My Favorite Recipes from The Little Women Cookbook

Announcement: I’m pleased to say that The Little Women Cookbook came in Fourth Place in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Cookbooks. Thanks to all who voted for it!

Now, on to today’s post:

Ever since The Little Women Cookbook was published in October, friends, readers, relatives, and interviewers have been asking me what the best Little Women recipes are.

That’s hard to answer! The great thing about a cookbook with only 50 well-chosen recipes is that I can honestly say there’s no “filler.” I like (and continue to cook!) every single recipe in this book. In fact, I had to leave a couple faves out for space.

A few I’ve been making a lot lately include Jo’s Gingerbread (I adore the deep molasses, brown sugar, and baking-spice flavors contrasted by the bright lemon icing), the Fruit-and-Nut Trifle (hot milk spongecake makes this especially true to the era), Garden Pot Pie (a vegetarian recipe inspired by Bronson Alcott’s love of gardening), and the Spice Trade Deviled Eggs, which speak to the fact that the spice trade was going strong in the March family’s time — remember, Laurie’s grandfather was a spice trader.

However, if I were to choose one recipe that I’m most pleased with, it might be Hannah’s Cheese-and-Jam Turnovers. Not only do I love the flavor (the savory and buttery-rich flaky crust surrounds a dot of sweet jam), but I just love the story behind the turnovers, as it truly speaks to the way the family cares for each other through food. Here’s a quote straight from the text of Little Women:

I’m pleased to say that this book made it to Round Two of the Goodreads Choice Awards. If you’re so inclined, I would be thrilled if you’d help it go to the final round. Vote here.

“These turnovers were an institution, and the girls called them ‘muffs’ for they had not others and found the hot pies very comforting to their hands on cold mornings. Hannah never forgot to make them, no matter how busy or grumpy she might be, for the walk was long and bleak.”

I just love that story of affection shown through food — and it’s just one of the may ways food weaves its way throughout Alcott’s masterpiece.

If you’d like to give these little guys a try, below is the recipe. There are so many ways to enjoy them: They’re great snacks at mid-morning or tea-time; they’re terrific as part of an appetizer spread. I also adore serving the with a warming bowl of soup for a Sunday night soup supper (if you go that route, might I recommend the New England Fish Chowder, on page 51 of the book?)

May these little pies warm your friends and family in the way they warmed the Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — through and through.

Hannah's Cheese and Jam Turnovers
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
One of my favorite recipes from Little Women. Note that this is one of the more advanced recipes in the book, which also includes plenty of easy-peasy starter recipes for younger cooks.
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons [112g]) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup (114 g) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (44 to 60 ml) 2% or whole milk, plus additional for brushing pastry
  • ¼ cup (80 g) fruit preserves or jam, such as apricot or blackberry
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender or two table knives working in a crisscross fashion, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cheese. Add the milk, stirring until the flour is moistened and the mixture starts to come together. Knead the flour mixture gently against the side of the bowl to make a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the dough is easy to handle.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick. Using a 3½-inch (9 cm) round cutter, cut out dough circles. Gently press the scraps of dough together and reroll as needed for additional circles. Work quickly so the dough does not become soft.
  4. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of jam into the center of each circle.
  5. Brush the edges of the circles with additional milk and fold the circles over to enclose the jam. Press the tines of a fork around the edges to seal. Cut three small slits on the top of each turnover with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Arrange the turnovers on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until the turnovers are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. The jam centers will be hot.



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