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Baking is this family’s tradition

By Staff | Jan 8, 2010

Dawn Eimers, left, of Webster City, and her aunt, Renae Handley, of Des Moines, put the final M&M touches on the caramel pretzels they made during a December family baking day.

By SANDY MICKELSON

For Farm News

WEBSTER CITY – With her grandmother’s apron wrapped around her, Sandy Eberhard doled out small containers of kringla dough – three little dishes filled just high enough so the dough wouldn’t get warm and mushy before being rolled.

Boards dusted with flour waited for willing hands to form the dough – figure 8s, wreaths, pinwheels. Everyone had a preference for kringla forming.

This was the annual holiday baking day for the daughters of the late Monroe and Gladys Newcomb, of Eagle Grove. Eberhard, of Goldfield; Linda Weiss, of Clarion; Nina Cullinan, of Carroll; and Renae Handley, of Des Moines. The girls’ brothers – Bruce Newcomb, of Johnston, and George Newcomb, of Fort Dodge – join them when it’s time to eat the goodies. That day was Dec. 20, when the clan gathered at Eberhard’s home for its family Christmas.

Linda Weiss, of Clarion, rolls dough for kringla last month during a Newcomb family baking spree in Webster City. Weiss and her three sisters gathered in the home of her niece, Dawn Eimers, to make the traditional holiday treats, such as kringla, potato pancakes and rosettes, plus an array of other sweets, such as caramel pretzels. Andrew Bentler, right, engaged to Wendy Cullinan, Weiss' niece, said he likes the idea of learning to make the kringla.

But the family’s tradition of Christmas starts with the baking. Christmas carols play softly in the background, until someone starts singing. The happy little group is gathered in the home of Dawn Eimers in Webster City. She is Weiss’ daughter.

“Usually, Sandy and I get together and make potato pancakes,” Weiss said. “I think it started with me and Mom mostly, when she was alive. We used to make lefse.”

It really doesn’t matter who started baking first – what matters now is the fun of getting together to make these Norwegian treats.

Eberhard patted her apron – once worn by her grandmother, Anna Saboe – and grinned. It makes her happy to have that connection when she and her family are working in the kitchen. She pulled a big bowl of kringla dough from the refrigerator. “We do it this way because we don’t want the dough to get warm,” she said.

Cullinan rubbed her hands together, looking at her daughter, Wendy, who came home to Carroll with her fiance, Andrew Bentler, a film editor in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Do you remember how to do this?” she asked.

“Of course,” Wendy answered. She stood at the first kringla board, rolled ropes of dough and made intricate double swirls, all compact and even.

Eimers scooted around her kitchen, washing cups and spoons, showing how to turn on her oven, getting bowls and cookie sheets as needed.

Gingerbread men

from www.joyofbaking.com

3 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1 large egg

2/3 cup unsulphured molasses

Confectioners frosting:

2 cups confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons milk or light cream

Assorted food colors (if desired)

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Set aside.

In the bowl of electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. To prevent molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a nonstick vegetable spray like Pam. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while rolling out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies. With an offset spatula lift the cut-out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minute. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, you can press raisins, currants or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. You can also use the icing as a glue to attach candies, raisins, and sprinkles.

For Confectioners Frosting: Cream butter until smooth and well blended. Add vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add a little more milk if too dry. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread men as desired.

Tint portions of frosting with desired food color.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of cookie cutter used. Store in an airtight container.

Cream scones

Scones:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup whipping cream or milk

Topping:

Devon cream or lightly whipped cream Jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a small measuring cup combine the whipping cream, beaten egg and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix.

Knead dough gently on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round. Using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream. This helps to brown the tops of the scones during baking.

Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with Devon cream or softly whipped cream and your favorite jam.

Makes about 10 of the 2 1/2 inch round scones.

(Note: These scones freeze very well. Cream scones are good when cut in half and spread with clotted cream and jam. The perfect cream scone has a crisp exterior with an interior that is light and fluffy with a rich buttery flavor. When making scones, all the ingredients should be cold, liquid added to the dry ingredients all at once and everything should be mixed together quickly and lightly, If the cutter is twisted through scone dough rather than cut straight down, the scones will rise higher during baking.)

Sugar cookies

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Royal Icing using egg whites:

2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Royal Icing using meringue powder:

4 cups confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons meringue powder

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water

Food coloring (gel pastes that can be found at cake decorating and party stores)

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat to a smooth dough.

Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter. Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough, which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.

If you are not going to frost the baked cookies, you may want to sprinkle the unbaked cookies with crystal or sparkling sugar.

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes (depending on size) or until they are brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing, if desired. Be sure to let the royal icing dry completely before storing. (This may take several hours.)

Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container. Store between layers of parchment paper or wax paper.

Makes about three dozen 4-inch cookies.

Note: Royal icing dries to a wonderfully smooth and hard matte finish that has long been a favorite of professional bakers to cover confections. It can be made two ways; with powdered sugar, egg whites and lemon juice or meringue powder and water. Royal icing can be made with pasteurized egg whites found in grocery stores or using meringue powder, a fine, white powder that contains dried egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla and gum. It can be found at most cake decorating and party stores.

Concentrated gel paste dyes are sold in small 1/2 or 1 ounce containers. Only a very small amount is needed to color the icing, so it can be measured out using the end of a toothpick. Make sure to thoroughly mix the paste into the icing so there are no streaks. Buy gel pastes at cake decorating stores or some hobby stores.

It is important to bake sugar cookies until the edges are brown, especially if you are going to frost them with royal icing as you do not want the icing to soften the cookies during storing. Also make sure the baked cookies have completely cooled before frosting.

For Royal Icing with egg whites: In the bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

For Royal Icing with meringue powder: In the bowl of electric mixer, beat confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form – 5 to 7 minutes. If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

Makes about 3 cups.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or smickelson@messengernews.net

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