One of my favorite memories of childhood is helping my mom with the Christmas baking.
Our house always smelled good at holiday time, and there was never a shortage of baked treats to eat. In fact, lunch on Christmas Day was usually Christmas cookies sandwiched between a big breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage and the Christmas dinner.
You’d know when the season would start because my mom would make her cinnamon raisin bread. We’d take bundles of those loaves of sweet deliciousness in our arms, and we’d carry them to neighbors and to our teachers who looked forward to them every year. I was back home visiting last year, and someone even asked, “Does your mom still make that raisin bread?” Indeed, she does.
One of the best parts of the raisin bread was helping her knead the dough, punching it down, and wrapping the golden-brown loaves in aluminum foil to deliver to loved ones.
Baking with kids is so much fun. It’s great quality time to spend together over scents of yeast, cinnamon and heaps of sugar.
I loved learning how to knead dough until it was no longer sticky but not yet tough, how to punch it down when it had doubled in volume, and how to never open the oven door when it was baking. I got to talk to mom, too. Sometimes, in a household with five kids, one-on-one time was hard to come by, but I could always count on baking together.
We also baked Christmas cookies, usually three or four varieties, but the highlight of the cookie-baking experience was always the Saturday when we made the sugar cookies. It was an all-day endeavor, and it became a tradition that my mom continues with some of my nephews who live nearby. We’d make the dough the night before, so it would have a chance to chill before we rolled it out and cut the shapes. They included candy canes, stars, trees and even Santa, himself. Then, each kid would get a baking sheet and some decorations, and they could decorate to their hearts’ content. My brother was the painstaking one who’d line up individual sprinkles on the cookies in intricate patterns. My other brother was a dumper: the more colored sugar he could get on a cookie, the better. I was somewhere in between. My favorite part was really creaming together the butter and the sugar to make a light yellow, fluffy cloud of cookie base. It was also being in the kitchen with my mom.
Kids can help with so many Christmas treats. Make a memory and a tradition today by picking out a project to make with them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate, and roll in Christmas-colored sprinkles. Bake pumpkin bread or pecan pie. Whatever you choose, food, family and fun make the holidays special.