Friday, December 18, 2020

Memories: Holiday Baking

 Baking cookies for Christmas is my heritage. My mother, even with seven kids, baked cookies, and they were a main feature at the Christmas Eve big family dinner at my grandparents house on their farm. I'm sure my grandmother baked them too. When I came home from college for the holidays, Mom turned the cookie baking over to me because she was working as a cafeteria cook in our high school.

When I was married and set up my own household, an early Christmas present from Tom was a Kitchen Aid mixer. With it I could throw in cold butter and have it creamed in no time, the basis for almost all cookie making. 

I collected recipes from family, cookbooks, and especially December editions of magazines. I became the family cookie baker and supplier for all of our family gatherings. At the height of my baking days I made 12 different kinds, all packed away in the freezer awaiting each event. That all started 50 years ago.

While I kept that up for many years, gradually the cookie list shortened, even as the events and size of gathering diminished. This year, with no parties, I asked the family which cookies were essential. We were down to six kinds plus other special things. We eliminated one kind.

This photos, taken last year on Christmas Eve, shows what I am making now, minus the Cherry Twinkles, which we all decided were expendable. 

For years Tom has been my helper in making those hand shaped cookies lined up on the tray. We are a team.

There are no double batches this year, so half as many Cranberry Swirls. I have been giving away a lot of cookies in other years, and still hope to deliver a few to some special people.

This cookbook came from my mother, who bought it from one of our schools. 
Some pages are well used, like this one with the "Sand Dabs" recipe, which we call Russian Tea Cakes. 

I make fruit cake right after Thanksgiving, wrap it in brandy soaked cheese cloth, seal it up in a plastic bag, and let it age. The five kinds of fancy cookies are done and in the freezer before the kids, now grand kids, come to make the sugar cookies and the gingerbread. We did that this week on Wednesday, when the kids have no online classes.

We started this tradition when the grands were very young and still living in Colorado. Have cookie cutters, will travel.

Can you tell that organization and systems are a common trait? Lay out the cutters for the least amount of scrap, quite different from the first time, when Irene was two. 
While the gingerbread cookies are cooling, they make the sugar cookies, decorating then ornately with sprinkles. 

My job now is to make the cookie doughs, and icing, and monitor the oven. Sitting on a kitchen stool, watching and listening, was a treat and a relief this year.

We all have a hand in decorating the gingerbread.

Yesterday I baked the Swedish Cardamom Wreath bread. When it comes out of the freezer for Christmas morning we will heat it up, frost it, and decorate it with candied cherries. One other pan will probably be served up at Christmas Eve dinner, and one will be a treat to discover in the freezer this winter. 

Next Monday the grands and Tom and I have a date to make Fatigmand and lefse. You betcha! Those traditions are somewhat new for us, but Tom's mother always made Fatigmand, and I have made lefse for years. Now we are teaching the kids.

My memories become their memories. 


  1. What a lovely tradition. My oven died, no cokkies this year ): .

  2. I look forward to seeing the lefse once again, and I don't think I've heard of Fatigmand and will learn a lot, I'm sure! It look like such fun. :-)

  3. You could open a bakery! Lefsa was delivered here a few weeks ago...our Son In Law makes lefsa with Noah and is a tradition! My husband really enjoys the lefsa...I can take it or leave it...I would rather have a cookie! Here in Minnesnowta we call Russian Tea Cakes ... snowballs.
    All your baking looks wonderful! :)

  4. This looks like so much fun! Your family and friends are really lucky recipients of your holiday happiness. I did just make fruitcakes, but family did not want me to wrap it with the alcohol cloths.

  5. Such wonderful family traditions and it certainly looks as though they will be handed down for generations to come. Just reading your series of memories has warmed my heart so much. Thank you, thank you.

  6. I had to look up Fatigmand and your blog post from 2018 appeared in the search. :) Definitely a lovely tradition and something to pass along to your children and grandchildren. At 3 1/2 my Eli likes to help too.

    Take care, stay well!

  7. Oh I loved reading about your traditions and all the different cookies!! Wonderful that the whole family gets involved.

  8. You are so lucky that you can be with your grandkids. Have you all been tested?

  9. Terrific tradition! Love the sight of all those delicious cookies.

  10. Such a great family tradition which lives on and on.

  11. Oh how yummy all looks. I want to bake tomorrow but we use old recipes from our past families.Buddy will help too.


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