Trudy and Jim Wittmaack with (right to left) grandsons, Collin, Carter and Cooper.
Trudy and Jim Wittmaack with (right to left) grandsons, Collin, Carter and Cooper.
Monday, December 6, 2010

If you ever need a gift idea for Trudy Wittmaack, you can’t go wrong with a cookbook. Trudy loves to cook and bake and is always looking for new ideas in cookbooks, magazines, and on the Food Network. Trudy says she has shelves of cookbooks — ranging from church cookbooks from years ago to the annual “Christmas With Southern Living” cookbook she buys each year.

Trudy, a certified public accountant at Olsen, Mulhbauer, & Co., and her husband, Jim, who works for Van Meter Industries, live in Carroll. Trudy enjoys sharing her cooking and baking with co-workers, friends, and family. Daughter, Allison Sporrer and her husband, Jeff, live in Carroll with their two sons, Carter, 3, and Collin, 1. Her other daughter, Ashley Buol, and husband, Ben, live in Woodward and have one son, Cooper, 4.

Trudy grew up on a farm and learned to cook and bake at a young age. Her mother, Ruth Janssen, of Schleswig, was always busy in the kitchen. She still enjoys cooking and baking today, making a special, time honored kringla for the family each Christmas.  Trudy recalls helping her mother prepare goodie trays for her teachers, bus drivers, and piano teachers as a child.

The holiday goodie tray tradition has carried on as Trudy and daughter, Allison, team up to make trays of cookies and candies for friends and clients. Both of them make about a dozen trays each consisting of ten to fifteen different cookies and candies.

Usually Trudy and Allison begin baking about two weeks before Christmas. They prefer to bake after work in the evenings and work batch by batch, rather than a weekend baking marathon. Trudy’s house has a porch that is transformed into a walk-in cooler. All the goodies are stored in air- tight containers until they are ready to be delivered the week of Christmas. Trudy jokes she doesn’t know what she would do if we had a warm winter.

Trudy enjoys taking the time to prepare and deliver the trays during the busy Christmas season. She says, “People enjoy them and it makes you feel good.”

Sweet Sausage Puffs

Trudy’s sister, Marsha Schulz, of Chariton, brought these as an appetizer to a family Christmas one year and impressed everyone.

About 20 family members gather at her mother’s house each Christmas. They are simple to prepare and work equally well as an appetizer or a breakfast item.

When its Trudy’s turn to bring treats to Olsen, Muhlbauer & Co., she brings a batch to have on hand for co-workers arriving for the day.

½ c butter
1 c brown sugar
2 T water
½ c finely chopped pecans
1 tube (12 oz) refrigerated flaky buttermilk biscuits (Grands)
40 miniature smoked sausages

To make syrup, in a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in pecans. Remove from heat; set aside.

Flatten each biscuit into a 3-inch circle, cut into quarters. Place a sausage on each piece of dough; wrap dough around sausage and seal edge. Place seam side down in a greased 15 x 10 baking pan. Pour syrup over bundles.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to chafing dish or slower cooker; cover and keep warm over low heat.

Peppermint Drop Cocktail

This refreshing drink was served by Trudy at a cookie exchange. Trudy multiplied the recipe by the number of attendees and it wasn’t long before the pitcher was empty. The festive cocktail calls for martini glasses rimmed in crushed peppermint candies.

Trudy says if you don’t want such a strong peppermint taste on the rim of the glasses, dilute the peppermint schnapps with a little water. Also Trudy prefers this cocktail to be a little less “potent.” When she mixes it up, she cuts the amount of the three liquors in half.

crushed peppermint candies
¼ c half and half
3 T chocolate-flavored liqueur
2T crème de cacao
1 ½ t peppermint schnapps, plus additional to rim glasses
Pour a small amount of peppermint schnapps in a saucer. Place crushed peppermint candy in another saucer. Dip rim of martini glass into schnapps and then into candy to coat edges. Let stand to dry.

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add half and half, chocolate-flavored liqueur, crème de cacao, and 1 ½ t peppermint schnapps. Shake mixture vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds. Strain mixture into prepared martini glass. Serves 1.

Christmas Sangria
Sangria is a traditional punch made with wine from Spain. It is a great way to use inexpensive wine. Trudy prefers sweet wine over dry, so she likes to use White Zinfandel, sometimes strawberry or passion fruit flavored. Sangria is also a great way to stretch a few bottles of wine to serve a crowd. Trudy likes to serve it at her annual Christmas open house for friends in Carroll or her office party. It goes well with any type of hors d’oeuvres.

4 navel oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
1 ½ c sugar
2 bottles (750 ml each) sweet fruity wine, chilled
1 can (12 oz) frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed
2 T orange-flavored liqueur
2 T brandy
1 bottle (1 liter) club soda, chilled

Place fruit slices in a large bowl. Pour sugar over fruit; stir with a wooden spoon until fruit is coated with sugar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a large container combine fruit mixture, wine, cranberry juice concentrate, liqueur, and brandy. Cover and chill for 2 hours.

To serve, transfer wine mixture to a 5 quart container (such as a punch bowl) and stir in club soda. Serve immediately. Yields about 14 cups of wine.

Butter-Nut Truffles
This is one of the yummy treats on Trudy’s cookie and candy trays. Trudy says these truffles are relatively simple to make and just because it’s a truffle, doesn’t mean it has complicated directions or fancy ingredients. It calls for butter and nut flavoring (found near the vanilla in the baking aisle), but Trudy uses butter flavoring.

