Dec. 18 , 2006

Traditional cookies are Waverly baker's favorite

By Lynda Jensen

Real butter, the right tools, and a little patience are the secrets of success for longtime baker Barb Wendel of Waverly.

“I really like to do all the favorites – chocolate chip, oatmeal cookies, and brownies,” she commented.

Baking is a simple matter of trial and error, coupled with tools of the trade such as an electric mixer, ice cream scoop for dropping “teaspoons” of cookie mix, and a whisk. She also uses real butter instead of margarine, she said.

She used to make everything from scratch, but says that prepared mixes are pretty good nowadays. The takes existing recipes or mixes and doctors them up, she said.

And years ago, ovens and timers used to be less reliable than they are now, Wendel said. Now, both are no problem.

For beginning bakers, she noted two common mistakes: over-mixing and over-baking.

“You don’t want to beat the dickens out of it,” she said, noting that once flour is used in the mix, it should be mixed sparingly while scraping the bowl, following the recipe instructions.

Overbaking is also a common mistake for new cooks, who might take cookies out of the oven too early, she said, adding “Most cookies should be kind of puffy, because they are high in shortening and sugar content.” Waiting too long makes for hard cookies.

“It’s better to under-bake than over-bake,” she added.

“Be patient and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she noted.

Decades of experience

This time of year finds Wendel in her kitchen, making cookies at her leisure, thanks to her retirement.

Her nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, undoubtedly enjoy the benefits of her many years of experience.

Wendel started a career in baking that spans about three decades when she started working full time at the main bakery for SuperValu in Hopkins years ago. She worked for SuperValu for 19-and-a half years.

“I started out as a packager,” she remembered. “By the time I left, I was in charge of the cake department.” She left in the late 1980s.

Before she left SuperValu, she worked part time for what was known as Perry’s Grocery, which used to be located behind the old Country Kitchen in Buffalo.

Wendel switched part-time jobs in the meantime, working part time for The Marketplace, which has locations in Cokato, Annandale, and Buffalo. By the time she left The Marketplace, she was a full-time cake decorator and ended up supervising the bakery department. Connie Nelson was her manager, and Marv Marohn the business owner.

She stayed at The Marketplace until three years ago, when she decided to stay home with her husband, John Wendel, who had been diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in March 2003.

Wendel is used to making about 20 to 30 dozens of cookies at a time, and has decorated ornate wedding cakes with three to four tiers, complete with stairways and other fancy decorations.

For wedding cakes, she says transporting them is usually harder than decorating them.

One time, she remembers making a cake for her daughter’s wedding, and transporting it in 100 degree heat during the month of August. The icing melted while she had it in the car. She ended up bringing it home and doing it all over again.

Please see the two recipes recommended by Barb Wendel of Waverly. They are Betty Crocker recipes with some of Barb’s improvisations added to them.


from Barb Wendel of Waverly, based on a Betty Crocker recipe, in Herald Journal 12/18/06

1 cup raisins

1 cup water

3/4 cup shortening

1-1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2-1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped nuts (chop well)

Simmer the raisins for 20 to 30 minutes in water over a saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar over low heat until the raisins are plump. Drain the raisin liquid into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1/2 cup. It’s important to cool the raisins.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the raisin liquid. Mix the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Blend in the rolled oats, nuts and raisins.

Using a small ice cream scoop (or a teaspoon), drop rounded balls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 6-7 dozen.


from Barb Wendel of Waverly, based on a Betty Crocker recipe, in Herald Journal 12/18/06

1/2 cup shortening

1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 egg (separated)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup chopped nuts (chop well)

Jelly (seedless red raspberry or mint jelly)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix shortening with sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour and mix with salt.

Roll dough into balls (1 tsp. per ball). A small ice cream scoop works well for this.

Beat egg white slightly with fork.

Dip balls in the egg white. Roll in nuts.

Place about one inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Press thumb gently in center of each. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool.

Fill thumbprints with jelly, and top with half a marichino cherry, if desired. Makes 3 dozen.

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