Skip to comments.Christmas Memories, Cookies, Candies, and Desserts.
Posted on 11/26/2005 7:32:00 AM PST by carlo3b
Christmas Memories, Cookies, Candies, and Desserts
For me, it was the official start of the Christmas season, seeing the matriarchs gather in coffee klatches and recipes exchanges. As a little tike, anything that signaled the approach of Christmas was enough to cause excitement around our home. Watching my great-grandmother summon the elderly women of our family and neighborhood, was a sure sign that big things were heating up in our little kitchen. These beautiful women were dignified and almost aristocratic in their black mourning dresses, with clouded stockings, and clumpy shoes. I can still recall the gentle scent of lavender and rose perfumes as they shuffled to their places around our modest kitchen table. Those mixtures of colognes and coffee were far from the only wonderful smells that began to fill our home and hearts at this glorious time of the year. Fabulous homemade Italian pastries were a right of passage for these gatherings. Baking for the clan was a near sacred honor that my great-grandmother cherished..
We were a typical nuclear family for those times. A working man, my great-uncle, a stay at home wife, my-great aunt, my retired great-grandmother, and great-grandfather, and of course yours truly. Our familial arrangement was not unique, most households had extended family members, and everyone had a place on the clan hierarchy. Women generally ruled the roost, and menfolk earned the bacon. Grandmothers, at least in my family, routinely prepared the meals. Wives raised the offspring and kept the house, meaning the housework and shopping, and those lucky enough to have grandpas, had the benefit of wisdom and history that could only come from invaluable, accumulated life experiences, and vivid recollections..
Our homes were mostly small walk-up apartments, located in the bowels of the inner city of Chicago. They were called, "cold water flats", meaning each apartment had to make their own hot water with a silver colored water heater tanks, located in a convenient corner of the kitchen. If you wanted hot water you had to turn it on and cautiously feel the sides of the tank to see how close it was becoming hot. It was surely crude, but efficient enough to accomplish the job so nobody complained. However, you had to be mindful, not to forget to turn the tank off when the task was complete, the explosive consequences were all too frightening and frequent..
If you were lucky, as we were, you had heat furnished by a landlord in the form of cast iron coiled radiators. The heat was generated by coal fired furnaces, located in dark damp cellars. These subterranean dungeons were also called "the basement", which also housed whatever passed for a clothes washers in those days. I mostly remember those radiators, because they clanged from expanding heat filled pipes on cold winter mornings as we waited for the heat to raise to a reasonable warmth to venture out from under our heavy blankets. The radiators were sparsely placed, usually in the busiest areas of the home. We often warmed and dried clothes on this solitary heat source on frigid winter mornings. More than once I left my chilled trousers on too long, and burned myself on an overheated zipper. Chicago winters were especially cold, and flimsy windows were typically drafty. What was a blessing in the stifling summer heat, a window or skylight, was truly a detriment on cold winter nights.
A single low wattage light bulb hung conspicuously over the center of the white porcelain topped kitchen table. The light cord had a protruding plug for connecting a clothes iron. The light had an on-off string which dangled down low enough so the shortest member of the family could reach it. Every home had an icebox, with a small refrigerated compartment, and a square slot that held a cube of solid ice. The ice block needed to be replenished at least once a week by a gentleman who was aptly named, "the iceman". He carried the heavy block of ice 3 flights of stairs from his waterlogged horse drawn wagon. The gas cooking stove was a 4 burner antique, with an unregulated double oven that could only be lit with a stick match. The kitchen sink was one compartment with a long drain board. It had a single cold water faucet and a sturdy garden hose that connected it to the hot water tank. All of this was crude and simple by today's standards, but it was all that was needed to prepare at least two meals a day, a hardy breakfast, and a scrumptious 4 course, made-from-scratch dinner.
The homemade meals, complete with fresh bread were prepared with meticulous care each and every day, rain or shine. Needless to say, from this dim, sparsely equipped kitchen that made cooking and baking for our large family gatherings all that more remarkable. I learned to cook standing on a kitchen chair at that humble stove, under the watchful eye of my loving great-grandmother. She stood under 5 feet, but she was a giant to all that knew her. I think of her every day when I shamefully complain as the time comes to prepare my family meals at my fully equipped gourmet kitchen..
