Remember Polly Ann Bakery in Petaluma? We found its Danish butter cookie recipe

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Here in the land of butter and eggs, it’s no surprise that we’ve had some humdinger bakeries in our midst. A dig through the Argus-Courier archives uncovered these holiday recipes from bakers of Petaluma’s past. Some are, well, dated to their era – back when gelatin salads were considered a savory dish. Others stand the test of time and are worth adding to the seasonal repertoire.

Polly Ann Bakery’s Danish butter cookies

Anyone who grew up in Petaluma likely remembers Polly Ann Bakery, which first opened at 121 Kentucky St. on March 13, 1925. It was P.W. Paulsen who started the bakery, but it was Sylvester Nielsen who put it on the map. Nielsen was born in Denmark, where he spent three years in a bakery apprenticeship. He then became a master baker at the International Baking School in Stuggert, Germany, before working for noted bakeries in Switzerland, France and Monte Carlo. It was Jack London’s epic novel “Valley of the Moon” that brought him to Petaluma. Many members of the Nielsen family worked in the bakery over the decades it was in business, where they were famous for “butter rings,” a rich, flakey pastry with custard and almond filling. In the Nov. 26, 1965 Argus-Courier, the family offered up its recipe for Danish butter cookies, supposedly a staple of the Nielsen’s Christmas celebrations.


One pound of butter

One pound of flour

Quarter-pound of sugar

Powdered sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour, sugar and butter together, carefully working in the butter until crumbly.

Load dough into a cookie press, and press into any shape.

Cook for 10 minutes, being careful not to over brown the buttery cookies.

Once cookies are out of the oven, sift with powdered sugar until covered.

Mrs. Starke’s Happy Holiday Salad

Elmer Starke lived at 517 Fourth St. during the 1950s, and was known for her award-winning dishes. Newspapers and ladies magazines often held contests seeking the best home-cook recipes. Starke’s unusual recipes won several awards. That included the Oakland Tribune’s Holiday Recipe Contest, which selected her “Ham Balls with Banana Sauce” as the year’s big winner in 1964, earning her $200 (about $1,500 in today’s dollars). Her quintessential 1950s “Happy Holiday Salad” won a Ladies Home Journal contest in 1962.


2 cups fresh cranberries

1 large apple (pared, quartered and cored)

1 orange (quartered with seeds removed)

½ cup currant jelly

½ cup orange marmalade

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 cup ginger ale

4 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin

½ cup chilled whipping cream (whipped)


Run the cranberries, apple and orange through a coarse blade in the food processor.

Add jelly, marmalade, lemon juice, horseradish and salt, and blend thoroughly.

Soften gelatin in cold ginger ale, then stir mixture over a low heat to dissolve.

Blend fruit in with gelatin, and chill until almost set.

Pour into a mold and allow to set (three or four hours).

Unmold on a pile of lettuce or watercress. Dish can be garnished with a dollop of mayonnaise or sweet whipped cream.

Mrs. Adams’ Amish Brown Sugar Pie

Marcia Adams grew up in northern Indiana, near the Amish and Mennonite settlements, before moving west in her later years. She had a fondness for the baked goods, which were made by hand with no recipe, that the religious communities sold at roadside markets. As an adult, she returned to her homeland to watch the women bake, measuring out the ingredients to preserve the recipes, which she shared with the Argus-Courier in 1989.


1 unbaked 8-inch pie shell

1 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Speck of salt

12-ounce can of evaporated milk

2.5 tablespoons of butter

Ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place brown sugar, flour and salt in pie shell and mix with fingers.

Pour over evaporated milk (do not mix), add chunks of butter and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.

Bake for 50 minutes, until filling bubbles. Serve pie at room temperature.

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Claims of "Fake News" will be delayed for moderation
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine