Christmas Baking Frenzy

Busti Woman Prepares For Holidays

Teresa Piskor prepares a wide array of Christmas desserts with ease. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“I love Christmas so much.”

“I used to feel sad at midnight (on Christmas night), but then I started to realize Christmas begins at Thanksgiving,” said Teresa Piskor..

When she was a child, she remembers receiving all of her Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, except those that Santa left overnight. She carried on this same tradition with her children. She started other traditions such as giving all family members a pair of Christmas pajamas and when her children lived at home, they received a gift on St. Nicholas Day, Jan. 6, which is also her twins’ birthday.

Due to the lack of a working fireplace, she sometimes plays a DVD picturing a woodburning fireplace while listening to some selections from her massive collection of Christmas music. She has always put up a real Christmas tree and hangs garland in the doorways and miniature lights in the windows. There was a time when she would decorate every pane in every window. When she resided in an apartment many years ago, she actually divided the larger windows into sections to have extra panes to decorate. Even though she likes to decorate with lights, she is a stickler when it comes to lighting them. She used to wait until Dec. 1, but now turns them on Thanksgiving Day.

Pierogis, kielbasa and ham are common foods she serves on Christmas Eve along with cocktail wieners, cheese, crackers and cookies. She serves the leftovers on Christmas Day.

A colorful variety of Christmas treats made by Teresa Piskor. Top- Mini-Holiday Confetti Cheesecakes and Mint Treats (left), Grandma?s Pound Cake with Cherries (right), Middle- Cherry Thumbprint Cookies and Strawberry Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies (left), Chocolate Cream Cheese Ribbon Cake (right), Lower- Stuffin? Muffins (left), Cheesy Baked Potato Soup (right). Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“Ninety-percent of my Christmas baking is cookies.”

Last year, the boxes and trays she assembled for her pastors, neighbors and her children contained 12 varieties of cookies. Every 6-8 years, she and her husband deliver cookies to Buffalo when they travel to celebrate the holiday with her mother and other family members living in that area. She is sure to have a back-up plan should they stay home in the case of inclement weather.

She recently resumed the tradition of sending Christmas cards.

The Busti woman began experimenting with cooking a bit as a teenager, but took it more seriously when she married and had to cook for a family. She has found she prefers baking over cooking and has developed a passion for altering every recipe she uses, some in small ways and others to the point where the end result no longer resembles the original recipe.

“I like being creative,” she admits referring to the many recipes found in her large collection of cookbooks, as well as those printed in magazines and online.

A hot bowl of Cheesy Baked Potato Soup hits the spot on a cold wintry day. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

She makes baking look easy and never takes the easy way out. She prepared every recipe submitted on the day of the interview. Another example of her all or nothing baking habit came into play when one of her daughters married on October 20 of this year. She baked four kinds of shortbread and eight different varieties of desserts, consisting of pies, tarts and cheesecakes, each a miniature version, for a total of 500 individual desserts. She also made the wedding cake frosted in whipped buttercream with a raspberry filling, which was covered with rustic decorations.

Thoughts of opening a bakery have crossed her mind, but she thinks she may have a difficult time charging for her product. Because she never bakes a few of anything, the actual baking shouldn’t be an issue. Bulk pie-baking is the norm for the avid baker. She reserves Christmas for cookie-baking, but Thanksgiving is a different story. She always bakes one pecan, two pumpkin and one double-crusted apple pie for a start. From there she adds a few old favorites and a few new pies. This year’s extensive list of Thanksgiving pies included banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate chip, coconut eggnog and apple crumb, Boston cream pie, not the cake version, double decker pecan pie , and Vermont maple-oatmeal pie. On top of this, she made two pies for a friend’s holiday dinner table.

Each guest at her thanksgiving table is welcome to sample whatever pies they desire and then they are encouraged to take the rest home. She provides extra-large disposable aluminum pie tins for transporting the pieces.

She has a penchant for serving freshly-made food and does not like to make ahead or freeze. All of her spices and baking ingredients are stored in air-tight containers.

