Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thanks for the ‘sweet’ memories

Creating special cookies and candy at Christmastime is a treasured custom for many of us. We delight in handing down time-honored traditions or creating new ones through our once-a-year baking and cooking rituals. 

At this time of year we realize that something as simple as a cookie or piece of homemade candy plays an important part in passing on our heritage or defining our culture. The recipes each of us looks forward to preparing at this special time of year are something we value — they are part of who we are.

I want to thank the 12 wonderful women who have shared a recipe for this holiday baking collection as well as Sharyn Resvick for the pictures she took at the Star Tribune’s 2009 cookie contest, the communications staffs for the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls and St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph — and Nikki Rajala, my fellow copy editor at The Visitor, who is supportive of FFF in countless ways! CJK 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Almond Triangles

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — The Baker’s Dozen — Day 13
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Charlotte Midthun, right, and her sister, Leigh Smith, 
crust for the almond triangles at the Star 
holiday cookie 
contest in this 2009 photo. 
courtesy of Sharyn Resvick)
Those of us who love to cook and bake look forward to the seasons and holidays of each year. We take delight in celebrating them through creating our cherished recipes — all of them “winners,” as far as we’re concerned!

But, one of Charlotte Midthun’s recipes has truly earned the title of “First Place Winner.” Her “Almond Triangles” took top prize in the Twin Cities Star Tribune’s seventh annual holiday cookie contest in 2009!

Charlotte has been making these extraordinary confections for about 20 years. Everyone loves them! Her sister Leigh Smith thought about entering this awesome recipe in the Star Tribune’s contest but encouraged Charlotte to do it since it was “hers.”

These goodies weigh in calling for a pound of butter and a pound of almonds. Combine those tasty ingredients with honey, white and brown sugars, cream and other good things and it’s no wonder that the contest judges were blown away!

Modestly, Charlotte describes the almond triangles as “a nice combination — very rich but not too sweet because of the nuts, which add a little ‘saltiness.’ ”

You be the judge. Give these decadent (yet relatively easy to make) cookies a try. Charlotte says they are the “star attraction” on the Christmas cookie trays she assembles. That doesn’t surprise me — I imagine them as totally phenomenal! CJK

Almond Triangles
(Charlotte Midthun)

1 lb. butter, (at room temperature), divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
2 3/4 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 lb. sliced almonds (about 5 1/4 cups)

Line a 15 by 10-inch jellyroll pan with foil. Beat 1/2 lb. butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, salt and almond extract. Beat in egg and then flour. Press dough into pan and push up sides. Refrigerate dough while preheating oven.

Heat oven to 375°F. Prick dough with a fork and bake 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, 1/2 lb. butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring and boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream and almonds. Spread over crust. Bake until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Cool and cut into triangles.

Yield: 80 cookies

Charlotte and Leigh press the dough for the bottom crust into a
jelly roll pan.
(Photo courtesy of Sharyn Resvick)
A note from Charlotte: Make sure the butter is at room temperature before you start. I also let the cream come to room temperature. I set it out when I begin making the dough.

At the end, when it’s time to add the cream and nuts, I always stir a handful of the nuts into the hot boiling syrup first so that the cream doesn’t curdle, then add the cream and the rest of the nuts.

A note from Carol: “It’s a small world after all” is so true. When I mentioned my plan for the “Twelve Days of Cookies” series to a childhood friend of mine, Sharyn Resvick, she told me about her sister-in-law Charlotte and her famous recipe. It’s an honor to conclude this year’s holiday collection with her award-winning “Almond Triangles.”

Charlotte Midthun and her husband, Tom, are members of St. Andrew Church in Granite Falls, Minn., in the New Ulm Diocese. They are the parents of two grown children and grandparents to 8-month-old Benjamin.

A baker’s dozen

The concept of a baker’s dozen — giving one more than the standard 12 — has a long history all over Europe. It appears in English statutes as early as 1266 in regulations for bakers’ guilds, to ensure that bread sold in quantity would not be short-weighted, since in those days it would be difficult to make loaves of uniform weight. The penalties were severe, so bakers would add something extra to comply.

