The Grandkids Bake Christmas Cookies

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When my children were growing up, I don’t recall their ever being interested in helping with the cookie baking and I didn’t have the time or ingredients to waste, so I just made the cookies myself without any help from them.  When my grandchildren started arriving in the 1980s, though, I thought it would be nice to have them come to the house, starting when they were about 3 years old, to make Christmas cookies.  Granddaughter #1 loved mixing the dough, using all the different cutters, and decorating with sugar.

She is now married with two children and her husband is in Iraq this Christmas.

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Grandson #1 joined his sister when he turned 3, and his specialty was piling lots of sugar on the cookies and cracking the eggs to mix in the batter.

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Granddaughter #2 made it a threesome and her favorite cookies are still the cutout Butter Crisps. She has two children who are too young to help her with baking, but the 2-1/2 year old likes the cookies, too.

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There was a hiatus of a few years between when the older grandchildren grew up and before the youngest came along.  This year, Dolphin and Jellyfish came to do their best  and Jellyfish takes it all very seriously.

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Dolphin is also serious about her baking but takes a more fun approach.

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All of the kids have enjoyed the baking but most of all, enjoyed taking home plates of their own creations.

Here is a gingerbread cookie that the older grandchildren liked to make.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

  • Servings: Depends on size of cutters and thickness of dough
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream sugar, shortening and molasses until smooth.  Blend in egg.  Mix together dry ingredients.  Add to creamed mixture and blend well.  Form into a flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate dough at least one hour.

Roll out dough on floured board 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.  Cut out with floured cutters.  Place cookies 1/2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. 

Granddaughter Dolphin Bakes Cookies

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Since we got our first major snowfall of the year yesterday, I wasn’t sure 4-year-old granddaughter Dolphin would be here for her weekly Wednesday visit, but here she came, all bundled up in pink coat and boots, ready to make Christmas cookies.

I brought out my big copper breadbox filled with all kinds of cookie cutters and it was a hard decision to narrow the choice down to 7 or 8 cutters.  She picked them out, though, and I don’t believe any of them were Christmas cutters, but the colored sugar would make a Christmas cookie out of any design.

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With the older grandchildren (now in college and beyond) the best part was mixing the cookies, especially breaking the eggs, but the two youngest grandchildren, Dolphin and her brother Jellyfish, are somewhat squeamish about getting stuff on their hands so I normally have the dough ready for rolling and cutting when they get here.  This time, though, Dolphin wanted to make the cookies from scratch and did all of the measuring, pouring and mixing.

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She did a good job rolling out the dough, asking every few seconds, “Is this good enough?” until she had the cookies cut out and on the sheet.

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Then came the fun of using all the sugar and decorations she wanted – and she used a lot, as the grandchildren always do.

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When the cookies were finished, she was extremely proud and only ate a portion of one pony, saving the rest for her mom and dad and for Jellyfish when he got off the school bus.

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Here is the recipe the grandchildren have been using for about 25 years.  It’s the favorite Christmas cookie of my son-in-law and one older granddaughter and they both like the cookies cut rather thick and barely golden around the edges.  I personally like the cookies rolled very thin and baked to a crisp brown.  The baking time and the yield will depend on how you like your cookies.

GRANDMA'S BUTTER CRISPS

  • Servings: Depends on size of cutters and thickness of dough
  • Print

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup softened margarine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In mixer bowl, blend flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Mix in butter and margarine.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla over the flour mixture. Blend well and form into a ball.

Roll out 1/3 of dough at a time to desired thickness on floured board.  Cut with floured cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheets, an inch apart.  Brush with remaining egg and sprinkle with colored sugar.  Bake @ 375 degrees F 5-8 minutes for thin cookies, several minutes more for thicker cookies to a golden brown. 

My Sure-Fire Pie Crust

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My first job in 1950 was as a secretary in Procter & Gamble’s corporate offices in downtown Cincinnati.  As a new employee, I received a large picnic basket full of P&G products, a leatherette box with the P&G logo filled with chocolates and my favorite item of all, a Crisco cookbook – New Recipes for Good Eating, copyright 1948.

I first heard about Crisco in high school home ec classes.  My mother, always on a strict budget, used lard (and made wonderful pies), margarine or bacon grease.  Occasionally, she’d buy a tiny one-pound can of Crisco for me to make a special dessert.  After I was married in 1952, also on a strict budget, I still managed to find the money for Crisco.  I started cooking in earnest and literally wore out the cookbook.  The pages are dog-eared and stained – and some of them are missing.

