QUINCY — As a little girl, Melanie Aitken remembers pulling up a chair next to the counter where her mom was cooking and begging to put in the flour, pour in the sugar or crack the egg.

In grade school, she was helping to make peanut brittle, and by high school, Aitken was creating her own recipes, inspired by chocolates from Fannie Mae.

"I've always made candy, cookies, all sorts of different things," said Aitken, a retired police officer with a master's degree in psychology who did mental health training in jails across the country.

She turned a love of baking and cooking into a business while living in northern Illinois, and now living in Quincy, she owns the Yum Factory Inc., providing sweet treats, lunch specials and keto-friendly foods from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The homemade candies may be her favorite, especially the blood orange truffles, but other popular choices are sugar cookies, krispy treats stuffed with homemade caramel and dipped in chocolate and her "tried and true comfort food" recipes passed down from generation to generation.

Banket/Bonquet, a Dutch almond pastry, is a nod to her heritage - and her great-great-grandma.

"I asked my grandma for the recipe. She said you can't just have the recipe. You have to learn to make it," Aitken said. "Then she never made it again, and I took over."

Aitken uses four separate recipes, including homemade caramel and vanilla sauces, to create her Apple Dumplings, a recipe from her other grandma. "It's decadent, fatting and really good," she said.

Aitken's family - her husband Nick, a retired police officer now working at Chaddock, their five children and five grandchildren - also love her Light and Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies, a twist on the classic featuring Rice Krispies and oatmeal, along with the Lime Squares she tried one day as an alternative to lemon bars.

Maple Bars have "a really addicting flavor," and Crepes can be served with a wide variety of fillings.

"You can't cook without liking food. You've got to taste it to see," Aitken said, and "it takes being willing to totally fail. Some of my failures have been things that taught me how to do it the right way."

She may try a dish somewhere on her travels, then try to recreate it at home, and even though baking requires more science than cooking, there's still room to experiment.

"There are certain things you can alter, and certain things you can't alter," she said.

"I'd still love to go to school for formal chocolate training," she said. "I'm self-taught. There's probably a better way, but this is my way."

Apple Dumplings

8 apples, peeled and cored

Crust

3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup shortening or butter

1 cup milk

Mix dough, and roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 5x5-inch squares.

Sugar Mixture

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

Set apple in center of a dough square, Sprinkle one tablespoon sugar mix inside and around apple. Fold crust up, and tuck into cored center. Place in parchment-lined pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

Caramel Sauce

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter

dash salt

2 cups water

Bring water to boil. Add other ingredients. Stir until dissolved. Pour over cooked apples.

Vanilla Sauce

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups milk

4 egg yolks, beaten

4 tablespoons butter

11/3 tablespoons vanilla

Put all ingredients into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Pour over apples right before serving.

Banket/Bonquet

Crust

4 cups flour

1 pound butter, softened

1 cup water

Filling

1 pound almond paste

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 egg for brushing on rolls

Mix crust ingredients starting with the butter and flour. Add water a little at a time until dough forms. Refrigerate for four hours.

In another bowl, cream almond paste and sugar. Add eggs and lemon extract. Refrigerate four hours.

Divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll 1/16 of dough into a rectangle 1/8-inch thick. Divide filling into 16 portions. Take 1/16 of filling, and roll into a "cigar shape" along one edge of rolled out dough. Roll dough with filling inside. Brush water on edges of dough in order to seal dough into a long roll.

Place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg. Slit top of roll.

Repeat to make 15 more rolls.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Crepes

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all ingredients. Pour about 1/4 cup into hot crepe or frying pan. Swirl pan to reach all sides, and spread batter thinly across pan. When bottom is golden brown, flip crepe and brown other side.

Fill with filling of choice -- sweetened cream cheese, jam, peanut butter, Nutella, marshmallow fluff, fruit -- or top with butter and powdered sugar.

Light and Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

1 cup oil

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup Rice Krispies

1 cup oatmeal

1 bag mini chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars. Add egg, vanilla, milk and oil. Add flour, soda and salt. Add Rice Krispies, oatmeal and chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls on greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Lime Squares

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 cups flour

2 sticks butter

Mix together, and press into the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup lime juice

4 tablespoons flour

green food coloring

Combine together, and mix for one minute. Pour over crust when it comes out of the oven. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Maple Bars

1 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

Cream butter and sugar; add flour. Press into the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Filling

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Combine in bowl, then pour over crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.

Frosting

1/2 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

11/2 cups powdered sugar.

Cream butter and powdered sugar. Add flavorings. Spread over bars.

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