For most of my life, I took my Grandma’s gingerbread cookies for granted.
Individually Saran-wrapped and cut to resemble trees, snowmen and other holiday shapes, the cookies have been part of my family’s Christmas since even before I was born. Every year, they were moist, chewy and offered just the perfect amount of spice. They were lovingly created by my Grandma’s hand in the kitchen of the same home in which my father was raised. They were as perfect as a cookie could be.
And still, I took them for granted — until my wife, Jess, took her first bite several years ago. They arrived at our home in a cardboard box stuffed with assorted Christmas goodies. Jess pulled one out, unwrapped it from the plastic and sank her teeth into the chewy heaven.
“You never told me about these!” she scolded me.
And to this day, she reminds me how I let something so special slip from my mind — often to make room for the most insignificant of worries.
It’s been years since my Grandma has been able to do any cooking. She is still with us but has lost most of her coordination and communication skills. Her daughter, my Aunt Carol, has since assumed the gingerbread cookie duties, carrying on one of many Eng traditions. Hers are strikingly similar, boasting that same rich spice and home-sweet-home comfort.
Someday, I hope my home assumes the gingerbread cookie torch for the Engs. I would love for my kitchen to be the one capable of continuing to share my Grandma’s love with my siblings, their spouses and their children.
This Christmas, my son, Lyric, will enjoy his first bite when that cardboard box arrives at our front door. And by next Christmas, I hope my daughter — due any day now — will enjoy the same experience.
And for you, our loyal reader, The East County Observer’s editorial staff members are sharing our families’ most cherished recipes.
These treats contain all the tastes and textures we associate with Christmas and our families. And in a year when many people are foregoing elaborate travel plans for the sake of a fuller wallet, we hope some of you will try them as part of your holiday festivities.
If so inclined, grab your kids and spouse and have a blast putting some of these recipes together. Fill mugs with egg nog, warm milk or your favorite coffee, open that board game from the top shelf of the closet and enjoy what matters most.
GRANDMA ENG'S GINGERBREAD COOKIES
1/3 cup shortening
1 ½ cup black molasses
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup cold water
7 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves (ground)
1 tsp. cinnamon
• Mix together shortening, brown sugar and molasses.
• Stir in cold water.
• Sift flour, salt, allspice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon.
• Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients and chill dough.
• Roll out into desired thickness (we usually do about 1/8 inch). Cut out in any shape desired.
• Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake 15-18 minutes in 350-degree oven. Cool on wire racks.
• Decorate with buttercream frosting, decorator’s frosting or ready-prepared frosting.
GRANDMA BALL'S GOBS (from Associate Editor Jen Blanco)
If I could only have one type of treat this holiday season I would choose my Grandma Ball’s Gobs. The chocolate cake sandwiches filled with rich white creamy filling have been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember. My Grandma used to make a special batch for us every year. I can remember her walking through the front door on Christmas morning carrying a sweater box filled with the chocolaty treat.
I hope you and your family find some joy with my special family recipe this holiday season.
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
2 cup flour
5 tbsp. cocoa
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup Crisco
¾ cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp. Marshmallow Crème
• Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
• Cream together salt, sugar, egg, vanilla and milk. Blend together flour, cocoa and baking soda. Add to above mixture and stir.
• Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
• Combine Crisco, powdered sugar and Marshmallow Crème and beat well.
• Once cakes are finished baking and cooled, spread filling onto the flat side of one cake and add a second cake on top to create a sandwich.
RUSSIAN TEA COOKIES (from News Editor Pam Eubanks)
If I could only make one type of cookie for Christmas, this Russian teacake from “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (1956)” would be it. I’ve loved these cookies since my childhood. They are fun, easy to make and taste wonderful.
In fact, just last week my sister had a childhood friend we haven’t seen in at least 15 years e-mail her for this recipe. Our friend said similar recipes she tried just weren’t as good as the ones she enjoyed at our house.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/4 tsp. salt
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Mix butter, powdered sugar and the vanilla. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.
• Shape into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set but not brown — about 10 to12 minutes.
• Roll baked cookies in the other powdered sugar while warm. Let cookies cool. Then, roll them in powdered sugar again.
• Makes about four dozen cookies.
Note: We use two separate little bags and put some powdered sugar in each. We gently shake about two cookies at a time in the first bag, allow the cookies to cool and then shake them in the second bag.
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Food and fun
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and its Young Leaders Alliance have something to talk about: the organizations collected 764 pounds of nonperishable food and $1,295 cash to benefit The Food Bank of Manatee/Meals on Wheels PLUS.
River Club’s Cheryl Kaufman says she’s still pinching herself.
A little “Ho! Ho! Ho!” can go a long way this holiday season.