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About 50 years later, I happened to find the same cookbook in pristine condition in an antique market.  Apparently, its owner didn’t cook as much as I did, or she was neater.

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My favorite recipe in the book was for “Crisco’s Sure Fire” two-crust 9″ pie.  Over the years, I changed the ingredients a little bit and developed a technique that worked well for me, although it’s not the method that the cookbook or any home ec class ever recommended.  I’ve won ribbons at countless pie contests with this crust, including the Ohio State Fair, plus pie has always been the dessert of choice for my family for the past 55 years.  Here is my version of the recipe and the way I mix the ingredients.

MY SURE-FIRE PIE CRUST

  • Servings: One 9-inch double crust or two 9-inch single crusts
  • Print

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup ice water

In a medium size mixing bowl, place the flour and salt.  Note:  I measure the flour by dipping the cup into the canister and then leveling it off.  Stir flour and salt with a fork to mix.  Add 3/4 cup Crisco shortening and cut in.  I use my hands so I can feel the texture and know by now when it’s just right.  Pour the ice water (always use ice water) into a dry measure 1/3 cup to the top and pour into flour mixture (don’t use a liquid measuring cup).  Using a fork, stir the mixture in circles until it forms a ball.  Divide the dough in half and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with short, light strokes, rolling from the center to the edges to about 12″ diameter.  To keep the dough from sticking, I pick it up, turn it over and reposition, dusting very lightly with flour when necessary.  I also continually wipe the rolling pin of any dough that’s sticking.  With everything you do, use the lightest touch possible.  It’s also possible to roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.

Place the dough in a pie pan and trim the edges.  Continue with the filling you choose and the top crust.  Bake according to your recipe’s directions.

The recipe can be used for one two-crust 9″ pie or two one-crust 9″ pies.  I never double the recipe and I never make half a recipe.  If there’s any pastry left over, I put it in a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it.

Walt’s Polish Stuffing

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I call this “Polish Stuffing” only because I got the general instructions from a wonderful Polish gentleman in my office (about 20 years ago).  I’m sure he used some kind of great sausage and maybe some extra herbs, but this was my version and my family always wants a side casserole of this stuffing for Thanksgiving.  I don’t stuff the bird with it in consideration of those who don’t like spicy ingredients in their turkey.  First, though, I make the bread that I use, an adaptation of an old Saco Buttermilk Powder recipe.

HERB BREAD FOR STUFFING

  • 4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 packages fast-rising yeast
  • 1/4 cup SACO buttermilk powder
  • 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tblsp. shortening
  • 1-3/4 cups of water heated to 130 degrees F
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, place 2 cups of flour, yeast, buttermilk powder, sugar, salt.  Mix to blend and add the 130 degree F water and shortening.  Beat on medium high for 3 minutes.  Insert dough hook and add sage, celery, seed, nutmeg and pepper.  Beat for a total of 6-1/2 minutes more, adding flour as necessary to make a stiff dough.  If necessary, knead a small amount of flour into the dough by hand.  Cover and place in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes.  Punch down and spread dough in a thin layer in an oiled jelly roll pan.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake bread for approximately 15 minutes until dough has baked through and the top is golden brown.

Let cool on a wire rack.  Best to make the bread the day before use and then cut it into small cubes.

Note:  If I don’t have time to make this bread, I use a purchased 14 oz. bag of seasoned bread cubes.

RECIPE FOR WALT’S POLISH STUFFING

  • 1 lb. of good spicy hot pork sausage, cooked until the pink is gone
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 12 cups of herb bread cubes or 14 oz. pkg.
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the above ingredients together and place in an oiled baking dish.  Cover and bake approximately 20 minutes @ 350 degrees F.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes.

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Mary’s Carrot Cake

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I first tried this recipe in November of 1985 after seeing it in a magazine.  It was supposed to be the recipe of Mary Frann who was the wife on the Bob Newhart show about the country inn in Vermont.  Our family had never tried carrot cake before and we became absolutely addicted to it – this cake and any other carrot cake we could find in restaurants or bakeries.  Then, we got into other things and I haven’t made the cake for a long time, although my youngest daughter did enter it in the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Fair two years ago.

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My two daughters were here for dinner today and they agreed it’s as good as they remembered.