Our bathroom was small and simple. It had a top tank, gravity flushing toilet that sported a pull chain with a ivory handle. The lavatory was a tiny cold water basin that had circular chips from some unknown historic calamity, and a claw footed bathtub that was enormous, with a rubber plug on a chain.. The hot water had to be bucketed in from the kitchen sink, which was unfortunately located at the far end of the adjoining room. The bucket brigade took 2 people, 3 loads each. There was a small gas heater that furnished plenty of heat on the floor, but the small whitewashed window above the tub had a constant whistling from frigid air that seemed to be unobstructed and unending. It made standing for towel drying an olympic speed event..
The apartment had 2 small bedrooms, each only large enough to hold a double bed, and squatty art deco styled dresser. Each dresser was equipped with a mirror and on it's polished top lay assorted decorative perfume bottles and each had a matching sterling silver brush set, which was dutifully arranged at all times. The front room of the home was in reality, our living room, although we hardly ever lived there. The long narrow room held a large sofa, which doubled as my bed, a matching side chair, a huge floor model radio, and a mufti-bulb lamp with a oversized shade with dangling decorative fringe. An imposing chandelier hung prominently in the center of the vaulted ceiling. The floors were all buffed wood, and covered with assorted throw rugs that forever gathered under foot traffic. Our kitchen floor was covered with a patterned linoleum that had long ago began to show a well worn path. The bathroom was a beautifully tiled mosaic, in alternating black and white octagon shapes. At strategic locations were yellowed photographs of unknown origins in various shaped ornate frames, and on every flat surface aside from the kitchen were dozens of tiny knickknacks, and candles..
We lived in 4 simple rooms, but I never thought of it in those terms. In my mind it was a mansion, filled with love and devotion to one another. We were near penniless but rich with respectability and honor. We had all that we needed and enough left over to share with others. Everyone I knew loved me, and I loved and respected each of them. The family expected the best from me and I did my best to fulfill my duty to my good name, in their well deserved honor..
Just recalling these golden, olden days is a treasure in itself, because it brings me back to an era that laid the foundation of my life and that of my own family. It reminds me of the importance we placed and the respect we had for the generational roots and traditions that were instilled at an early age. Those roots were planted deep and would ultimately shape my character. Cooking and baking wasn't just food in our home, it was our women's only gift to give. These recipe choosing assemblages were not called just to pick the heirloom cookies that were going to dominate their lives for the month leading up to Christmas. This was a time-honored task and was the solemn obligation our women placed in making their modest but treasured gifts so very special. Those dear aged women demonstrated their devotion to the family not by buying our presents, but by caring for us, the giving of themselves with their own loving hands..
The men of our family proudly gave up their youth, much too early in life and they did it voluntarily. They fought for their country on distant battlefields they couldn't even pronounce. They risked their lives to insure a freedom for a future they couldn't be sure they would live to enjoy. When they returned, they worked tirelessly to support a fine family of their own. These hardy men gave us an honorable name and a high bar in which to strive. They each raised respectable children that proved what they were made of. Our forefathers scratched an indelible place in our history and in our hearts. They earned our love, our gratitude, and our everlasting respect..
The stalwarts of our family, our beautiful women, have given us our sense of worth, our humanity, the true meaning of love for family. Their selfless sacrifice, placed a high value on sharing, fairness, and a soft simple abiding love. Their talent was devotion, their legacy was in the future of the family traditions passed on in perpetuity.. It is in their name I pass many of my family recipes on to you, for you to share with your family, and hopefully with others far and wide.. Enjoy.. Carlo
MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND GOD BLESS YOU,
GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Mr. Carlo, do you have a ping list?
If you do, please add me.
CHEWY PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE BARS
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray with cooking spray a 9-inch pan.
