This is absolutely my favorite cookie from my childhood. I never got the exact recipe from my mom but I seem to remember it coming out of a red book with a ring binding. That can only mean Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens. So off I went on a web search for my favorite cookie. I tried many and none were quite right until I found Miss Betty. I had to make one change to the spices to make it taste right. My mom never liked cloves and would substitute allspice, so that is what I use here.
I know that some of you are going to not like the idea of using shortening. I have to admit that I am not a fan either. I do my level best to keep trans fats out of our diet by reading the ingredients list for all processed food and reshelving those products that still contain them. Unfortunately, shortening still has partially hydrogenated fat. Technically the manufacturer can claim the shortening is trans fat free because each serving has less half a gram. Since I only make these cookies a couple of times a year I have made an uneasy peace with this. In order to avoid the shortening I have tried butter, but it dulls the flavor of the spices and changes the texture of the cookie. Since butter has a lower melting point the cookies spread a lot more and they wind up crispier. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but, what I want in this particular cookie is chewy and soft. Another way to ensure a chewy cookie is to remove the baking sheet from the oven when the cookies look slightly under baked in the middle. If you like a crispy cookie then bake them for a an extra minute or two.