By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Whenever Chad Larson of Delano is around, a scrumptious homemade treat is never far behind.
“I’ve been baking since I was a little kid,” Larson said. “I just love it.”
Cooking enthusiasts might remember listening to Larson read recipes on the KRWC AM 1360 radio show “Kitchen Medley,” before he got laid off in November.
Despite his recent unemployment status, Larson’s fun attitude and enthusiasm for good old-fashioned cooking haven’t been hindered.
“A few times a month, I take goodies to businesses, just to get people’s reactions,” he said.
Someday, Larson hopes to own a bakery, just like his great-grandfather did years ago in Madison, WI.
“That’s always been my dream,” he said. “Right now, everything’s homemade, right out of my house.”
Although baking is simply a hobby for Larson, people often call to order his delectable desserts.
“I do a lot of cakes, but I told myself from day one that I’m not getting into wedding cakes,” Larson said, explaining that he prefers to focus on taste, rather than setup and decorations.
The majority of Larson’s recipes have been passed down for several generations.
“I try to pick up recipes whenever I can,” said Larson, who is a member of the historical society in Delano.
The Tom and Jerry mix he uses was given to him by a 92-year-old woman, who had received the recipe from her father.
Historical society member Frances Johnson, who passed away in 2009, supplied him with a 100-year-old sugar cookie recipe, which won second place at the Minnesota State Fair in 2008.
“The cookie has kind of a vanilla flavor,” Larson said. “It starts off crisp, and then it dissolves in your mouth.”
Larson’s lefse recipe, given to him by his wife’s 94-year-old great aunt, has also been around a long time at least 150 years.
“I’ve tried modern recipes, and they just don’t turn out as good,” Larson said. “The recipes I use are tried and true, and they’ve had decades of tweaking.”
Reading recipe directions from the past can be intriguing because of quirky measurement methods. It might say to use a “handful” of flour, or to use butter “the size of an egg.”
“Years ago, they went more by eye, by feel, and by taste,” Larson said. “They added ingredients until it looked right.”
Larson enjoys creating traditional treats, but also experiments from time to time. His award-winning brownie recipe, for example, combines brownies from one recipe and frosting from another.
He’s had a few trivial cooking blunders throughout the years (such as putting chocolate chips into a frosting too soon), but pretty much everything Larson makes tends to turn out.
As a child, his first creations were chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.
“I would stand next to my mother and bake with her,” said Larson, who grew up in Richfield. “There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about it.”
Now, Larson’s spreading his natural knack to his daughter, Kari, who will be 10 years old in January.
“She helps me bake, mix, and crack eggs,” Larson said.
In addition to baking, Larson also enjoys canning fruits and vegetables, and has won awards for his homemade jams.
He also used to cook for a nursing home and an assisted living facility.
Many years ago, Larson also did professional clowning.
“I went to clown college in La Crosse, WI,” he said. “I have a lot of interests.”
Even though he’s not at KRWC anymore, Larson encourages cooking fans to tune in to “Kitchen Medley” Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 9 a.m.
Recipes are also available online at www.krwc1360.com/recipes.htm.
Jumbo Chocolate Cake (egg-free)
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1½ cup unsweetened baking cocoa
• 2 tablespoons vinegar
• 2 cups lukewarm water
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• ¾ cup oil
• 1 tablespoon vanilla
Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour mixture into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Cake is very moist and dense.
• 1 stick butter
• 2/3 cup baking cocoa
• 3 cups powdered sugar
• 1/3 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Melt butter and stir in cocoa. Add powdered sugar and milk. Beat mixture on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk as needed. Stir in vanilla extract.
Yield: 2 cups
White cake (shortcake)
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ½ cup melted butter
• 1 egg
• 1 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions: Mix all together and pour into 9-by-13-inch greased and floured cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour (or until toothpick comes out clean). The recipe can be doubled, still using the 9-by-13-inch cake pan.
Scandinavian Almond Cake
Note: This recipe is typically made in a special Scandinavian almond cake pan, but it can also be made using a regular 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Directions: Spray pan well with cooking oil. Beat together 11⁄4 cup sugar, one egg, 11⁄2 teaspoons pure almond extract, and 2/3 cup milk.
Mix in 11⁄4 cups flour and 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder. Then, add one stick of melted butter and mix well.Pour mixture into the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan. If it is removed before it is completely cooled, cake will crumble. Sprinkle the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar.
• 8 cups riced potatoes
• ½ cup butter
• ½ cup whipping cream
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 4 cups flour
Directions: While potatoes are still hot, add butter, whipping cream, and salt.
Mix until it reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes. Cool completely. When cold, add flour and mix thoroughly. Roll out thinly, into 15-inch circles. Bake on a lefse grill.
Yield: About 20