Her mother tells her she is like her aunt, who is also her godmother, reincarnated because she likes to bake, sew and do needlework. It is questionable if her aunt would have listened to heavy metal while baking, like her niece does when she takes advantage of the mp3 player dock in her kitchen.

Mrs. Piskor’s health improved greatly after losing 113 pounds over an 11-month period. She attributes this to her daily one-hour use of an elliptical, eating a lot of fish and grilled vegetables and practicing moderation when eating meals.

“In 2017 I got reborn in every way, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Aside from baking, her interests are nature-related. She enjoys feeding a variety of birds and has several feeders. She has a collection of miniature Steiff Teddy bears, a few bears made of mohair and a vast collection of Calico Critters.

Her husband, Bob Piskor, is a retired New York State Trooper. They attend Family Church in Jamestown. The couple has five children with four living locally, in Falconer, Ashville and Jamestown, and the fifth residing in Buffalo. They have three grandchildren and a menagerie of pets, including one rabbit, two dogs and nine cats.

The avid baker found the Cheesy Baked Potato Soup recipe in a magazine article featuring comfort foods, but “drastically changed it.”

“The Stuffin’ Muffins recipe evolved when I was not able to fit all of the stuffing in the turkey,” she says. “Since then it has become a family favorite.”

Bob Piskor’s mother’s recipe for Chocolate Cream Cheese Ribbon Cake is included because it is his favorite cake. Although Placek is a traditional Easter recipe and another acquired from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Piskor has included the moist cake recipe.

Stuffin’ Muffins

2 large loaves white sandwich bread (without ends)

3 sticks + 2 T butter, melted

1 stick Parkay vegetable spread

3/4 c chopped onion

1 c chicken broth

5 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 tsp poultry seasoning

2 tsp salt

Cut bread into Ç inch cubes. Leave out overnight, tossing occasionally. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and vegetable spread in large frying pan. SautÈ onion until tender. Whisk together broth, eggs, poultry seasoning and salt. Place half of the bread cubes in large bowl or stock pot. Add half of the butter and onion mixture and half of the egg mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Bread should be moist. Add a little more broth, if needed. Place cupcake liners in muffin pan. Place 1/4 cup stuffing into each liner and brush with melted butter. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes 36 muffins.

Cheesy Baked

Potato Soup

4 medium baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)

6 T butter

6 T chopped onion

6 T flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

8 c milk

1 lb deluxe American Cheese

16 oz shredded cheddar cheese, divided

8 slice bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub potatoes and prick several times with fork. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake 40 – 60 minutes until tender. Cool slightly. Cut into quarters and then put through potato ricer. In stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at one time. Stir and cook until thickened and bubbly, approximately 20 minutes. Add potato, American cheese and 8 oz cheddar cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Ladle into bowls and top with some of remaining cheddar and bacon.

Grandma’s Pound

Cake with Cherries

3 c + 2 T flour

1 tsp salt

2 sticks butter, softened

2 3/4 c sugar

6 eggs

1 T vanilla

1 c sour cream

1 jar maraschino cherries, drained and patted dry (about 30)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour tube or Bundt cake pan. Combine flour and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs 2 at a time. Add vanilla. Add flour/salt mixture alternately with sour cream. Lightly toss cherries in 2 tablespoons flour. Fold into cake batter. Bake for 65-75 minutes.

Chocolate Cream

Cheese Ribbon Cake

2 c flour

3/4 c unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

2 c sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 c milk

Whisk together first 5 ingredients. Set aside. Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Beat until blended.

Cream Cheese Ribbon:

2 T butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 c sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 T milk

Cream butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat in egg and milk just until blended. Place half of the chocolate batter into pan(s). Spoon cream cheese mixture over batter. Spoon remaining chocolate batter over cream cheese mixture. Bake in 350 degree oven in greased and floured 13” x 9″ pan for 50-60 minutes or 9″ round pan for 35-45 minutes. Frost with Rich Chocolate Frosting.

