Fond Memories of the Season


I was driving around with my mother trying to accomplish some Christmas shopping and we starting chatting about of the traditional foods we enjoy and some tasty ones she had just made. It triggered a childhood memory for me that immediately encouraged me to recreate it. Let me bring you back to Sault Ste Marie where I grew up and enjoyed many a holiday party with my parents. During the holidays visiting was a huge part of my school Christmas vacation and most kids would turn their noses up to do such things and hang out with adults and their older kids. Not me! I knew there would be good eats no matter where we went. One family friend would make pizelle cookies or what we called at home “tie plates”, not sure why, but the name stuck. A crisp thin, almost waffle like cookie, think waffle cone thickness but flat. You can purchase them in the stores now but nothing beats the anise scented aroma in the air when they are being made. Now what she used to do is while they were still hot, she would wrap a Kit Kat stick in the centre and let them cool to create a delectable treat that I craved each year. It’s funny what memories food creates. I’ve had many family members make pizelle and I truly enjoy them alongside coffee or served up broken up with custard and cream and a few berries or broken in half and served with a bowl of ice cream. Truly a versatile dessert.

This got me to think if I had created any strong memories for my children yet with their Christmas baked goods. So of course I needed to ask. The 3 year old, well she doesn’t recall any Christmas traditions yet. But my 5 year old, said “we always leave those kind of cookies for Santa.” Yes indeed he was right! The Toblerone shortbread has always been left with a glass of chocolate milk. (We are sure that Santa has a chocolate addiction!) Now my older son, who is 8, has much stronger memories of Christmas and already at his age he doesn’t want to lose them. “What about those little shortbreads mom?” Well sure thing, yes we have to have the little shortbreads. So I asked him if he remembered why he loved those little shortbreads and he replied “cuz they are easier to eat than the big ones, you can just pop them in your mouth!” Spoken like a true child, I love it. I reminded him that we make those because it was something that grandma used to do for you at Christmas time and since she passed away I have been making them for him. Now I have to admit I don’t have her recipe, but I do have a recipe that I clipped out of a newspaper when I was just about his age because I really wanted to make these simple tasty treats. With no name given on the recipe just an inclusion within a Holiday Cooking section I have kept that recipe and made it each Christmas for over 25 years. Talk about traditions and memories. I married two memories together and they seem to be a perfect fit. So while some people dread this time of year and don’t want to bake a thing or are too busy to do so. If you get a chance simply sit back and think about some fond food memories you might have from this time of year. You might be pleasantly surprised and it might just be the spark you need to get in the kitchen and bake up a batch of grandma’s cookies or auntie’s bars. Sometimes it’s just the simple aroma that will put a smile on your face and then a flood of memories will pour in just in time for Christmas morning. Happy Baking this holiday season and Merry Cooking for the New Year!

Pizelle Cookies also known as Tie Plates
From my Nonna, to aunts and cousins this recipe has been played around with and made in massive quantities to fulfill the needs of the holiday season. I adjusted this recipe to make a moderate quantity. So if you’re trying them out it won’t be as intimidating. You will need an electric pizelle maker which looks like a waffle iron except much flatter. I tried making them in my waffle iron but it was too thick and didn’t get the very thin snowflake look to them. You can also find older non electric pizzelle irons in some antique shops. A perfect gift for the foodie that has everything!

5 eggs
¾ cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 mL) canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) anise or vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) all purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Whisk in sugar until dissolved. Whisk in oil and extract. Stir together flour and baking powder and whisk in 1 cup (250 mL) of the mixture. Stir in remaining flour mixture until smooth and sticky dough forms. (It will be thick and pasty).

Heat your pizzelle iron and spray with cooking spray or brush with oil or butter. Drop 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the batter in centre of each pizzelle shape. Close lid and seal with latch. Let cook for about 1 minute or until very light golden. Remove from plates and lie flat on top of each other. Repeat with remaining batter. Enjoy warm or cold. They will crisp as they cool.

Makes about 30 pizelle cookies.

Tip: If you want to shape the pizzelle remove them quickly from the plate and roll them into a cone shape or place them into a small bowl to create a cup shape. To fill them with Kit Kat, break the bar into the 4 segments and place one in hot pizzelle and then roll up with it and place seam side down to cool.

Storage: Once cooled you can store them in an airtight container or resealable bag for at least 2 weeks. I don’t put them in the freezer because they are so thin they will shatter and break apart.

My Christmas Shortbread
I make this very simple shortbread each year and have done different things with it. I have added vanilla extract to it, I’ve added dried lavender to it, crystallized ginger, grated orange rind, coloured sugar and even dipped it into chocolate. No matter what I do with it, it still is a family favourite.

2 cups (500 mL) butter, very soft but not melted
1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract (optional)
4 cups (1 L) all purpose flour

In a stand mixer or large bowl using hand mixer, beat butter until it looks white and very fluffy. Beat in icing sugar and vanilla, if using until combined. Combine flour and baking powder. Beat in 1 cup (250 mL) of the flour mixture at a time until it becomes very stiff and then using hands bring the dough together and knead slightly to make smooth dough.

Divide dough in half and roll out on floured surface to desired thickness (I like mine a bit thicker) and using your favourite cookie cutters cut out shapes and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and continue to reroll the dough until you use it up.

Bake at 375F (190C) for about 12 minutes or until edges are just a hint of golden brown. Remove and let cool completely.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies (depends on size of cookie cutter you use).

Tip: Make sure to put similar size cookies on the baking sheets to bake so they bake evenly.
If you want eyes you can use small dragees or chocolate chips before you bake them, simply push them in and bake.
To dip into chocolate, melt your favourite milk or dark chocolate and dip half of the cookie into the chocolate and then return to baking sheet for chocolate to set and then store them in the refrigerator to be sure the chocolate doesn’t melt.
If you like very white baked shortbread, bake them at 350F (180C) for a bit longer or until they are just firm to the touch.

Storage: These last for at least 2 weeks at room temperature and about 1 month in the freezer.

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