1) Using an electric mixer, mix butter, peanut butter, sugars, and egg until smooth.
2) Stir together flour and baking powder and mix into peanut butter mixture.
3) Spread in prepared pan.
Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
4) Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped peanuts.
Let stand a few minutes, then spread chocolate over the baked cookie. (All chips do not have to melt.)
When cool, cut into 20 bars.
My biscotti recipe is nearly identical, but I use pistachios and dried cranberries for the Red and Green of Christmas........and I'm not even Italian :)
PEPPER AND SPICE COOKIES
Pepper and spice and everything nice cookie.. It seems as though every nationality make their own kind of spice cookies, but our family added ground pepper to these fabulous cookies and now wonder why we don't put pepper in all our baked goods. Now I find that we were not that unique, because the German's have a similar cookie and call them, pfeffernusse.. The Swedish too have something close.. sheesh.. and call them pepparkakor.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- grated rind of 1/2 orange
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon orange juice
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
1) Chop walnuts finely.
2) Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves. Stir in chopped walnuts
3) Cream together butter, sugar, and orange rind. Stir in egg and orange juice. Add dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
4) Roll 1 heaping teaspoon of dough at a time into a ball.
5) Place on lightly greased baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake in center of preheated 350° F oven until firm to touch, but not browned.
Put immediately on wire rack to cool.
6) Make glaze by combining confectioners sugar and water.
Dip one side of each cookie into glaze.
Yield: 3 - 4 dozen cookies
Well, you are an temporary Italian for that great tip.. Enjoy this bad boy..
THE CLASSIC CANNOLI
Cannoli are the classic Sicilian confection, filled with ricotta. If you wish to make the shell as well, and you really should, you need to purchase cannoli tubes for this recipe. Don't worry, once you taste these bad boys, you will make them much more often..
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup Marsala
- oil for fryingEquipment: 12 cannoli tubes
- 2 3/4 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup candied peel
For the shells:
1) Sift together flour and cocoa powder. Mix in butter, egg, sugar and Marsala.
When the dough is smooth, set aside to rest for about one hour.
2) Roll into a thin sheet and cut into 4 inch squares.
3) Place cannoli tube across squares diagonally and roll. Press the center together gently. The tubes will be open at each end.
Do not close dough at ends - they will be stuffed later.
4) Heat oil for deep frying. When oil boils, immerse the dough-covered tubes a few at a time.
Cook until golden brown. Remove, being careful that ho hot oil spills from the centers of the tubes. Set aside to cool.
When cooled, remove shells from tubes.
5) Mix together ricotta, sugar, and cinnamon. If you need, you may add a little milk to make workable.
This should be a thick enough to cram into shells.
6) Stir in chocolate chips and candied peel. Combine well.
7) Fill each shell with ricotta mixture when shells are totally cooled.
Makes 1 dozen cannoli
THE DREADED FRUITCAKE
This is the real thingy.. I cannot understand how the traditional holiday fruitcake got such a bad name, other than by those who refused to even try it.. Hahahaha The hardest thing about preparing this recipe is, accumulating the ingredients, and the follow-through. This may be why folks tend to make several at a time.. Our family made about 2 dozen at Christmas and give them as gifts.. I want to believe that those were eaten by the recipient and not pawned off on others, perhaps even you.
If it was, you are in for a real treat indeed.. LOLOL
I have included the metric measurements because I have so many requests for this recipe once it is tasted and enjoyed, that they tell their friends about it, many from outside of the US.. Enjoy
Preheat oven to 250°F. Yes only 250..
- 1 cup butter (gm 250)
- 1 cup sugar (ml 250)
- 5 eggs
- 2 cups seedless Raisins (gm 360)
- 2 cups sultanas (gm 360)
- 1 cup currants (gm 250)
- 1 cup dates, chopped (gm 250)
- 4 tablespoons mixed Peel (gm 50)
- 4 ounces pecans (gm 125)
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (ml 2.5)
- 2 teaspoons powdered ginger (ml 10)
- 4 teaspoons mixed spice (ml 20)
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves (ml 2.5)
- 2 cups flour (ml 500)
- 1 tablespoon cream of tartar (gm 5)
- 2 tablespoons baking soda (Bicarbonate of Soda) (gm 10)
- 1 tablespoon milk (ml 15)
- 1 tablespoon golden Syrup (ml 15)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (ml 15)
- 1 cup brandy (ml 250)
- 4 ounces cherries (gm 125)
1) Melt butter. Set aside to cool. When cool, mix with sugar and eggs in bowl large enough to accommodate all ingredients.