Rich Chocolate Frosting:

3 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar

6 T unsweetened cocoa

1/4 tsp salt

6 T butter softened

2 tsp vanilla

1/3 c milk

Beat all ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Cherry Thumbprint Cookies

1 c powdered sugar + extra for dusting

2 sticks butter

2 tsp maraschino cherry juice

1/2 tsp almond extract

3-4 drops of red food coloring

2 1/2 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped

30 maraschino cherries, drained and cut in half

Beat powdered sugar, butter, maraschino cherry juice, almond extract and food coloring until blended. Beat in flour and salt. Stir in cherries. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Make indentation with thumb in center of each ball. Press cherry half into indentation. Bake 8-10 minutes in 350 degree oven or until edges are light golden brown. Remove to cooling rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. Makes 5 dozen.

Strawberry Cheesecake

Thumbprint Cookies

2 c flour

1/2 c strawberry pudding

2 sticks butter, room temperature

1/3 c confectioners’ sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour and pudding set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add flour/pudding mixture until combined. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Make indentation with thumb in center ball. Bake 10-12 minutes in 350 degree oven. Remove to cooling rack and cool completely.

Filling:

1/2 c white chocolate chips

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla

Place chips in microwave safe bowl. Microwave 15 seconds and then stir. Continue to heat, stirring every 10 seconds until melted. Using electric mixer, beat in cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Microwave another 5-10 seconds, if needed. Fill center of cookies. Top with a few red sprinkles.

Mini-Holiday

Confetti Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 c flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 c butter

1 1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 c sour cream

1/3 c milk

1/4 c red and green sprinkles

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk and sour cream, beating until blended. Fold in sprinkles. Place 1 tablespoon batter into lined muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes.

Filling:

24 oz cream cheese, softened

3/4 c sugar

3 tbsp flour

2 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

6 tbsp sour cream

1/4 c red and green sprinkles

Combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla. Mix in sour cream. Add eggs, one at a time, using mixer on low speed, just until combined. Fold in sprinkles. Spoon 2 tablespoon filling over crust. Bake 17 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Topping:

2 c bright white melting chocolate

1/3 c heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

Place melting chocolate in microwavable bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds and then stir. Continue to heat, stirring every 10 seconds until melted. Using electric mixer, beat in heavy cream and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Microwave another 10-15 seconds, if needed. Using piping bag cover top of cheesecake with topping. Top immediately with red and green sprinkles before topping sets. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Individual Mint Treats

2/3 c flour

1/2 c cocoa

1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

1 1/4 c packed brown sugar

1/4 c heavy cream

1/4 c canola oil

2 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, cocoa and salt. Set aside. Place egg, egg white and brown sugar in large bowl. Using electric mixer on medium speed, beat until smooth. Add heavy cream, oil and vanilla. Beat until blended. Add dry ingredients and then beat on low speed until combined. Place slightly rounded tablespoons of batter into lined muffin pans. Bake 10 minutes in 350 degree oven. Cool completely.

Filling:

1/4 c butter

4 oz cream cheese. softened

1/4 c heavy cream

1-2 drops mint oil or 1/4-1/2 tsp mint extract

3 drops green food coloring

4 c powdered sugar

In large bowl beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in heavy cream, mint flavoring and food coloring. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons over crust.

Topping:

2 c milk chocolate chips

1/3 c heavy cream

Place ingredients in microwave safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds and then stir. Continue microwaving until melted, stirring every 10 seconds. Using piping bag cover filling with topping. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Polish Placek

8 c flour, divided

2 3/4 c + 3 T sugar, divided

3 pkg active dry yeast

2 c lukewarm milk

1 tsp salt

2 sticks softened butter

1 1/4 sticks cold butter

6 eggs

1 T vanilla

Whisk together 3 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar and yeast. Add to lukewarm milk. Mix well. Let rise until double, about 30 minutes. Whisk together 4 cups of flour and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, cream 2 cups of sugar, 2 sticks softened butter and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in flour and salt mixture. Add to yeast mixture, mixing until combined. Divide between 5-8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pans. Let rise 15 minutes.

Crumb topping:

Combine remaining 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Using pastry cutter cut in 1 1/4 cups cold butter, until crumbly. Divide crumbs between five loaf pans. Place on double sheet pans to prevent bottoms from over-browning. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Serve warm or cool with butter.

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