by Jolene Adams, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
As the holidays approach, I reminisce about my childhood and how I grew up in a more simple time, one without blogs dedicated to baking, Pinterest and the availability of every recipe ever concocted with a quick search of the internet.
Back then we baked simple treats, nothing that would be considered gourmet by any means, yet those treats were very special to me. First of all they were delicious. Treats comprised of the basics: butter, sugar, flour and eggs, take us all back to a simpler time.
Second, they were easy to make. As a child, it didn’t feel like we working hard in the kitchen, we were just having a good time and making memories. As a mother it was easy to pass on these traditions to my son while spending a cold winter day in our kitchen making memories together, and a perhaps a few messes too!
Third, and most importantly, these treats invite creativity. So get your family and friends involved, get baking, have fun, spend time together and make memories with your loved ones.
This is my favorite sugar cookie recipe. The dough is unbelievable easy to work with, and the scraps can be rolled out several times before getting tough. Get creative with the cut outs and the decorating. The icing recipe that follows will work to create the flat glazed look on cookies. It is not like traditional frosting type used on cakes.
Traditional Sugar Cookie Dough
Yield: 3 dozen 3 inch cookies
*1 cup unsalted butter
*1 cup sugar
*1 large egg
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*1.5 tsp. baking powder
*3 cups AP flour
*1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients a little at a time to the butter mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated.
Divide dough in two portions, flatten and wrap. Chill dough for 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator, and roll out on lightly floured surface.
Cut, then bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies begin brown around the edges. Decorate with the following cookie icing recipe.
Sugar Cookie Icing
Yield: 2 cups of icing
*3 tablespoons meringue powder
*4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
*5 tablespoons warm water
Using a whisk attachment, mix all ingredients on low speed for 7-10 minutes. Only stop mixer once about half way through mixing to scrape down the sides. DO NOT whip at any speed except low (stir) or icing with become stiff.
This icing will be very thin, pourable consistency. Use a funnel to pour into a squeeze bottle to pipe onto cookies.
To color icing, use powdered or gel colors and stir in by hand. A little color goes a long way.
Keep icing covered in bowl, or cover cap of squeeze bottle when not in use. Icing will dry and crust over if not covered.
This icing is used to make the flat glazed decorated cookies. If layering colors, let dry in between applications.
Once dry, icing will be shiny and hard to the touch.
Another favorite treat the kids will love to make and eat is a twist on a rice crispy treat. Using corn flakes and a little green food coloring, you can create wreaths or holly leaves. I’ll never outgrow this treat from my childhood. My mother made these every Christmas, and I still continue the tradition!
Wreath Treats (or Holly Leaves)
Yield: 4 dozen
* 1 box corn flakes cereal
* 2 sticks unsalted butter
* 1 bag (16 ounce) marshmallows
* Green food coloring
* Red Hot candies
Melt butter and marshmallows in large stock pot. Once melted add green food coloring. Stir in cereal until coated.
To make wreath shape, drop small scoops onto parchment paper and let cool just for a few seconds. With buttered hands, carefully form into a wreath shape, by creating a center hole and stretching into a round doughnut shape.
Or simply leave the dropped scoops on the parchment to create the look of holly leaves. This is a nice option for kids, so they don’t have to handle the hot and sticky treats.
Before the leaves or wreaths are completely cooled, add red candies. Three in the center for the look of holly or place a few around the circle of the wreath.
They dry to a beautiful shine, and the flavor of the cinnamon red hots candy bring a grown up flavor to a rice crispy treat.
One of my fond childhood memories is of our next door neighbors, Jack and Nita Braat. They were like grandparents to me. I would pick apples from our backyard apple tree and take them to Nita. She would give me back her special pink applesauce. As a kid I thought it was the coolest thing. As an adult I still love it and can’t believe how simple it is to make. A batch cooking on the stove fills the whole house with a wonderful cinnamon smell that takes me back.
Pink Applesauce from Nita
Yield: 1 quart
* 3 pounds sweet or tart apples
* 1 cup Cinnamon Imps or Red Hots candies
* ½ cup sugar
Peel and chop apples. Add sugar and cook over med-low heat for several hours until apples are soft. Transfer to a food processor, blender or mixing bowl and blend to a smooth consistency. Return to pan and add candies. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring often until candies melt.
Refrigerate to cool and store.
I love cooking and baking with apples this time of year. One very special recipe is from my grandmother, Dorothy Vogel. It is so easy to bake, and although I know the recipe by heart, I still enjoy getting out her recipe card and seeing her beautiful cursive writing. Does anyone even write recipes anymore? I do! I keep a recipe book of my handwritten recipes in hopes that someday my grandchildren will cherish them.
Grandma Dorothy’s German Apple Cake
Yield: 9×13 cake
* 3 large eggs
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 4 cups chopped peeled tart apples
* 3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
* 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
* 1 tablespoon butter, softened
* 2 cups powdered sugar
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla on medium speed until frothy. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to egg mixture and mix well with the paddle attachment or hand mixer. Fold in apples and nuts by hand, do not use mixer or the apples will be broken up. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 inch baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and butter. Add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth. Spread over cake. Refrigerate leftovers.
I hope that you enjoy the holidays and take a moment to slow down, spend time with those you love, reminisce about the good times, continue old family traditions, or even start new ones of your own. Take time to get together in the kitchen and make new memories, laugh, let your kids be creative and just savor every sweet minute and treat the holidays have to offer.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org