Slice of Life: Holiday Baking

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The pumpkin bread you baked for me

was gone within a day.

But the love you put into

measuring the sugar,

cracking the eggs,

stirring the pumpkin,

sifting the flour,

greasing the pan,

checking the time,

and wrapping the loaf

will stay with me

for months to come.

© Catherine Flynn, 2014

Baking breads, pies, and cookies for the holidays is a huge part of my family’s holiday tradition. Both of my grandmothers were excellent bakers and each had special holiday recipes we looked forward to. My father’s mother, my nana, baked delicious spritz cookies and decorated them with colored sugar and silver balls. She always had a plate of them ready for us by the kitchen door when we arrived on Christmas day.

My mother’s mother baked pies: apple and pumpkin and mincemeat. We lived next door to her when I was growing up and I was often at her house to watch or, when I was old enough, to lend a hand. This was years before Pillsbury pie crusts, so my grandmother’s crusts were always homemade with Crisco. There was always extra dough and she made delicious little crescent-shaped treats filled with raisins, cinnamon and butter. I don’t remember if she called them anything, but I’ve since seen a similar use of leftover dough called a pinwheel.

After college, I began my own baking traditions, which I’ve added to over the years. Candy cane cookies (sugar cookie dough dyed red and green with food coloring, then twisted into candy cane shapes) is a universal favorite, as are “Kiss” cookies, chocolate cookie dough wrapped around a Hershey’s Kiss, then dusted with confectioners sugar.

Each year I try to make at least one new type of cookie, but this year I haven’t had time. A jelly-filled sugar cookie recipe keeps popping up on Facebook and I may make that tomorrow. Tonight I’m writing this while making traditional Toll House cookies to take to my son on Thursday.

Baking is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Some years I’m able to bake with my sister or daughter-in-law; other years, I’m in the kitchen with my favorite Christmas albums for company. But whether I have company or am on my own, I look forward to continuing for years to come. I wish I could share a loaf of pumpkin bread and a cookie or two with all of you!

Pumpkin bread ready for gift bags.
Pumpkin bread ready for gift bags.

Wishing you all a joyous holiday!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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5 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Holiday Baking

  1. I just made chocolate chip cookies today, will be enough… You’ve brought many of my own memories to mind, Catherine. Special times we had with grandmothers, right? Happiest of holidays to you and your family, & Happy New Year, too.

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  2. My daughter Olivia has taken over the baking duties – she is far more talented than I ever was, so that is good! But, the act of baking is such a glorious and redemptive thing. I made some butter cookies today for gifts, and loved the whole process – from baking to wrapping. It finally felt like the holidays…. Merry Christmas, Catherine! I send good wishes your way, and look forward to seeing you soon, my friend.

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  3. I was in the kitchen on Christmas Eve with my favorite Christmas CDs baking pumpkin bread. Most of my baking was done earlier in the month so I could ship it to my kids, but I love to stretch out the joy throughout the month. I may still bake a bit between now and New Years! Wouldn’t it be fun to sit down with our slicer friends and a plate of cookies and milk? Have a wonderful New Year, Catherine.

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