A Family of Bakers / New Year's Cookies

A Family of Bakers / New Year's Cookies

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by all the baking skills in my family. That’s why up until now, I’ve stuck with cooking. That’s my domain. My mother and my Oma are amazing bakers and I’ve always had the privilege of enjoying their baking. But I realize that my Oma won’t be around forever, and the only way I’m going to learn is to bake with her. And baking with her is turning out to be the most memorable time I’ve spent with her. The recipes that she uses aren’t like the recipes I use. They aren’t complete. You’re just expected to know what to do once you read the list of ingredients.


Inheriting the Mennonite Treasury and Family Recipes

This Christmas, my mother-in-law also gave me her copy of her Mennonite Treasury. Her mother-in-law gifted it to her so it's making its way through the family. It’s contains a lot of recipes or variations of recipes that my Oma uses. My mom has a copy too. It’s a Mennonite family cookbook. I spent some time reading through it over the holidays and now I know why I haven’t made anything in it – there are few to no directions! I need someone to guide me along. I need to bake with my mom and my Oma.

I also made another discovery – my mom currently has my Tante Tina’s handwritten recipe book in her possession. Tante Tina is a bit of a baking legend in my family. She was the only unmarried sister of my Opa. She passed away when I was eleven years old, but I remember going around the senior’s home with her making visits to the various residents and bringing them baked goods that she had made. I remember how she was at camp when I was there for the week in the summer and how I never really saw her because she was baking away in the kitchen. She made all the buns for the hundreds of campers each week – the freshest fluffiest buns to go with soups and to eat at breakfast. I’m sure she’d have to make extras because the staff who were allowed in the kitchen would sneak them out before they made it onto a serving tray for the campers.

I took a few photographs of some of Tante Tina’s recipes. And, since she didn’t need them, of course there are no directions for the recipe. This is the recipe for New Year’s cookies (Neujahrs Kuchen or Portzelky). It’s in my Tante Tina’s handwriting, but as you can see, she’s noted that it’s Erna’s recipe. That’s my Oma. Oma’s recipe must’ve been the best one for Porzelky, so my Tante Tina adopted it. Each sister had their own variation, but if one of them made it better they would pass it on.



New Year’s Cookies (Porzelky)

It’s been a few years since I’ve had Porzelky (my family referred to them as “Porkies” since they’re fried and we indulge once a year), but my mom used to make them every New Year. They’re made from a fried dough with raisins. We always dipped them in icing sugar. I would load up the icing sugar and get as much as I could into each bite. The crunchy fried dough is filled with soft and warm raisins and goes perfectly with icing sugar. I usually finished a bowlful. If you are inclined to tonight or tomorrow, you can check out The Mennonite Girls Can Cook and follow their recipes and instructions for Portzelky.

I won’t be having Portzelky this New Year, but I’ll be dreaming of them (unless my mom miraculously drops some off at my place). Maybe next year…


A New Year for Baking

I don’t want these recipes to be lost to my family. I started to remedy this. Earlier in December, I spent a morning baking with my Oma and I’m so excited to share it with you. We made fudge together. And that’s just the first recipe that we’ll be making together. We have our next baking date planned. I have one planned with my mom too!

So this coming year I’m going to document my visits with the master bakers in my family. I’m planning on sharing audio, pictures, and stories. Here’s to a happy new year of baking with family!

All the best to you and your family too.



About Avery Peters

Sharing stories. Sharing food.

I express my creativity in the kitchen. My inspiration comes from being outside—in the forest, on the farm, by the ocean, or going to the farmers’ market. I love to share food with family and friends.