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MARY'S CARROT CAKE

  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (I use Canola)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup drained, crushed pineapple

Grease and flour one 13×9 pan.  I like to use two small antique tube pans (8″ dia. x 2-3/4″ high) and divide the batter between them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixer bowl, combine oil, sugar and eggs – beat well.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cinnamon, soda, salt and flour.  Add to large mixer bowl and beat well.  Add vanilla, carrots, nuts and pineapple, beating slowly with mixer or by hand to blend.

Pour into prepared pans and bake @ 350 – approximately 50 minutes for the 13×9 pan and 30-40 minutes for the smaller pans.

Let cool on rack and frost with cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • One pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

This is an easy cake to make and really good.

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Nantucket Cranberry Pie

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Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in southwest Ohio, far from Nantucket, but I had never heard of a Nantucket Cranberry Pie until I noticed one on a blog by Live, Love, Laugh and Learn.  For anyone who isn’t familiar with this dessert, it’s not a pie at all – no pastry crust, a thin layer of filling and nothing underneath the filling.  It’s not a cobbler although a batter is poured on top of the fruit.  The thin cake topping does not rise but is buttery rich and delicious.  It’s also not a cake because each layer is thin and just supports the other.  But this dessert, whatever it is,  is especially good and just meant to be eaten at a table in front of a window looking out on  a clear blue autumn sky and  falling leaves.

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NANTUCKET CRANBERRY PIE

Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Topping:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 10″ pie plate.  Place the cranberries in the pie plate and toss the sugar and walnuts over the berries.

For the topping, cream the eggs and the butter with the sugar.  Add the flour and almond extract to the egg mixture, lightly tossing with a fork.

Pour the topping over the cranberry mixture.  If it’s difficult to get the topping to extend out over the filling, press down with water-damped hands to even it out.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes @ 350 degrees F.  Place on a rack to cool.

Serve warm with whipped cream.

Yield:  8 servings

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A Taste of Autumn – Cranberry Pecan Scones

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Now that fresh cranberries are back in the markets, it’s time to make one of my family’s favorite breakfast quick breads.  Cranberry Pecan Scones are crisp, full of good tart cranberries and crunchy pecans.  They are not difficult to make but the preparation takes about 20 minutes plus 30 minutes baking time, so start an hour ahead of serving and have these delicious scones warm from the oven.

CRANBERRY PECAN SCONES

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Cut in the butter/margarine.   Stir in cranberries and pecans.

In separate small bowl, mix the orange juice and beaten egg.  Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until just moistened.

Dough will be quite sticky.  Use hands dampened with water to form dough into 6-1/2″ circle on buttered cookie sheet.  Cut into 6 wedges but do not separate the wedges.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. 

Best when served warm from the oven.  Can be frozen and reheated.

Concord Grape Pie with Streusel Topping

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About 20 years ago, this pie won a ribbon at a large pie contest at the Hamilton County Fair (Cincinnati, Ohio).  This was when we lived on a couple of acres in a rural area and I had large 5-gallon buckets of Concord grapes setting all over my kitchen.  I made as much jam and jelly as I needed, then made this pie.  If there were still grapes left, I would make the filling and put it in the freezer for later use.  Eventually, the grapes were wiped out by some disease and ever since I’ve searched the produce aisles and farm markets of the area for Concord grapes, with no luck.  Last week, I was amazed to see plastic containers of these wonderful grapes in my grocery store.  I couldn’t wait to make another pie for our Sunday dinner.

My best memory of this pie is taking it to a large square dance federation potluck dinner party where normally the buffet line led through the entrees, salads, etc., and then after eating the meal, the guests would go to the dessert table.  In this case, 8 men went directly to the dessert table and cleaned out the grape pie.

STREUSEL CONCORD GRAPE PIE


Unbaked 9″ pie shell

4-1/2 cups Concord grapes

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/8 tsp. salt

Oat Streusel:  Combine 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour.  Cut in 1/4 cup butter to distribute evenly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash grapes and remove skins by pinching at end opposite stem.  Place pulp in a small saucepan and bring to a boil; cook several minutes until pulp is soft.  Put through strainer or food mill while pulp is hot to remove seeds.

Mix strained pulp with skins.  Stir in sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.  Place grape mixture in pastry-lined 9″ pie pan.  Sprinkle on Oat Streusel.  Place on large flat pan or cookie sheet to catch spills.  Bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 45 minutes.  Cool on rack.

Note:  Removing the skins from the grapes takes about 15 minutes but is not difficult or overly messy.  A word of caution – if you don’t have a food mill, removing the seeds with a strainer is labor-intensive.  It’s worth all the work to me – the flavor of the grapes is unbelievable.