2) Stir in all raisins, sultanas, currants, dates, mixed peel, pecans, nutmeg, ginger, mixed spice, cloves, and flour. Mix well.
3) In small bowl, mix together cream of tarter, milk, syrup, vinegar and half the brandy. Add to dried fruit mixture. Stir to combine. Stir in cherries.
4) Spoon mixture into buttered 10 inch cake tin. Cover tightly and bake in preheated 250° F oven for 3 - 4 hours.
(Optional - place shallow pan of hot water under mold. If you do this, from time to time, check to see if water needs refilling.)
Remove from oven and pour remaining brandy over.
Pour more brandy over cake at least twice (every 3 - 4 weeks) after baking.
These cakes must be kept in an airtight container to ripen.
THIS RECIPE CAN BE DOUBLED OR QUADRUPLED.
This recipe makes 1 Fabulous fruitcake..
Please add me to your list, I look for your posts around every Holiday.
EAST 62nd LEMON CAKE
Makes one 9'' cake
Supposedly a favorite of Nancy Reagan.
FOR THE CAKE:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
Finely grated rind of 2 large lemons
FOR THE GLAZE:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
To make the cake, adjust an oven rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350°. You need a 9'' x 4 1/2'' tube pan or Bundt pan. It should have a 12-cup capacity. Butter the pan and then dust it all lightly with fine, dry bread crumbs. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. (The mixture might look curdledits okay.) On lowest speed, add the dry ingredients alternately in three additions, with the milk in two additions, beating only until incorporated after each addition.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the lemon rind. Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Level the top of the batter by rotating the pan briskly.
Bake for 1 hour and 5 to 10 minutes, until a cake tester (a toothpick will work) comes out clean. Let the cake stand in the pan for 5 minutes and then cover with a rack and invert. Lift pan from cake, leaving the cake upside down. Place rack over a large piece of foil or wax paper and prepare the glaze.
To make the glaze, mix the lemon juice with the sugar and brush all over the hot cake. The cake will absorb it. Let cool completely and then transfer to a cake plate. It is best to wait a few hours before cutting the cake.
This cake can be made with 1/2 cup Key lime juice instead of 1/3 cup lemon juice (in the glaze) and it is wonderful. I think any kind of lime juice would be equally wonderful. But even if you use lime juice instead of lemon juice, dont change the grated rind in the cake itself (lemon is better there).
Do you have a good mincemeat pie recipe...or a mince tart...(Grandmother's is long gone, can't find it)
I would never, ever throw away a fruitcake.
A Jamaican friend of mine brings me a Rum FruitCake every Christms that's absolutely soaked in the stuff!!
Oh, carlo, bless you for the candy cane cookie recipe. My neighbor in another city used to make those. I have lost contact with her and never got the recipe! Now I can make them!! Thanks!!
I haven't tried these in years, but they are in the stack of old recipes that were prepared in the early '50's.. Hope it's the right one.. :)
ITALIAN WINE COOKIES
Preheat oven to 350
- 4-1/2 c flour
- 1 c wine, red or white
- 3/4 c sugar
- 3/4 c oil
- 1 tsp. anise seed
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. orange zest
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 egg
1) Mix all ingredients together into a dough ball.
2) Knead on a floured board. Roll into preferred shapes.
3) Sprinkle with additional granulated sugar.
Let dough sit 20 min to rise a bit.