Today the expression has come to mean an extra cookie (or bun or pastry) added to an order of 12, as an “unexpected extra.” Please check back a little later today for the “Twelve Days of Cookie Baking” bonus — an award-winning recipe for Almond Triangles. CJK

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Biscotti

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 12
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Jenna Vavra and Angie Fracassi, former coworkers and good friends, started making these distinctive “dunking cookies” together at Christmastime about five years ago.

Biscotti means “twice baked” in Italian, which is how these attractive sweets gain their crunchy, chewy, crispy characteristic texture.

“These are great cookies for gifts because they last all through the holiday season,” Jenna said. “At times I’ve packaged each one individually in a cellophane bag with a ribbon. A single piece packaged this way makes a great gift when combined with a pretty coffee mug and package of hot chocolate.

“Biscotti is also perfect on a tray with other assorted treats,” Jenna continued. “Most of my holiday baking is for gift-giving. My “top secret” favorite is creating homemade flavored marshmallows — peppermint, chocolate and vanilla with real vanilla beans. I also make some “basics,” such as Peanut Butter Blossoms, Saltine Toffee Cookies, and a sugar cookie that is an ‘icebox variety.’ ” CJK

Chocolate Cherry Biscotti
(Jenna Vavra)

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup chopped red candied cherries
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 oz. pkg white chocolate chips
1-3 tbsp. milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a large cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in almond extract. Combine flour and baking powder separately and stir into creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in candied cherries and mini chocolate chips.

With lightly floured hands, shape dough into two 10-inch loaves. Place rolls 5 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet and flatten each to 3-inch width.

Bake 20-25 minutes until set and light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Using serrated knife, cut loaves diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange slices cut side down on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms begin to brown. Turn and bake an additional 5 minutes or until browned and crisp. Cool completely.

Melt white chocolate in microwave, stirring every 20-30 seconds until smooth. Add milk or cream until it is desired consistency — thin enough to work with. Drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate. Let harden. Store in tightly covered container.

Yield: 36 biscotti

A note from Jenna: I have used this recipe that I found on for years. For baking and cooking it’s my favorite search engine because of all of the reviews that are added to the recipes.

I always flour my hand before trying to form the dough. Wetting them would likely work equally well.

I like to dip half of each biscotti in the melted white chocolate rather than drizzling it as called for in the original recipe.

A note from Carol: Jenna loves to cook and bake — she’s constantly searching for new recipes and giving them a try. FFF readers may remember her chocolate raspberry layer cake and lemon macaroons. She does billing and transcribing for the St. Cloud Diocesan Tribunal and is a senior design consultant for Willow House. Jenna and her husband, Corin, and their daughters Carley Ann (8) and Audrey (1), are members of St. Paul Parish in St. Cloud.

Monday, December 19, 2011

English Toffee Bars

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 11
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

There’s a heartwarming story behind Barb Simon-Johnson’s English Toffee Bar recipe.

Many years ago when she was first dating the man who would become her husband, Chris Johnson, she baked her mother Norma Simon’s recipe of these simple yet rich, buttery chocolate-covered shortbread. They were one cookie variety among many on a tray she brought to a gathering with Chris’ family.

Chris’ mom, Jacquelyn Johnson, who had been a teacher at St. Boniface School in Cold Spring, had died when he, the youngest child in the family, was only four years old. When his older siblings tasted Barb’s toffee bars that day — several years after their mother’s passing — they remembered them as the very same bars their mother had made. One of them remarked, “These are exactly what Mom used to make for Christmas.”

Barb has continued to make them every year for her own and extended family members. Now her married daughter, Megan Engelmann, returns home each year to bake cookies with Barb. This year they plan to get together soon to create the English toffee bars and a number of the family’s other holiday cookie traditions together: both almond and chocolate mint spritz, almond crescents, double dipped mint cookies, pfeffernusse and assorted candies including fudge, almond toffee, truffles and a salted pecan roll.

