Tradition important in Carthage woman's Christmas baking

Taking rosette cookies is an important part of Amy Graham's Christmas traditions. The Carthage cook plans to pass on the tradition this year to her great-nieces and nephews. | H-W Photo/Deborah Gertz Husar
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 29, 2017 9:00 am Updated: Nov. 29, 2017 10:33 am
Amy Graham

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Tradition is one of the most important ingredients in Amy Graham's Christmas baking.

The Carthage woman enjoys passing down the recipes she learned to love as a child -- like rosette cookies always made by her mother -- to her nine great-nieces and nephews.

"It's like a little pancake batter cooked on a hot iron that is heated up in oil," she said. "The batter is not sweet at all, then you dust them with powdered sugar. That gives them a distinct flavor and a little more sweetness."

With the oldest great-niece a freshman in high school, Graham said it is time to share how to make the light, delicate cookies fried one at a time for less than a minute.

"The trick is to make sure the iron's hot before you dip it into the thin batter. Otherwise it won't stick," she said. "Dip it to a quarter-inch shy of the top of the iron. You can't dip the whole iron in; otherwise it won't come off."

Graham usually bakes with her two great-nieces and a great-nephew who live in Carthage, but the holidays often bring in family members from Colorado, Mississippi and even London to create even more fun in the kitchen.

"Having your kitchen full of family and sharing makes you a better cook," Graham said. "If I have three, four or five all helping me at once, we divide up the tasks so everybody gets a turn and everybody contributes to whatever we're making from the littlest one up to the oldest one."

It is hands-on for all ages -- and hands in the dough.

"You start with a spoon, of course, but as you add flour, it gets more and more difficult to stir. The best part is getting your hands in the dough and mushing it together," Graham said.

Other favorites in the kitchen are Nana's sugar cookies, another traditional cookie for any holiday.

"They have sour cream incorporated into the dough and come out soft and puffed up," Graham said.

Delicate fluffy pancakes are a favorite for holiday mornings, and lasagna made with hot sausage can feed a hungry crowd.

Graham learned to cook and bake from her mother and her grandmothers, enjoying it so much that she had her own summer business during high school selling cookies, cakes and pies.

Previous generations baked weeks ahead of time to be prepared for the holidays.

"I'm usually not that organized. I might be baking Christmas morning with some things," Graham said.

She will not change ingredients found in favorite vintage recipes, but she sometimes uses modern shortcuts in preparation.

"For the most part, baking tends to be a traditional follow the recipe. Don't try to change it," she said. "Keep it true to its form because that's what makes those memories so fond. You remember how wonderful the taste was, so why mess with a good thing?"

Delicate Fluffy Pancakes

3 eggs, separated

1 2/3 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons melted butter

Beat egg yolks well with an electric mixer, then beat in buttermilk and baking soda. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to egg yolk mixture. Beat in melted butter. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, and gently fold into batter.

Heat griddle and lightly grease. Pour batter onto griddle, and brown on both sides.

Serve with favorite toppings.


Meat Sauce:

1 pound Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 tablespoons basil

2 tablespoons parsley flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

1 16-ounce can tomato puree

Cheese Filling:

3 cups small curd cottage cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

lasagna noodles

Brown sausage in pan; drain. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Let simmer 30 to 40 minutes to thicken.

In a bowl, mix together cottage cheese, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook noodles as directed on package; drain.

In a 9-by-13-inch pan, place a row of noodles. Spread half of the cheese filling on noodles. Sprinkle with 2 cups shredded mozzarella, and top with half the meat sauce. Repeat each layer.

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle top with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Nana's Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sour cream

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, and blend well. Sift dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream. Chill dough. Roll out on a floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes.

Rosette Cookies

cooking oil

2 eggs

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

Beat eggs slightly with sugar and salt. Add milk and flour. Beat only until smooth.

Heat rosette iron in hot oil at least four inches deep. A white bread cube turns golden brown quickly when oil is ready.

Remove iron from oil, and tap excess oil off onto a paper towel. Immediately dip iron into batter, leaving 1/4-inch from the top of the iron; do not allow batter to come up over the top of the iron. Return batter-covered iron to oil, and fry 20 to 30 seconds. When cookie is fried, remove from oil, and turn iron upside down to drain fat. Gently push cookie from iron using a fork. Wipe any excess oil from iron each time before dipping in batter.

Cool cookies on rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.

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