Ever wonder what an Amish Christmas is like? Hear first hand from Ada, a woman in our community who grew up Amish – she later became Mennonite when her family decided to leave the Amish church.
Baking cookies is something that I grew up doing around Christmas time – it’s still one of my favorite things to do! As a child, I’m sure my mother practiced lots of patience with us, but my very favorite kind of cookie to make was, of course, sugar cookies. We could decorate them. When I was little, we would just sprinkle the jimmies (or sprinkles, as some people call them) all over the cookie. As I got a little older, I started taking my time with the jimmies, and putting patterns on the cookies.
Here are my top five tips for baking cookies:
1. Get to know your oven. My oven is a hot one, if the recipe calls for me to set the oven on 350 degrees, I know that I should just set it on 325, otherwise it will burn. If you’re not sure about yours, invest in an oven thermometer, you can get one for about 5 or 10 bucks.
2. Use good cookie sheets. If you just have thin ones, the cookies are more likely to burn on the bottom, but to help, you can add a layer of wax paper or tin foil. Also, some of the non-stick pans that are dark get hotter, and also can burn the bottoms of the cookies faster, so it’s best to use a good silver shiny one.
3. Wax paper is your friend. When rolling the dough for cut out cookies, instead of using flour, and more flour, and MORE flour to keep it from sticking to the table and to your rolling pin, put the dough between wax paper and roll it out. It won’t stick, and your dough won’t be as tough from working it so much!
4. Use non-traditional decorations! We all know that chocolate makes everything better, so drizzle some melted chocolate on cookies, mix white & dark chocolate drizzles together. You can also use some icing if you’d like, or you can paint the cookies before you bake them by mixing a few drops of food coloring with an egg yolk. This will give them a glazed look and tint them to be that color!
5. If you’re not a cooking baking kind of gal or guy, there are some really great places to buy all types of cookies. Head to the Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop or Willow Valley Bakery for some fresh homemade goodies, for gourmet desserts, you can hit up La Dolce Vita Courthouse Bakery in Downtown Lancaster – they carry fresh baked Italian desserts. For a more traditional German cookie, head to the Springerle House Cookie & Tea Cafe, where they specialize in the traditional German “picture cookies,” and they’ve also made some into ornaments!
It’s that time of year, when everyone is pulling out their holiday decorations! Some people (like me) love decorating and breeze right through it, but it can be a daunting task, so we’ve come up with a few tips to help you out.
1. Choose a theme.
Sometimes, when you plan around a theme, it’s easier to figure out which decorations to use, and everything looks like it goes together, instead of looking like you just hung the decorations willy-nilly. Some themes to consider are a Victorian Christmas, a Charlie Brown Christmas (this one worked great when I was first married and living in a small apartment), Santa and his elves and reindeer, the Nutcracker, I’m sure you can think of plenty. You can also choose a color scheme, I have a friend who decorates only with greens, reds, and golds.
2. Get some inspiration from shop windows.
I must say, this is a wonderful thing to do if you’re drawing a blank, or feel like you just can’t get the decorations to go quite right or just want to do something different. Downtown Lancaster has some wonderfully decorates shop windows that gave me some great ideas. You can see some more of the ideas that I got from the windows of Bonbonniere, Details, and the Heritage Center Museum Store by clicking here for photos.
3. Start collecting ornaments from places that mean something to you.
Although almost any kind of ornament is nice on a tree, it’s even better when you’re unpacking the ornaments, and you really think about the sentimental value of them, instead of just thinking, “yup, these are the red and green Christmas balls that I bought at Target last year.” This year, I will be picking up a limited edition ornament of the Fulton Opera House, it was created by an organization called LEADS, and they do a lot of cool things for Downtown Lancaster, such as the hanging flower baskets that are so beautiful throughout the year. Anyways, the Fulton Theatre is a place that I love – so next year when I pull out that ornament, I’ll think of all the shows I’ve seen there, and the good times I’ve had with family and friends.
Hopefully these tips help your holiday decorating to be a little less stressful this year! Check back again next week for your next tip, on Christmas cookie baking!