“It’s really nice to pass on family traditions to your children,” Barb said. “Both of our children have been involved with the Christmas baking and candy making since they were old enough to help.” CJK

English Toffee Bars
(Barb Simon-Johnson)

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
12 oz. pkg. milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg yolk, vanilla and flour. Press into greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Put pan in refrigerator to chill while preheating oven.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust for 15 minutes.

Remove crust from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips over crust immediately, letting them soften. Spread melted chocolate over the baked crust and then sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired. Cool bars before cutting.

Yield: 36 bars

A note from Barb: The crust must be cooler than room temperature when it goes into the oven so that it will hold together during baking. It’s important to keep it in the refrigerator while preheating the oven.

A note from Carol: Barb, the graphic designer/web designer for the St. Cloud Diocese, shared her recipe for pumpkin custard bars in this year’s FFF Thanksgiving collection. She and Chris, her husband of 29 years, and their son Caeleb (12), are members of the Holdingford Five Parish Faith Community.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Salted Nut Roll Bars

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 10
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Last year for the “Twelve Days of Candy Making” series Rita Meyer shared her recipe for the popcorn cake she makes each holiday season. This time around she has another equally simple creation for FFF readers — salted nut roll bars.

“They are d’lish,” Rita says. “I make them all the time because it’s the quickest, easiest bar recipe that I have and almost everyone loves it! They fit in nicely with other treats on a cookie tray. I make a lot of simple sweets for school and church activities this time of year including oatmeal date bars, date balls rolled in coconut, cornflake wreaths, sugar cookies and my ever-popular popcorn cake.” CJK

Salted Nut Roll Bars
(Rita Meyer)

4 tbsp. butter
1 10 oz. pkg. peanut butter chips 
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 10.5 oz. pkg. miniature marshmallows
1 16 oz. jar dry roasted peanuts, divided

Spray 9 by 13-inch pan with no-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, melt butter with peanut butter chips in the microwave. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir. Add miniature marshmallows, stirring only until marshmallows are coated.

Sprinkle half of the jar of peanuts in the prepared pan. Spread peanut butter chip mixture over the top and pat down so peanuts stick to it. Sprinkle remaining peanuts over the top, pressing into marshmallow layer.

Keep refrigerated.

Yield: 36 bars

A note from Rita: It’s important to use dry roasted peanuts for this recipe. They cling to the marshmallow filling mixture better than other peanuts. And, make sure to press the top peanut layer firmly into the filling so you don’t get too many loose nuts.

A note from Carol: Rita has written the “From the Home Front” column for The Visitor for about eight years. She and her husband, Marv, and four children, Emma (12), Justine (10), Luke (8) and Miranda (4) are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove, Minn.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Father Statz’s “Grace” Bars

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 9
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Audrey Rademacher featured this fabulous recipe in the “Fruit of the Spirit” cookbook published in commemoration of Brooten’s St. Donatus Parish centennial celebration last summer.

She nicknamed them “Father Statz’s ‘Grace’ Bars” because they are so delectable they are like “tasting a piece of heaven.” Father James Statz was the pastor in Brooten and at St. Anthony Parish in Padua, from 1995 to 2001 and he coined the name “Grace Bars” for this divine creation made of caramels, cream, butter, chocolate chips, nuts and oatmeal. CJK

Father Statz’s “Grace” Bars
(Audrey Rademacher)

48 caramels
5 tbsp. light cream

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, melted

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan.

Melt caramels with cream and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, oatmeal, sugar, soda, salt and melted butter. Press half of this mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 °F.

Spread caramel mixture on crust and sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over caramel. Press the remaining crust on top. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes until golden brown.

Yield: 36 bars

A note from Audrey: You need to use butter for this recipe — don’t substitute margarine or shortening. I’ve found that the individually wrapped Kraft caramels work the best in this recipe.

A note from Carol: To order the “Fruit of the Spirit” cookbook, contact the St. Donatus Parish office at or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $20 each or two for $30. (Shipping and handling is $5 for one book or $7 for two.)

These cookbooks would make great Christmas presents!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rum Balls

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 7
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Benedictine Sister Cathel Sefkow’s recipe for rum balls is featured in a brand new cookbook published by the Benedictine Sisters in St. Joseph, Minn. This Christmastime classic is a favorite of many at the monastery and throughout central Minnesota. There are infinite ways to make these no-bake truffle-like confections as recipes vary from region to region and family to family.

