Somehow I’ve gotten in the habit of posting food or diet blogs on Mondays. They are generally well-received so I am keeping the tradition!
This time of year, with many holidays celebrating many faiths, there is a lot of baking going on. Our home is no different. Today, however, I am going to share a memory of a bakery and the cookies we bought there when I was a little girl.
Sibley’s was a large department store based in Rochester, New York. Some say it was to Rochester like Macy’s was to New York or Marshall Fields was to Chicago. Although the flagship store was downtown, by the time I was a girl, the malls had Sibley’s. Greece Town Mall, an older mall next to Long Ridge Mall in the town of Greece, a suburb of Rochester had a Sibley’s Department Store. In the suburban Sibley’s, between the women’s and men’s departments, was a bakery. Cookies, cakes, pastries, and pies along with some bread and rolls were all displayed in glass cases.
If we were especially good, we’d be able to pick a cookie from the case to eat on the way home. My pick was always a Chinese Marble Cookie. This is a shortbread-style cookie with veins of dark, unsweetened chocolate running through the buttery white dough. Thus, the marble effect.
I fondly remember these cookies and the pleasure they brought me as a girl.
Recently, I found a FaceBook group called Rochester Eats. The group leader compiled recipes that were iconic of Rochester’s stores and restaurants. The Chinese Marble Cookie from Sibley’s was listed on the group’s page last year.
But, in the throws of the pandemic, I forgot about it until recently. I reached out to the page administrator and she tagged me in last year’s post that contained the recipe for Chinese Marble Cookies. She was thrilled that I had memories of Sibley’s bakery.
Last week, I made the cookie that gave me so much pleasure as a girl! And, I have to say, they still do the trick! Rich and buttery with a slight hint of bitter chocolate, the cookie did not disappoint. And, better than that, they were easy to make!
The recipe uses butter-flavored Crisco, not butter or margarine, to obtain the right amount of crispness and flavor. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate was another ingredient I had to purchase, but other than those two items, the cookies are made with basic baking staples.
The key to getting a vein of chocolate running through the cookie is to not mix the dough once the chocolate is drizzled on the dough. I wasn’t sure I’d be successful at this part but took care to try and do it right.
Once I had the dough spread out, I drizzled the melted chocolate. Then, to try and retain the veining effect, I just folded in the sides toward the middle of the dough, gathering it gently to not mix in the chocolate. I was left with a log shape from which I pulled off pieces of dough to drop as balls onto the parchment for baking. When I flattened the balls with a glass dipped in sugar, I knew I had done well enough to retain the marbling effect from the chocolate!
The cookies baked up well, not spreading too much but retaining the chocolate veins.
Unfortunately, Sibley’s closed the downtown store in early 1990. Other locations closed shortly before or after that closure. The upscale department store was an icon for the Rochester area and made many sad with its closure. The online department store museum offers a detailed history of Sibley’s and has photographs of its storefronts at various locations if you are interested.
There is also a wonderful book by Karen Doyle called Rochester Eats (2007) that offers a collection of icon recipes and the locations from where the recipes were offered in the Rochester area. The Chinese Marble Cookie is one of the recipes! Shhhh- don’t tell! I bought it for my sister for Christmas! (I am not an Amazon affiliate so I do not get any monetary benefit from sharing this source).