Dear Mason And Millie: Baking Tradition Continues

Millie and Mason Ennis

Inscription in Gretchen’s cookbook

For many years, my mother, Dorthy Rickers (aka DotMom), wrote an annual column that was a Christmas letter to her granddaughters, Gretchen and Ingrid. In 2009, I started by own tradition by writing a letter to the next generation, her great-grandchildren Mason and Millie (shown in picture at right), who are my great-nephew and great-niece (son and daughter of DotMom’s oldest granddaughter Gretchen and husband Steve Ennis). Here’s the 2012 installment:

Dear Mason and Millie,

Oh, how I wish that I could have borrowed Santa’s sleigh a few days ago, so I could make a quick trip up to Baxter to be in the kitchen for your first serious foray into holiday baking.

I have such wonderful memories of baking in Grandma Dot’s kitchen with your mom and Aunt Ingrid. On the most memorable occasion, when I was home on break from college, we made a gingerbread house. By the end of the afternoon, I had royal icing (which sets up like cement to hold the gingerbread together) in my hair and was laughing so hard that my stomach hurt.

I’m sure you had just as much baking with your mom, who provided a short report about your activities via email:

“As we were baking, I told them all about how I used to bake cookies with Grandma Dorthy every year and explained that the sugar cookies we were making are (and always have been) one of my favorite Christmas cookies. I even showed them what Grandma wrote to me in my autographed cookbook (see photo below). They also started licking their fingers a time or two, and I said that was a no-no in Grandma Dot’s kitchen and how I would have to wash my hands every time I licked my fingers. I made them do the same.”

(I can’t help but think how pleased DotMom would be that the sanitation rule sunk in! But then she would be doubly pleased that her granddaughter —who is much more at home in the photography studio than the kitchen — was baking.)

Mason, your Mom posted pictures of the gingerbread house that you made at school on Facebook, and I was amazed that at 6 years old you are such an accomplished gingerbread architect. Your mom said you also made some gingerbread men in your home kitchen:

“I told them how disappointed grandma would be in me if she knew that I bought a bag of Betty Crocker gingerbread mix,” Gretchen writes. “Mason was really curious about that and why she would be disappointed. I told them it was because she used to make everything from scratch. That started an entirely new conversation as to what ‘starting from scratch’ meant. The only ‘scratch’ he knows is what his sister and dog do to him.

 “Mason was all about baking gingerbread cookies and was hoping they would come to life like the book,” continued Gretchen. “He thought a few did, but they actually just went into my stomach.”

At 3 years old, Millie, your attention span isn’t as focused as your big brother’s, so I’m not surprised by your contributions to the baking process:

“Millie pretty much just enjoyed eating the end product and watching me dump ingredients into the mixer,” described Gretchen.

I’m hoping that next year we’ll be able to find some time to do some baking during your holiday visit to Worthington. And if that happens, there won’t be any Betty Crocker mixes in the kitchen. We’ll utilize Grandma Dot’s favorite gingerbread recipe.

Ginger Cookie Boys

Thoroughly cream 1 cup butter with 1½ cups sugar. Add 1 egg; beat until light and fluffy. Add 4 teaspoons grated orange peel and 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup. Mix well.

Sift 3 cups flour with 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon ground cloves and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Chill dough.

On lightly floured board, roll out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with gingerbread man cookie cutter.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool 1 minute before removing from pan. Cool thoroughly. Decorate with icing and raisins.