“It’s an excellent recipe,” Sister Cathel said. “I’ve shared it with many people and it always works.”

Sister Cathel, 96, hails from Holt, Minn. She made her final profession with the Benedictine community in 1944. Her ministry was primarily education — teaching grade school classes and later, high school home economics for many years. Even though I’ve never met her, I feel Sister Cathel is a kindred spirit as I also taught home economics (now called Family and Consumer Science) for many years. After retirement from her teaching career, she was executive housekeeper at the St. Cloud Hospital and then the administrator of St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in St. Cloud. She has lived at St. Scholastica Convent since 1993. CJK

Rum Balls
(Benedictine Sister Cathel Sefkow)

3 cups vanilla wafers or graham crackers
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup rum*

Extra powdered sugar

Crush vanilla wafers (or graham crackers). Mix in sugar, cocoa and chopped nuts. Add syrup and rum and stir until thoroughly mixed. (Mixture will be stiff.) Wet hands (or coat them with sugar) and shape into balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar. Chill and roll balls in powdered sugar again.

Yield: 4 dozen

Cook’s Note: *If you prefer not to use rum, you may substitute 3 tbsp. water mixed with 1 tbsp. rum flavoring. (Brandy or bourbon may also be substituted for the rum.)

A note from Carol: Looking for an inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer that will be used time and time again? “Saint Benedict’s Monastery Cookbook, Volume II” is hot off the press! The spiral bound, 126-page book is a terrific collection of treasured recipes from the Benedictine Sisters in St. Joseph, Minn. At $8.95 plus shipping and handling, it’s a great deal!

It is the fourth cookbook that the Benedictine Sisters have published. Others include: “Saint Benedict’s Monastery Cookbook, Volume I,” “From the Monastery Kitchens — The Sesquicentennial Recipe Collection” and “The Art of Chinese Cooking.”

To purchase any of these cookbooks, stop by the Whitby Gift Shop and Gallery at the monastery in St. Joseph, the bookstores at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph and St. John’s University in Collegeville or the St. Scholastica Convent gift shop in St. Cloud.  It’s possible to order online as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 7
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

“Christmas candy making and cookie baking were kind of sacred in our house when I was growing up,” Trina Dietz recalls. “Peanut Butter Blossoms are one of the first Christmas cookies that my mom let me make on my own because it’s an uncomplicated recipe. I was probably in junior high at the time. Before that I was allowed to make homemade peanut butter cups — one of my family’s Christmas favorites — and the cookies that I would roll with Mom’s cut-glass glasses.”

Trina’s recipe for peanut butter blossoms comes from her mother, Denise Dorner of Luxemburg, Wis. The first Christmas that Trina and her husband Eric baked these cookies together there was a bit of controversy. Trina grew up with Hershey’s Kisses on the top and his family always used chocolate stars. They’ve resolved that issue now after 11 years of marriage and compromise using those little chocolate “enhancements” interchangeably. CJK

Peanut Butter Blossoms
(Trina Dietz)

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening, butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

Extra white sugar, to roll balls of dough in

48 Hershey’s Kisses (unwrapped), chocolate stars or Reese’s mini peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Blending at low speed with a mixer, combine all dough ingredients. Shape dough into balls (using about a rounded teaspoon amount of dough for each). Roll balls in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375°F for 10 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven and immediately top with chocolate kisses (or other chocolate pieces of your choice). Press the chocolate into the cookies until the cookies crack. Remove to cooling rack.

Yield: 4 dozen

A note from Trina: If you are using Hershey’s Kisses, unwrap them before the cookies come out of the oven.

When I say put the chocolate on the cookie immediately when it comes from the oven, I do mean “immediately.” They have to be added while the cookie is very hot so they will adhere to the top.

 A note from Carol: Perhaps you remember “meeting” Trina, a few weeks ago when she shared a few of her Thanksgiving tips with FFF readers. The communications specialist for Catholic Charities in the St. Cloud Diocese, Trina, also writes a food blog — Trina’s Recipes — to share her family’s favorites.

