from readers' ovens
Nothing says home for the holidays like the smell of cookies baking in the oven and a crowded kitchen filled with loved ones. We asked readers to tell us about their family baking traditions. Here are some of their stories and recipes.
Grandma’s Christmas party
My mother-in-law, Aida, has always started the holiday season by throwing a great Christmas party for her grandchildren from the time they were in preschool. We as parents appreciated this because it gave us a chance to get in a little Christmas shopping while she kept them all busy. In fact, Grandma’s Christmas party was featured in the AV Press on Dec. 21, 1997!
By this time most of the kids were in their early to mid-teens. Now they are all mostly in their late 20s and early 30s. One of their favorite memories of their childhood is Grandma’s Christmas party. What makes the memories even sweeter is that now these same kids are raising kids of their own. Grandma has never missed a year, no matter what, even the year Grandpa passed away. She put on a smile and gave the great-grandkids their special day.
For many years Freda Simms arrived early and made shortbread cookies that the kids cut and decorated. Now for the past few years I make this cookie dough the morning of the party, store it in ziplock bags, and drop it off in time for the fun to begin later.
Grandma rolls out the dough, and the kids cut and decorate, then they help her decorate the Christmas tree, make Christmas ornaments, have lunch, and sing Christmas carols. These are precious moments we will always remember.
So this is one of our fondest family traditions that Grandma has been doing for 30 years. I’ve grown to love my mother-in-law so for making our kids and grandkids all feel loved, each one she knows so well.
Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
(From “The Fannie Farmer Baking Book” by Marion Cunningham)
• 2 sticks butter, softened
• 3 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place a rack on the middle level. To measure the flour dip a one-cup measure into the flour container. Sweep off the excess with a knife and empty the flour into a small bowl. Measure two more cups of flour the same way and add them to the bowl. Add the baking soda and salt to the measured flour, combine with fork or wire whisk; set aside.
In a stand mixer on low speed, beat butter till pale yellow in color and the consistency of mayonnaise. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the sugar and turn to medium speed. Beat until soft and almost white. Scrape down bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for about 30 seconds until mixture has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Stop and scrape down the sides. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend for about 30 seconds until combined. Cover in plastic wrap and chill the dough for about 2 hours.
Sprinkle a smooth flat surface with 2 tablespoons flour and place half the chilled dough on it. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. With a rolling pin, press down a few times to get the dough started, then begin rolling the dough from the center and move toward the edges. Use a long metal spatula or dough scraper to help lift and turn the dough occasionally, sprinkling on more flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Roll until the dough is about \uFFFC inch thick, or as thick as a piece of cardboard.
Cut the dough into shapes. Begin cutting from the outside edge, then transfer shapes to a cookie sheet with a spatula, leaving about 1 inch between them. Repeat with the other half of dough. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, turning cookie sheet half way through baking.