...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Baking up Memories

Lucille's Cooky Bible
There have been some busy bakers in our kitchen over the last two weeks.  Somehow it's taken me over 10 Christmases to fully delve into my grandmother's cookie books and dedicate some of our holiday baking to her.  She was a cook for a living and a baker in her spare time.  And she would make what seemed like pallets full of homemade treats around the holidays to complement the bowls of store-bought fairy food and red, white, and green gumdrops and other candies on display at every end table (it's a wonder how in the world great dental health runs on that side of the family.)  As a grade schooler, teen, college student, young adult it was a sugary wonderland.  As I've stepped back several years, I now understand why my sister and I felt compelled to perform high-intensity dance routines (including full-on toe touches) in the living room.  Yikes!  Sugar rush!

As I've gradually gone through my Gram's boxes of recipes in the last decade since her death I've been delighted to see that she saved recipes, made notes, and added dates just like I do.  (Must be the German gene for careful record keeping about which I've heard so much.)  She also added housekeeping and moneysaving clippings.  This was all clearly from an era when people had more time on their hands--or at least fewer of the distractions we have these days. The moment I cracked the cover of her Betty Crocker Cooky Book (the publishing date is not to be found because the inside cover and other pages with possible indicators are plastered with clipped recipe, but circa 1960 is a good guess) there was a rush of memories.  My grandmother's handwriting, the dates she made these cookies, and the washed out vintage photos of things I'd eaten growing up all sent me into nostalgia mode.  Wow!  The last thing to do is prepare some of these goodies and taste the memories as well.
Recipe clippings plaster the inside cover.  
My Gram's handwriting
Handwritten on the inside back cover.
My Great Grandma's Sugar Cookie Recipe, which I
successfully converted to gluten-free this year.
My Great Aunt Irene's attempts.  She's still around to tell.
Jim Dandies--definitely making this blast from the past.
V went through these books with me (including the annual Wisconsin Electric holiday cookie book w/ energy-saving tips) and picked out what she thought "looked" good.  We came up with a diverse list of cookies, bars, and candies to prepare this season, though we may be entirely too ambitious.  But I thought I'd try to uphold the tradition of making way more than we could possibly consume before the next sweet holiday in mid-February.

Vintage packaging ideas
Vintage ads from the Milwaukee Sentinel, 1965
V's at the perfect age to start grasping baking, the physical work anyway--I'll teach her more about theory later.  Last year she helped stir chocolate over a double boiler and pound peppermint sticks for the ever-addictive peppermint bark, but this year's she's really embraced the detail work of batch baking.  Her patience and skills in helping mix the dough have improved greatly from last year and--maybe it's a Montessori thing--she loves the repetition required for preparing cookies to go in the oven.  She's able to focus fairly well on the intricacies of putting tiny thumbprints and dollops of jam in the center of mounds of sticky dough.  Cutting out shapes is her specialty.  And eating dough, licking the beaters is her favorite.  We still have some decorating to do this week, but I'm confident that no matter what amount of frosting and sprinkles gets caked onto these cookies, they're going to look beautiful.  They may not be as precise and consistent as Lucille's, but the taste memory will be present.  It seems we're establishing a new tradition so we can work on perfecting recipes and techniques over the next decade plus.
My list 2013, her list 1999--note that she admits to
supplementing w/ some from a church cookie sale.
The next generation of bakers at the helm 
Detail work
She stuck in her thumb...
Using our homegrown/homemade gooseberry jam
A little taste for the baker--note the mess around her mouth in every pic.
Gluten-Free Chai Spice Cutouts
My Great Gram's Sugar Cookies
It would pain her that I made them gluten-free, but I
was happy w/ how they turned out
…Lay them straight
More photos to come as we pound out the last few batches this week.  Of course, we're not going to eat all of these ourselves.  We'll put some out when company comes this season, but we also intend to contribute some to the pool of cookies for bus drivers and crossing guards to be put together at school today.  Next week we're hoping to make our way around the block delivering to certain neighbors.  Better to share, especially when it's sweet treats.

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