5 frozen Butterfinger candy bars
2 (4 oz) bittersweet chocolate baking bars, broken into pieces
3 T whipping cream
3 T butter or margarine
½ t butter and nut flavoring

Break 2 candy bars into pieces. Process candy bar pieces in food processor until finely crushed. Place on a shallow plate; set aside. Chop remaining candy bars, set aside. Place bittersweet chocolate in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Combine whipping cream and butter in a one-cup glass measuring cup, microwave on high 1 minute or until butter is melted and cream begins to boil. With food processor running, slowly, pour hot cream and butter through food chute until mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Add butter and nut flavoring; process until blended. Transfer mixture to a bowl; stir in chopped candy bars. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Shape chocolate mixture into 1- inch balls, roll in finely crushed candy bars. Store truffles in refrigerator up to one week. Let stand at room temperature briefly before serving. Yields about 2 ½ dozen truffles.

Peppermint Macaroons
These adorable pink cookies brown slightly in the oven and are also part of Trudy’s cookie and candy trays. Trudy said it wasn’t until recent years she began to make so many Christmas treats with peppermints, but has found many ways to incorporate the candies into her holiday season.
2 egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla extract
2 (14 oz) packaged shredded sweetened coconut
1 c white chocolate morsels
½ c crushed peppermints
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper (found near the baking/cake making supplies such as cake pans, pastry bags, etc.). In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and salt until foamy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in condensed milk and vanilla. Fold in coconut, chocolate morsels, and crushed peppermints.

Using a 1 ½ inch spring-loaded ice cream scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets; bake for 20 minutes, or until coconut begins to brown. Let cool on pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Sea Salt Chocolate-Covered Cashews or Pecans
These salty and sweet candies can be made using cashews or pecans. Trudy and daughter, Allison, have found nuts both work well. These treats are a bit chewy with the addition of caramel. Trudy says the tiny bit of sea salt sprinkled on top makes all the difference.

1 (14 oz) package caramels
2 T butter
2 T butter
3 c cashew or pecan halves, toasted
8 (2 oz) chocolate candy coating squares
1 c bittersweet chocolate morsels
4 (1 oz) bittersweet chocolate baking squares
2 T shortening
sea salt
Combine first 3 ingredients in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Stir in cashew halves. Remove from heat; cool in pan 5 minutes.

Drop candy by tablespoonfuls onto a jelly-roll pan line with lightly greased wax paper. Freeze 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate and shortening in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Dip caramel candies into chocolate mixture, 4 or 5 at a time, allowing excess chocolate to drip off; place on lightly greased wax paper. Quickly sprinkle tops with sea salt. Chill until firm. Yields 2 dozen.

Raspberry Stars
These simple cookies are Trudy’s favorite. She found the recipe in a holiday cookbook years ago. The cookies are almost too pretty to eat with a dollop of red raspberry jam in the middle and a star piped in white icing on top. Trudy says she always uses jam rather than preserves and seedless jam makes a prettier cookie.

1 c butter, softened
½ c plus 2 T sugar
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 c seedless raspberry jam
1 c powdered sugar
2 t almond extract
2 to 3 t water
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in flour and salt. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Press balls to 1 cm thickness. Indent cookies with thumb or back of spoon.

Spoon jam into resealable plastic bag. Seal bag. Snip hole in one corner of bag. Squeeze into indents of cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Let cookies sit on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Meanwhile, combine icing ingredients. Spoon icing into second resealable bag and seal. Snip very small hole in corner of bag. Squeeze icing onto cookies in shape of star. Yields 48 cookies.

Peppermint-Fudge Pie
This pie is a holiday favorite that combines two familiar flavors of the season – chocolate and peppermint. It’s not difficult to prepare, but there are a few steps involved. Trudy doesn’t think her 3- and 4- year-old grandsons (Carter and Cooper) would care for the meringue so she leaves it off. She says it’s just as delicious without the meringue topping.

Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 22 cookies), 1/3 c powdered sugar, and 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir in 3 tablespoons melted butter. Pat crust mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until crust is firm. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

1 c sugar
1 5 oz can evaporated milk (2/3 c)
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut up
2 T butter
1 t vanilla
2 pints peppermint ice cream (4 cups)
¾ c sugar
½ c boiling water
¼ c meringue powder
10 striped round peppermint candies, crushed (1/4 cup)

Fudge Sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the 1 cup of sugar, the evaporated milk, butter, and chocolate. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly; reduce heat. Boil gently for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 ½ cups, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. If necessary, beat until smooth with wire whisk or rotary beater. Set aside to cool completely.

Filling: In a chilled bowl, stir 1 pint peppermint ice cream until softened. Spread over cooled crust. Place cooled fudge sauce in pastry bag fitted with a round top. Pipe half of the cooled fudge sauce over ice cream. If you don’t have a pastry bag, dollop small spoonfuls of fudge sauce over ice cream layer. Freeze about 2 hours or until nearly firm. Repeat with the remaining peppermint ice cream and the remaining fudge sauce. Return to freezer while preparing meringue.

Meringue (optional): In a medium bowl, dissolve the ¾ c sugar into the boiling water. Cool to room temperature. Add meringue powder. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until combined; beat on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Using a wooden spoon, fold 3 tablespoons of the crushed candy into the meringue. Spread meringue over pie, sealing to edge. Freeze about 6 hours or until firm.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes or just until meringue is light brown. Cover loosely with foil. Freeze for 6 to 24 hours before serving. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy before serving. Makes 12 servings.