Category: Helping Hands Blog
Published: Monday, 01 December 2014 11:41
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pumpkin pieNational Baking Month

December needs to be declared National Baking Month! Almost everyone has fond memories of mothers or grandmothers bustling around a flour covered kitchen from which came wisps of fragrant baked goods tantalizing the senses. My grandmother’s big thing was minced meat pie. She made it every Thanksgiving and Christmas for my grandfather. I was never really into the taste of the pie, but the aromatic spices sure could make the entire house smell simply wonderful!

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Here are some suggestions for baking this month that correspond to December's “national” food days.


December 2- National Fritters Day

Many people do not know what fritters are. Essentially they are some fruit or vegetable surrounded in batter and deep fried. My Mom used to make apple fritters. Corn fritters are common in the southern states, but I never cared for them. Here is a versatile apple fritter recipe that can be used for breakfast, a side dish or dessert.

For the apple filling:
5 diced apples (try Granny Smith)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

For the dough:
A quick dough can be made with Bisquick Mix or similar product. Mix it with ½ cup cold water, 1 egg, ¼ cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

After adding the apples to the mix, drop spoonfuls of dough into oil that is heated to between 350 and 360 degrees. Fry until golden brown then place on paper towels to soak up the oil. My mom sprinkled them with powdered sugar. You can also drizzle them with a powdered sugar and water glaze. They are best eaten as soon as they cool down enough to eat.

December 8- National Brownies Day

Settling down in a soft recliner with a plate of brownies dribbled with chocolate or heavily coated with creamy chocolate icing beside a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a tall glass of milk can make anyone forget their daily concerns.

1 1/2 cup flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 T. cocoa
1 t. salt
2 sticks margarine
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.brownies

In a mixing bowl, cream the margarine until smooth. While beating, gradually add the sugar until well mixed and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and cocoa. Whisk gently until it is incorporated together with no lumps.
Alternately add a little bit of the cocoa mixture and the eggs, beating after each addition until incorporated.
Stir in the vanilla.
Spread into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

December 9- National Pastry Day

The French have taught us that anything can go on a pastry. Make the pastry base and then use your imagination for filling or topping.
Marshmallow Pineapple Pastry

4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups shortening
1 T. sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1T. cider vinegar

Whisk together flour and sugar until smooth and no lumps exist. Cut in shortening.
In a separate bowl, mix together water, egg and vinegar.
With a fork, stir in the wet ingredients to the flour/shortening mixture until dough forms.
Form into 6 balls and refrigerate in a lightly covered bowl until you are ready to use them.

Take one ball of dough and turn out onto a lightly floured counter top or smooth surface.
Using a rolling pin, carefully roll out dough until large enough to fit over pie pan.
(Roll it big enough to hang an inch or so over the edge of the pie pan.)
To lift into pie pan, carefully fold the dough into quarters and lift to pie pan and open back up.
Use as desired for any pie or use the following recipe for your pie.

With a fork, prick the pie crust all over and bake it at 350 degrees until it is golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool.
In the mean time, make the filling.

48 large marshmallows or 5 cups mini marshmallows
1 can crushed pineapple
2 T. lemon juice
3 cups whipped cream

In a saucepan, heat marshmallows, pineapple and lemon juice until melted together, stirring constantly.
Chill until partly set. Fold in whipped cream and then pour into baked pie shell. Chill to set, 2-3 hours.

December 14- National Bouillabaisse Day

Yes. I had to look it up too. It’s a fish soup that seems to have originated in Marseilles, France. Vegetables like tomatoes, onions, potatoes and leeks are simmered together and served along with a white fish and possibly other sea foods like mussels and clams. In Marseilles the fish is served separately from the soup. United States Southerners have improved on the fish soup concept with their own version of Bouillabaisse called low county boil. Northerners have clambakes.

Low country boil recipes are widely varied, but the main ingredients are shrimp, crab, crawdads, various vegetables (onions, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, corn for starters) and sausage. You can go the easy route and pick up a box of seasoning mix at your local grocery store (if you live up north you may need to order it online). Simmer the vegetables and seasoning for several hours. Some people cook it all day and enjoy the aroma. With about five minutes to go, add the seafood and bring the pot to a boil, cooking until the seafood is done. Serve it right away with hot sauce for additional seasoning.

December 15- National Lemon Cupcake Day

After pigging out on the low country boil you will not feel like baking today so choose the easy way out. Mix up a box of lemon cake mix, pour it into cupcake tins, cover with icing and enjoy.

December 18- National Bake Cookies Day

I know May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, but there really is no other cookie. So here’s my favorite cookie recipe. It is not as sweet as most chocolate chip cookie recipes as it uses less sugar and semi-sweet chips.

1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/8 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla
4-5 cups flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
12-16 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate chipsboy holding cookie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and shortening until smooth.
While beating, slowly add sugar and brown sugar, beating until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl,
mix together the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until no lumps exist. Alternately add the flour
mixture and the eggs, beating after each addition. stir in vanilla and the chocolate chips.

Spoon out by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven. Cool on pan for just a minute and then transfer to a cooling rack.

December 25- National Pumpkin Pie Day

The holidays cannot be complete without pumpkin pie smothered (no gobbed) with whipped topping. Everyone seems to have their own recipe for this pie and most of the ones I’ve tasted could use some recipe tweaking. Here is a recipe that’s already been tweaked for maximum flavor.

2 balls of dough from previous pie crust recipe
5 eggs
5 t. pumpkin pie spice
dash of salt
2 cans evaporated milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 large can (29 oz.) pumpkin / or 3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
(or use 2 small cans/15 oz. each)

Roll dough out into 2 pie pans. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, pumpkin pie spice and salt until well mixed.
Add sugar and pumpkin and mix well. While stirring, slowly add the evaporated milk until
well incorporated. At this point, taste it to see if you want any more spice or not.
Pour evenly into both pie crusts and place in oven. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the
heat to 375 degrees until done, about 40-50 minutes, or when center is set and not jiggly.
Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.


I’m sure of it. December was created for baking. Without baking the months would jump straight from November to January. Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas for a great baking December!



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Boy holding cookie courtesy of stockimages.