The Joy of Baking
THE SIMPLE LIFE
By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
When we four Cavin children were young, one of the most exciting times of the Christmas holiday season was making treats!
Mom was a really terrific baker. She had such a knack for creating some of the most beautiful and delicious cookies and treats. We would get out all of the bakery items we would need - flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, milk, confectioner's sugar, food coloring, sprinkles, toothpicks, tiny paint brushes and cookie cutters.
After the ingredients were all ready to go, Mom would get out her mixer, her mixing bowls and rolling pin. I can close my eyes and almost remember how wonderful the kitchen smelled on baking day!
Mom had the cutest cookie cutters: Santa holding his bag of toys, stars, bells, Christmas trees, stockings and Christmas ornaments. What made these cookies so special - other than the recipe, of course - was that we kids got to hand paint each cookie with toothpicks and paint brushes. Mom would fix many different little bowls of icing, and add food coloring to each to make a rainbow assortment of colors.
My favorite cookies to decorate were the bells and the trees. It took painstaking effort to get the colors and designs just right, and each cookie was an original piece of art. We made enough cookies to last all the way through the holidays. As each cookie was iced, Mom had cookie racks and wax paper on the counters and the kitchen table. The cookies would be laid out so the icing would set, and then Mom would put them away in containers for the season.
Knowing Mom's generosity, I'm sure she must have made up cookie packages for many different people. I can remember making oodles and oodles of hand painted cookies. What fun those days were!
Another favorite treat that was fun to make were the Cheerios Trees. Most of us with children are familiar with Rice Krispie Treats, made with butter and marshmallows. Mom thought it would be creative (and delicious) to use the same recipe - except substituting Cheerios for the Rice Krispies. Mom would mix it all up, and then we kids would mold them into miniature Christmas trees. We would then shake sprinkles on the trees. These Cheerios Trees never lasted long at our house!
Back to the decorated Christmas trees. I almost forgot to share this. We had a family dog named Rusty, and we also had a house full of cats and kittens. There was one time when all of us had finished baking and painting several batches of these "masterpieces.” We laid them out so the icing could set on the racks and wax paper sheets. We went about the rest of our day, and when Mom went back in to the kitchen to put away the cookies, Rusty was there - just finishing up the last of ALL of those cookies! She was in SO MUCH TROUBLE.
Rusty just loved those cookies, and sneaked a few any chance she got!
I love all of my memories of Christmases past. My parents are no longer with us (having passed away in 2013 and 2014), but I live in the Baughman Street White House where many of these memories live.
Now, I bake in Mom's kitchen, and as I create many different "made-from-scratch" desserts as my mom used to do, I feel right at home. Cookies are so much fun to make, but I also make fudge, creampuffs, cakes, pies, brownies and blondies, caramels and nougats, cream eggs, caramel and toffee popcorn, snoballs, various party mixes and chows, glazed hand pies, fruit and specialty dips, bars and tarts, candied pecans, shortbreads, chocolate covered cherries, cobblers, breads, cupcakes, muffins and so much more.
My mother instilled in me a joy of baking that I've carried with me all of my life, and to have the privilege of baking in the same kitchen as Mom - priceless.
Until next week...