Bake 15-20 min at 350
Old Time Mincemeat Pie
* 1 1/4 pounds round steak, cut into small pieces
* 1 cup apple cider
* 4 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
* 1 1/3 cups white sugar
* 2 1/2 cups dried currants
* 2 1/2 cups raisins
* 1/2 pound chopped candied mixed fruit peel
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 (16 ounce) jar sour cherry preserves
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 (16 ounce) can pitted sour cherries, drained with liquid reserved
* I buy a 9" Pie double shell
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
1) In a Dutch oven, combine beef and apple cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until meat is tender. Remove meat and coarsely chop, then return it to the pot.
2) Stir in chopped apples, sugar, currants, raisins, citrus peel, butter and cherry preserves. Add ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Let simmer, uncovered, over low heat until mixture is very thick, about 90 minutes. Stir in cherries and remove from heat.
3) Refrigerate tightly covered for at least a week before using.
4) Put filling in unbaked pie shell and place pastry on top. Crimp edges and poke several holes in top pastry. Brush top with cream and sprinkle with sugar.
5) Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
Can you use Splenda in place of the sugar?
Thank you for putting me on your list. I am not a good cook at all!!!
My 14 year old son loves basketball and The Food Network. So I am trying to get better at this.
It is my pleasure dear girl.. :)
Neapolitan Christmas Cookies
Straight from the the Aunt Rose, Naples files, in Italian they are called Paste Reali..
They may take a bit of work to find all of the ingredients, but they are truly worth it.. great cookies!
For the frosting:
* 2 1/3 cups sugar
* 4/5 cup water
* A pinch sodium bicarbonate
For the pastries:
* 3/4 pound shelled almonds
* 1 pinch powdered cinnamon
* 1 2/3 cups sugar
* 2 fingers (of a glass) water
* Edible rice paper or wafers, about 3 inches in diameter.
* Silvered or colored candied almonds (you should be able to find these in a wedding supply store).
Bring some water to a boil, remove it from the fire, and soak the almonds for 5 minutes. Pat them dry and rub the skins away, then grind them by running them through a meat grinder three times, then a food mill once, sprinkling them with a little water to keep them from giving off their oil (you can also use a blender, using short bursts.
Combine the 2 fingers of water and the sugar in a pot (if it's round-bottomed, so much the better) and heat, stirring gently, until a drop of syrup poured from the spoon onto a plate does not spread out, and when crushed between thumb and forefinger forms fine threads when you separate your fingers. Add the almonds and cinnamon, and cook over a very low flame, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from the fire and let it cool, stirring frequently. When it is almost cold, spread the it in a half-inch thick layer over the wafers, smoothing the top and sides with the blade of a knife. Depending upon the shape of your wafers you will end up with either diamond or round shaped cookies; they should be about 2 inches across at the most.
Let the cookies set for 24 hours, then trim away the excess wafer.
Prepare the icing by boiling the syrup to the stage described above. Test frequently because if you cook too long the syrup will be too hard. Once it reaches the proper degree of doneness pour the syrup into a bowl and whip it until it is white and fluffy (this takes patience). Spread the frosting over the cookies, dot each with a candied almond, and let dry.
These will keep for several days, though you can expect them to vanish first.
I would try Splenda in almost any recipe that didn't contain liquior.. For no other reason except I believe it may cause the Splenda to become too sweet in booze.. :)
Chocolate Chunk Banana BreadPREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease 9x5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Splenda Granular
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1/4 cup milk
- 6 squares (3/4 package) Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1) Combine flour, Splenda Granular, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Coarsely chop baking chocolate bars.
2) Mix eggs, bananas, oil, and milk in a large bowl until well blended. Add dry ingredients; stir until just moistened.
Stir in chopped chocolate and walnuts.
3) Pour into greased loaf pan.
4) Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
The Absolute Best Oatmeal Cookies
* 1 cup shortening
* 2 cups brown sugar
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup sour milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 2 cups rolled oats
* 1 cup chopped walnuts
* 1 cup raisins
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
1) In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.
2) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla and sour milk.
3) Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, gradually stir into the creamed mixture.
4) Finally, stir in the rolled oats, and your choice of additions.
5) Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
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