Holiday baking is an art that, more often than not, is passed down through the generations.
A grandmother's fudge. A mother's sugar cookies. A father's cheese straws. An ancestor's delicacies brought from the Old Country. They are tastes that take us back, and send us to the kitchen this sentimental time of year.
For the past four years, the Family Studies group of the WildeWood Women's Club has exchanged cookies over the holidays. Since they are members of a genealogy study group, their mission is to provide cookies that have a connection to their family. (If your family's tradition was to buy cookies from a store, that's fine, too.)
For Gini Ennis, her years in Wisconsin helped her learn about baking from "older Swedish ladies." Her husband's grandmother made all sorts of Swedish and Norwegian goodies, so of course, she learned, too.
"Sandbakelsers are not for sissies," she said of the Swedish cookies she provided for the swap. The cookies are baked individually in molds, and "a million things can go wrong."
When she first started making them, she was told, "About the 40th Christmas, your sandbakelsers will turn out pretty good, you know."
"Is there a trick?" she was asked by others in the group.
"About 18 of them," she answered.
The cookies take patience and attention to detail, with the original recipes coming from places like Norway and Sweden where much time was spent on perfecting them.
"You know in those places it's dark a lot during the winter. These ladies perfected these complicated techniques. It's time consuming, but it's a lot of fun," said Ennis, who was hosting the cookie swap at her home.
Other cookie recipes were easier, but all had a story behind them. As did most of the recipes provided by readers who answered The State's call for holiday goodie ideas.
From simple sugar to fruitcake cookies, dozens of bakers sent some of their favorite recipes. And most took the opportunity to reminisce.
We hope you try a few and start some new holiday baking traditions this year.