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Archive for Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Parish uses kitchen skills to benefit families, church

December 15, 2004

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The Rev. Mick Mulvany has been baking nearly all his life.

"Ever since I was young," says Mulvany, 44, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 6001 Bob Billings Parkway.

"I'm one of nine children, so we either had to help Mom cook, or clean the kitchen. So me and my older brother, Tim, elected to cook rather than clean. It was much easier to mess up the kitchen than clean it."

He learned how to skillfully turn out baked goodies at the knee of two generations of women in his family: his grandmother and great-grandmother. The latter was an especially fine baker.

"To sit at her kitchen table and watch as a lemon meringue pie came out of the oven -- that was heaven," Mulvany recalls.

Years later, the priest continues to bake, taking something out of the oven almost every week. He's famous for his chocolate chip cookies, which he brings to different events.

But it's at Christmastime that his baking begins in earnest.

Mulvany is the designated baker in his family. He churns out an array of holiday cookies and candies for his parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews in the Kansas City area.

"The whole crew comes to Mom's house on Christmas Eve. I can't, of course (he's busy conducting Masses at Corpus Christi), so baking is my way of being there," he says.







The 13th annual Christmas Cookie Walk, featuring a variety of homemade holiday cookies, cookie bars and candies, will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 6001 Bob Billings Parkway.There will be approximately 300 dozen cookies on sale, made by 50 to 60 parishioners, as well as the Rev. Mick Mulvany, Corpus Christi's pastor.Most of the cookies and candies will sell for $8 per pound. Some treats, such as lollipops or pies, will be priced individually.

Among the treats that he provides each year for the family gathering: iced, cream-cheese sugar cookies; Mexican wedding cakes (also called Italian tea cookies or nutmeg butter balls); caramels; peanut clusters; peanut brittle; chocolate-dipped spritz cookies; cranberry-orange bread; turtles (chocolate-dipped pecan-and-caramel confections); and peanut butter balls.

"Once the trays are set out at Mom's house on Christmas Eve, people start taking the cookies and hiding them to take them home. I have a sister and a cousin who do this," Mulvany says.

"There's two trays that Mom doesn't put out that she saves for Christmas Day. Otherwise they'd would all be gone."

Aside from baking for his family, Mulvany will be contributing 10 dozen of his own, homemade butter cookies -- and about five pounds of peanut clusters -- to a huge variety of treats on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday at the 13th annual Christmas Cookie Walk at Corpus Christi.

The sale will last until all the cookies and candies run out -- usually about two hours.

Sugar plums ... and mice

Mulvany's just one of a multitude of Lawrence residents for whom baking -- in particular, baking festive cookies -- is an inseparable part of holiday tradition.

That's clearly the case for Denise Diedel and her family.

"On Christmas Eve, after Midnight Mass, we gather in our homes and do what generations in the past have done: We eat doughnuts and cinnamon rolls that have been made from scratch and drink homemade hot cocoa while talking and listening to Christmas music," says Diedel, a Corpus Christi parishioner.

"On Christmas Day, we have another tradition. Christmas is not complete unless you have one of my sister Debbie's 'Visions of Sugar Plums' Sugar Cookies. I must say they're the best sugar cookie I've ever had. They take time to make, but every bite's worth it."

Diedel's sister is Debbie Antes, also of Lawrence.

Diedel, meanwhile, enjoys crafting a holiday treat she calls "Christmas Mice," using a maraschino cherry (with stem), a Hershey's Kiss, two almond slices and a few dots of white chocolate to create whimsical -- and delicious -- chocolate-cherry mice.

Also in Diedel's Christmastime repertoire are lollipops and spritz butter cookies.

She plans to make about 12 dozen cookies, as well as her Christmas Mice, for Saturday's Cookie Walk at Corpus Christi.

Diedel and Maureen Brogran, the church's music director, are co-chairs of this year's fund-raiser.

Snickerdoodles for grandkids

Jean Schumacher can be found baking just about more often than doing anything else.

Call or visit her, and she's likely taking a batch of raisin coconut cookies or her signature lemon bread out of the oven.

"I always take cookies to church on Fridays. A group of us get together after the morning Mass. Everybody brings something, but I always take cookies or my lemon bread," says Schumacher, a Corpus Christi parishioner.

During the holidays, the cookie baking intensifies.

She typically makes chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, sugar cookies, and snickerdoodles -- a Christmastime favorite of her grandchildren in Knoxville, Tenn., and Auburn, Ala.

For the Cookie Walk, Schumacher plans to bring her chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and some fruit-filled cookies, a total of about eight dozen.

"Baking is something I like to do, and I like to share. I've always contributed cookies to the Cookie Walk, as long as I've gone to Corpus Christi," she says.

"You better come (to the event) early, because they go fast. It's very popular."

Cream cheese Christmas cutouts



1 cup butter, softened

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and beat until fluffy (at least 3 minutes). Add egg, vanilla, and almond and beat well. Combine flour and baking powder and add a cup at a time, mixing well between additions. Divide the dough in two balls and refrigerate overnight or up to two days, or place in freezer for up to 4 weeks. Thaw dough in fridge overnight before using.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out dough in flour on pastry cloth until nearly 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes with floured cookie cutters and place at least 1 inch apart on non-stick baking sheets (or use Silpat baking sheet or parchment paper). Bake 4 minutes and then turn pan and bake 4 to 6 minutes more, depending on the size of the shape. Remove from oven before they turn brown and let set on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to cooling racks. May set overnight covered and then ice and sprinkle. Let dry and then store covered for up to 8 days.

Yield: 4-6 cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.

Frosting

1/2 cup of butter flavored Crisco

1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar

1/3 cup of milk

1 teaspoon of clear vanilla

Beat at low speed until sugar is blended. Beat on high speed at least 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Use several small bowls to divide the frosting so it can be colored with food coloring. It is best not to stack these cookies, or at least several hours for the frosting to have time to set.

Source: The Rev. Mick Mulvany, Lawrence.

Snowdrops



3/4 cup of butter softened

1/3 cup of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup pecans, chopped very fine

Powdered sugar for dipping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Shape into little balls, or half moons. Place 1 inch apart on non-stick baking sheets (or use parchment paper) and bake 15-18 minutes until set. The cookies should just beginning to brown. Let cool slightly on cooling racks and with the cookie still warm dip into powdered sugar. Let cool completely and dip again in powdered sugar. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

(These are popular treats in many countries and cultures, with names like Mexican Wedding Cakes, Pecan Butterballs and Viennese Sugar Balls.)

Source: The Rev. Mick Mulvany, Lawrence.

'Visions of Sugar Plums' Sugar Cookies



1 cup butter

1 cup oil

1 cup sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

5 1/2 cups flour

Cream shortening and sugars together. Add vanilla and eggs. Sift all dry ingredients and gradually mix in. Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling and cutting.

Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Buttercream frosting

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Cream butter and shortening with mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar and mix well on medium speed. When all sugar is mixed in, if frosting appears dry, add a little milk. Keep frosting covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Yield: 3 cups.

Source: Debbie Antes, Lawrence. Submitted by Denise Diedle, also Lawrence.

Lemon Butter Cookies



1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/4 cup oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 egg

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Yellow decorator sugar

In large bowl, beat sugar, powdered sugar, butter and oil until light and fluffy. Add lemon peel, lemon juice and egg; blend well. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in decorator sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

(For plain sugar cookies, omit the lemon and add 2 teaspoons vanilla.)

Source: "Pillsbury: The Complete Book of Baking," 1993. Submitted by Jean Schumacher, Lawrence.

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