In a heavy saucepan (use an iron one if you have it), melt ˝ pound margarine (you can use butter, but margarine's better for this) with 1 and 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 cup dark corn syrup and 1 cup Log Cabin syrup (over the years, Asta looked for something akin to the maple syrup she could get in Denmark and never found any, but Log Cabin was close enough; don't substitute real maple syrup either, it's not going to work). Add 1 tablespoon grated orange peel, 2 teaspoons ground cloves and 3 teaspoons cinnamon. Heat to almost boiling, then remove from the burner and drop in 1 teaspoon baking soda. Stir and do not let it bubble over. When the soda is incorporated, cover and set aside overnight. A couple of days is even better. If you stick it in the fridge, pull it out and let it come to room temperature before continuing.
Add four cups flour, one at a time. Mix thoroughly, cover and set aside to let the dough rest. Give it a day in the fridge and a day on the counter before continuing.
Add two more cups flour, this time kneading the dough by hand. If the dough is really sticky, dust the mixing bowl with flour and continue to knead until it feels right - a little sticky but mostly smooth and cool. (Rob watched me doing this part and wondered why I couldn't beat this with a spoon, and if I had a Kitchen Aid, couldn't I do it in that? Of course the answer is yes…but… I subscribe to the belief, as Asta did, that a cook's hands impart something individual to each dough. Maybe it's only germs but whatever it is, if you don't touch the dough, you don't get it.) Cover and let it sit overnight. The dough will keep indefinitely so you can put some into the back of the fridge in an airtight container and bring out only what you need to bake at a time.
Do you have a ball-bearing rolling pin? No? Then get one. It is Asta's Rule of Rolling. Her mother used to roll them out with those pins that have no handles. Asta discovered the joys of ball-bearing pins and you'd have thought she had stock in the company that makes them, she was such an advocate of them. She rolled these out on a thin rectangle of foam rubber, covered by a large floured towel. I didn't have foam rubber. Asta gave me some.
I noticed this year that it's stretching out in the middle from all the rolling - I've had this foam for ten years -- and asked Rob if he knew where I could get more. "Why do you need it?" he asked, "My grandma used to just flour the countertops and roll on that and choonk! Choonk! Choonk! Cut out the biscuits with a water glass."
"Well, I need it because Asta said so," I replied. I talked about how I figured it gave a bit of a bounce to the pin so that the dough wouldn't be squooshed too much and the cookie cutters would cut neatly, but in the end, I don't know why. All I know is that before Asta gave me this foam, I couldn't roll cookie dough to save my life, but with it, I've been a rolling queen. What it does is give me confidence and that, like the commercial says, is priceless.
The dough must be at room temperature. (Asta says the dough is tricky, but either I've been blessed or have followed her directions perfectly because I've never had trouble with it.) Roll chunks of it out on the floured cloth until they are exceptionally thin. Asta rolled hers into big rectangles then cut across them diagonally with a pizza cutter, garnishing each diamond with an almond sliver. I tried that but found that I couldn't cut a decent diagonal, or they'd get all wobbly when I transferred them to the cookie sheets.
This year, having misplaced all my cookie cutters, I used Rob's grandma's method of a water glass dipped in flour. If the dough is rolled too thick, trying to eat them could chip a tooth. Go as thin as you can. Bake on parchment-covered baking sheets until golden brown; do not let them get dark brown as they'll taste burnt. Asta never did say for how long or at what temperature. I use 350 degrees and just keep checking them. I meant to time it but forgot. It depends on how thin you got your dough, pretty much. Maybe 7 - 10 minutes.
The cookies keep indefinitely when stored in a tightly covered container. Makes a gajillion (well, at least fifteen dozen, so I bake them over a couple of days. You could halve the recipe but since these take so long to make over the course of time and last forever, might as well do the whole thang!)
And there you have it. If you make these, remember the stories
that go along with the dough and add your own. That's the true secret to cooking. :)