Trina, Eric and their children, Matthew (7), Hattie (4) and Alex (23 mos.) are members of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 6
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

The weekend after Thanksgiving Rebecca Kurowski, her sister Elissa Cooper and their mother Pam Nelson got together for their annual holiday baking “marathon.” They put on their aprons (sewn for each family member by Pam), rolled up their sleeves and immersed themselves in creating a number of their family’s favorite Christmas treats: kifles, Oreo bonbons, Finish prune tarts, rum balls, spritz, chocolate haystacks and sugar cookie cutouts. And after nearly 20 years, the recipe for green cornflake wreaths with red hots was “dusted off” and recreated by Rebecca and Elissa’s young children, who were part of the baking bevy throughout the day.

Today Rebecca shares the kifle recipe her family has been making for the last 25 to 30 years. Pronounced “key-full,” Rebecca says the crescent-like nut-filled cookie is wonderful with coffee — light and not overly sweet. CJK

(Rebecca Kurowski)

Rebecca’s sister Elissa carefully spreads the nut 
filling on a slice of kifle dough in this 2007 photo 
while Rebecca’s daughter Lillian, 18 months old 
at the time, takes her first lesson in this family 
baking tradition. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Kurowski)
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups flour
8 oz. cottage cheese, pureed
1 egg yolk

Nut filling:
2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar

Cut softened butter into flour as for pie dough. Mix cottage cheese and egg yolk and add to flour mixture to form dough. Divide into four balls and refrigerate one hour. (Dough can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator overnight.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll one ball at a time onto a pastry cloth in a 12-inch circle. Cut circle into 12 pie-shaped pieces. Gently spread a small amount of the nut filling mixture on each piece. Roll each pie-shaped piece from the widest part to the tip and place on an insulated nonstick cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes 375°F. When still hot from oven, roll the kifles in powdered sugar and then cool them on a cooling rack. When cooled or before serving, roll again in powdered sugar.

Yield: 48 kifles

A note from Rebecca: We use a pizza cutter to slice the dough into even pieces. Take your time when putting the filling on the individual slices. Don’t spread it all the way to the edge because it will run over and burn onto the cookie sheet.

A note from Carol: Rebecca started as the communications director for the St. Cloud Diocese in 2008. Members of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell, she and her husband, Dan, are the parents of 5-year-old twin daughters — Breanna and Lillian — and a 3-year-old son, Grant.

Rebecca’s twin daughters, Lillian and Breanna, enjoy licking the beaters 
after a cranberry cake was mixed in this 2009 photo. (Photo courtesy 
Rebecca Kurowski)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 5
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Franciscan Sister Cordelia Bloch, originally from Albany, Minn., and now 84, recalled this sweet story from her childhood for the “Franciscan Heritage Recipes” cookbook that her community published in 2000.

“Mom used this recipe for Christmas cookie cutouts. We kids were told that the Christ Child makes and brings them on Christmas Eve, along with toys. One day, a few weeks before Christmas, school was dismissed early. My parents heard us coming and Dad came out of the house and told us to run down to the barn to see what was new. Very excitedly, we ran to the barn, thinking there was probably a new calf born. However, we couldn’t find anything new. This was to give Mom time to hide the cookies. Dad only smiled when we asked him, ‘What’s new?’ ”

When I first saw it, I thought that Sister Cordelia who primarily ministered in cooking, baking and food service all her adult life, got this recipe from her own Aunt Sally — which is not the case. It was for me fun to learn that these spicy “Aunt Sally Cookies” have an interesting history of their own. A popular variation is an oblong shape formed by using an empty Spam can as the cookie cutter. Some versions of the frosting call for marshmallows and egg whites instead of gelatin. CJK

Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies
(Franciscan Sister Cordelia Bloch)


1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour milk*
1/2 cup molasses
5 cups flour
4 tsp. baking soda

Cream sugar and shortening together. Stir cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger, eggs, sour milk and molasses into sugar mixture. Blend flour and soda and add to the other ingredients. Chill dough about one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet. Place one-fourth of dough onto a floured board, roll to desired thickness and cut with Christmas cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Frost cooled cookies with Aunt Sally’s Frosting.

