Food is an integral part of many holiday traditions, from making pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and baking cookies with children at Christmas to preparing turkeys using the trendiest methods. What we eat and how we prepare it is simply interwoven with the ways we celebrate the holiday season.
My maternal grandmother was the consummate baker in my family. I have many wonderful memories of her visits and the delicious aromas she seemed to bring with her — always so warm and inviting. For my sixth birthday, my grandmother and mother made sugar cookies decorated like little girls and boys to take to my first-grade classmates. At my grandmother’s house, guests were always greeted with something homemade, whether it was a plate of snickerdoodles or gingersnaps or a Danish coffeecake fresh from the oven.
My grandmother taught my mother how to make the most wonderful, delicious apple pies, which included a very specific formula for the number and types of apples. My mother continued the tradition and became known in our family as the pie maker extraordinaire. There was never a question about her contribution to holiday meals: it was always the pie, and most frequently, it was an apple pie. In turn, my mother taught my sister and me how to make pies and, most importantly, the tricks to making the perfect pie crust. Though I’ve experimented with other recipes and techniques, her standard pie crust recipe invariably wins. Now it’s my turn to share this tradition with my girls.
My grandmother always found time to bake for others during the holidays, preparing items for holiday bazaars as well as for her own family. Here are a couple of her favorite recipes shared with a local hometown newspaper in 1959. Whenever I make these Chewy Noels, I am reminded of my grandmother and how special she made the holidays of my childhood.
If a member of your family makes the holiday season special with their baking, we would love to hear your story. Please share your family’s holiday traditions with us at Currents Online (email us at email@example.com). And watch for our upcoming “Island Bakers Best” series.
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 tablespoons flour
⅛ teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
Melt butter in a 9-inch square cake pan. Set aside. Beat the eggs and brown sugar together. Add the flour, soda and vanilla. Fold in the chopped nuts and spread in the buttered pan. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Turn out on a wire rack, and sprinkle with powdered sugar while warm.
CONFECTION FRUIT CAKE
2 large eggs
⅔ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons soft or melted butter
½ cup sifted flour
½ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups whole candied cherries (red and green)
1 cup candied pineapple (4 slices)
2 cups pecan halves
11/2 cups pitted dates (71/4 ounce package) halved
Beat eggs until foamy, then add brown sugar, vanilla and butter, beating to blend. Sift together and sift into egg mixture the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix to a smooth batter. Then add the fruit (only the pineapple is cut up. The dates are halved) and blend with a spoon or hands until fruit and nuts are well blended. Turn mixture into a well greased 9-inch square pan. Distribute fruit evenly in the pan. Bake at 325 degrees 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand in pan until partially cool before turning out onto a wire rack one very rich 3 pound cake. When making this fruit cake, do not be alarmed that there is very little batter for the amount of fruit. It makes a colorful, very fruit-filled cake.