in the flour mixture and slowly add everything to it, mixing thoroughly. Split dough into 4 separate balls and wrap in waxed paper. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
2. Using a lightly floured pastry cloth, roll dough out to 1/4- to 3/8-inch thickness. With floured Aunt Chick's Cookie Cutter, place cookie cutter on dough and press down firmly with fingers all around edges to make sure the entire edge is cut.
3. With spatula, lift cookie cutter and dough. With thumb, rub cutting edge clean of dough and gently press dough into cookie cutter, being careful not to press dough too thin inside the cookie cutter. Tap cookie cutter down on table, cookie sheet or in your hand,and dough will come right out.
4. Flour cutter before cutting next cookie and repeat process.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool thoroughly before decorating.
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter or 1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring (optional)
1. Mix by hand until all is blended. Then, with electric mixer, beat for five minutes at high speed.
A smooth and sweet butterscotch flavor is what you will find in this cookie recipe. These cookies do not need much decorating, just a dip into some white chocolate to decorate.
AUNT CHICK'S BUTTERSCOTCH CUTOUT COOKIES WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE DIP
1 cup butterscotch-flavored chips
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1. Melt butterscotch chips over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth (3 to 5 minutes) and let cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Mix with beater: butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Add melted butterscotch chips and mix well. Add flour and mix by hand. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hour). Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place on nongreased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
3. When cooled, dip 1/2 the cookies in tempered white chocolate. (Melt chocolate using a double boiler and melting white chocolate chips.)
Original Print Headline: Company continues Aunt Chick legacy
Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
Aunt Chick's celebrated cookie cutters made an indelible mark in the lives of many. Courtesy
Nettie McBirney, aka "Aunt Chick," demonstrates her cookie-making techniques Dec. 9, 1977, at the Southern Hills Nursing Center. Tulsa World file