Yield: 5-6 dozen cookies, depending upon size of cookie cutters


Aunt Sally’s Frosting

1 pkg. Knox gelatin
1 cup cold water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Dissolve gelatin in cold water in large saucepan and add granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer mixture for 10 minutes. Let stand to cool.

Add powdered sugar to mixture and beat until foamy. Add baking powder, vanilla and salt. Beat until mixture forms a thick consistency. Frost cooled cookies. Allow frosting to dry before putting away cookies. 

Cook’s Note: *To make one cup sour milk for baking, pour one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup and fill with milk to the one-cup line. Let it sit for a few minutes and then use as the recipe directs.

A note from Carol: The “Franciscan Heritage Recipes” cookbook is a collection of favorite family recipes and inspirational quotations from the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minn. They are selling copies of their cookbook that was printed in 2000 for $3, plus shipping and handling, if they are mailed. Definitely priced under cost, these little gems would make great stocking stuffers. This collection of the sisters’ stories, recipes and pictures will bring back memories for many who live or have lived in the St. Cloud Diocese.

The cookbooks can be purchased through the Franciscan Gift Shop by calling 320-632-0601 or by emailing

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vanilla Butter Frosting

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 4
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

This is the frosting recipe that Ann Jonas uses with her mother’s white cutout cookies. Originally from Betty Crocker, this recipe could be described as not too soft, not too hard — just right for either piping or spreading to decorate your holiday cookies. CJK

Vanilla Butter Frosting
(Ann Jonas)

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. milk

Mix sugar and margarine or butter; stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until smooth. Add desired food coloring.

Yield: About 3 1/3 cups

A note from Ann: If you want the frosting to be a little thinner, add more milk. If you want it thicker, add less milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. It’s easy to adjust it accordingly.

A note from Carol: I enjoyed visiting with Ann as she recalled fond memories of the fun times when she baked and decorated cookies with her growing family. She remembered the kids losing interest after about two pans of the cookies baking but when it was time to frost them, their enthusiasm peaked again because they could lick the frosting off of the knives. “It was one of the messiest activities,” Ann reminisced.  “But the kids loved every minute of it.”

Ann Jonas’ son, David, and her daughter, Emily, show off freshly baked and 
decorated Christmas cookies with Ann’s youngest sister, Jacki, and her daughter,
Beth, in this 1987 photo taken in Ann’s parents’ home in Farming. (Photo courtesy 
of Ann Jonas)

White Cutout Cookies

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 4
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Ann Jonas is sentimental about these cookies for many reasons. First of all, she remembers making them year after year with her seven sisters in the warm kitchen of their old two-story farmhouse near Farming, Minnesota. Christmas songs played on vinyl LPs while the eight girls and their mother, Marcelline (Marcy) Weidner Schleper, baked and frosted these white cutouts and their gingerbread counterparts.

When her own children were toddlers, Ann asked her mom for the recipe. Many more memories were made as she continued the baking tradition with her own family. Instead of only using the recipe at Christmas, Ann and her four children baked these time-honored cookies for a number of other holidays, too.

It was delightful to visit with Ann as she reminisced about the countless times that making these cookies brought together the special people in her life. Her reminiscing conjured up a passel of sweet images that I hope you can duplicate with your own loved ones over time. CJK

White Cutout Cookies
(Ann Jonas)

1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shortening*
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour, plus additional
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix baking soda and sour cream; set aside for a few minutes. Then, blend in sugar, shortening, eggs, salt and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder to the mixture and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Work with the dough in small batches, keeping the dough that you are not working with refrigerated. Flour your working surface, rolling pin and cookie cutters.

For each batch, add enough flour so that the dough is not sticky. Roll out and cut with cookie cutters. Place cookies on cool baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes. (Cookies are done when lightly browned at the edges.)

Cool thoroughly on cooling racks. Decorate with Ann’s Vanilla Butter Frosting, which will also be posted today.

