By Ksena Spencer
The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies and royal icing fills the cold air as Christmas approaches with people baking classic holiday recipes.
Why do people bake around the holidays? Pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, sugar cookies, gingerbread houses or fruit cake on Christmas are all examples of holiday treats.
Holidays are often nostalgic for people, so baking ties in with the feeling of doing something that isn’t often done for a holiday. Baked goods may also be t5radition that a family may have for specific holidays.
Baking is an activity that anyone can try. It could be a good way to have fun with family or used as a bonding activity between friends, a significant other or just something that can be done alone.
Bakeries often get busy during holidays and receive orders for special made pastries. Baked goods are ordered for Christmas parties, family gatherings and for Christmas day itself.
Small baking businesses often find themselves getting many orders for sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, cakes and many other holiday treats. A local small business that is run by a student of GS, is called Ella’s Confections which junior Ella Henry takes custom orders for cookies and other baked goods.
“I’m most busy during the month of December,” Henry said. “I think that’s when I get most of my cookie orders. However, surprisingly, most of my orders this month are baby showers instead of Christmas themed specifically.”
Other cultures and ethnicities have traditions or their own foods and recipes that they make for Christmas. Some families do not always do a traditional “American” Christmas or Christmas Eve meal. Some families put time aside to bake with each other.
Foods teacher Mrs. Morgan Ferczak said that on Christmas Eve her family has Polish meals such as perogies, stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.
Baking allows one to be creative using ingredients, techniques or even construction. Gingerbread houses are a great way to use candy and icing as a challenge to build something with walls and a roof that can stand.
“I’d like to try making gingerbread houses from scratch,” Henry said.
Sometimes recipes do not go the way they are meant to go and then people have to find a way to improvise.
“When I was 10, I did not know how to use Royal icing and it took a lot or trial and error,” Henry said. “The first time I tried Royal icing it was not pretty.”
Following a recipe isn’t always an easy task for some. Sometimes the recipe is not followed correctly and a step is missed. This causes food and recipes to not turn out how they are supposed to.
“One year, I made yeast rolls and I overfilled my mixer and while it proofed the yeast rolls went all over the place,” Mrs. Ferczak said.
Baking is purely chemistry. When all the ingredients have been mixed and are ready to be baked, the ingredients react with each other to make the finished product that is eaten.
According to https://www.centennialcollege.ca/centennial-college-blog/2017/september/13/five-weird-things-you-didn-t-know-about-baking, flour gives a baked good its structure, while baking powder or soda gives it airiness. Eggs are like the binding glue, oil and butter tenderize, sugar sweetens and water gives moisture. When the dry and wet ingredients are combined, gluten is created by proteins from the flour bonding, while the baking powder or soda releases carbon dioxide which makes the whole thing expand. After that, each ingredient competes to get water for itself, which is why putting them in the right order is important.
According to https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/vintage-baking-fascinating-facts/, for hundreds of years recipes were shared orally or by teaching rather than being written down. Cooks and bakers learned by watching their mothers, aunts and grandmothers.
Fruit is one of the oldest desserts and still is included into so many recipes made today.
Along with fruit, spices have been something people can add to their baked goods to make them their own.
Each culture has their own spice combination that they use. Ginger spiced compotes are found in Asia, rose water and honey scented fruits in the Middle east, and cinnamon and vanilla in the U.S.
Gingerbread is one of the oldest cookies, with Greek recipes dating as far back as 2400 B.C.E.
By the Middle Ages, gingerbread had spread across Europe and was popular with royalty. Queen Elizabeth I is often credited with the idea of decorating the cookies.
Through the years, baking has changed in many ways. Baking used to only be done with ingredients all mixed together by the person who made the sweet treat. Today box mixes and pre-mixed packets can be found in any grocery store, including in a range of flavors, colors, gluten free and various other differences.
Christmas time is known for its gingerbread houses, sugar cookies, eggnog and many other sweets. People have learned how to manipulate ingredients into something that tastes good and is enjoyed during special occasions.
“Around the holidays, people spend a lot of time baking together as a family,” Henry said. “I like going to my grandma’s during Christmas time and baking sugar cookies with my cousins. It’s fun because it really makes it feel like Christmas Time.”