Yield: Approximately 4 dozen, depending upon the size of cookies

A note from Ann: *The original recipe called for vegetable shortening but I always use margarine. I’ve noticed other recipes use butter or a combination of shortening and butter so I think any of the three could be interchangeable in this recipe.

The cookies don’t bake for very long so you need to keep an eye on them.  I like them a little thicker — a little chewier — so I roll them out thicker and bake them for around 8 minutes.

I feel the sour cream in this recipe gives the cookies a rich flavor. My mom didn’t use store-bought sour cream when we baked them. She used the top milk — the cream that rose to the top of the separator — and left it in the refrigerator until it got sour. It was a process — she had to think ahead.

A note from Carol: Ann is the general book buyer for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University and the book reviewer for The Visitor. She and her husband, Ron, are members of St. James Parish in Jacobs Prairie. Ann’s parents, Elmer and Marcy Schleper, were longtime members of St. Catherine Parish in Farming.

Ann Jonas’ son, Stephen, demonstrates the “fine art” of cutting out cookies in this
 1989 photo. (Photo courtesy of Ann Jonas)

Tips for top-notch cutout cookies

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 4
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

Cutout cookies are also called rolled cookies because they are made from stiff dough that is rolled into a thin sheet and cut with cookie cutters. To make cookies that are especially crisp and tender, follow these guidelines.

• Many times the dough is chilled before rolling. Keep the dough refrigerated while other cookies are baking. Don’t cut the next batch until a baking sheet is cool enough to be loaded again.

• A minimum amount of flour should be used on the board and rolling pin when rolling them out — too much flour at this point will modify the flavor and create a hard cookie.

• Roll lightly, checking under the dough occasionally to make sure it is not sticking to the board.

• Rolling small amounts of dough at one time will cut down on handling and re-rolling. Cookies made from re-rolled dough are less crisp and tasty than those cut from the first rolling, therefore scraps of dough from each rolling should be collected and re-rolled together at the end of the baking project.

• Dip the cookie cutters in flour before cutting the dough.

• After cutting into shapes, gently transfer cookies to a greased baking sheet (unless recipe directions call for ungreased sheets) with a flexible spatula wide enough to support the entire cookie.

• Because they do not spread very much, only a small amount of space needs to be left between cutout cookies. CJK

P.S. Stop back later today to discover a white cutout cookie recipe that has stood the test of time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peppermint Kisses

Twelve Days of Cookie Baking — Day 3
Create memories your families and friends will savor for years to come

These melt-in-your-mouth peppermint kisses are light as air — fluffy, slightly crispy and definitely low fat. “We made these a lot when we were younger because my sister had a wheat and gluten allergy,” Kristi Anderson said. “My mom was continually searching for recipes that she could enjoy. These became a family favorite for Christmas and year-round!” CJK

Peppermint Kisses
(Kristi Anderson)

4 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until fluffy. Mix in the cream of tartar and salt. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time; beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks and the mixture is glossy. With a rubber scraper, gently fold the peppermint extract and chocolate chips into the egg white mixture.

Drop by teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet. Place it in the oven and turn the oven off. (Yes, turn it off!) Leave the cookies in the oven for several hours or overnight. (During this time, do not open the oven door!)

Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 36 kisses

A note from Kristi: We’ve often substituted finely crushed candy canes for the peppermint extract in this recipe. You could also add a few drops of food coloring to the egg white mixture or lightly sprinkle the tops of the kisses with colored sugar before placing in the oven.

For another variation on these cookies, spoon the meringue into a pastry bag (or resealable bag with a one-inch hole cut in the corner), add a metal or plastic tip and pipe the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet.

Instead of parchment paper, my mother always lined the cookie sheet with a paper cut from a brown paper bag. That works well, too, and is cheaper than parchment paper.

A note from Carol: Kristi is the secretary for The Catholic Foundation and Vocation Offices for St. Cloud Diocese. She is a regular columnist for “Central Minnesota Women Magazine” and “The Bright Side of Fifty” and an occasional writer for “The Visitor.” Check out other recipes she has shared with FFF readers: Chocolate Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast, Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake Pops and Avocado Salsa.