I envy people like Diane Schell. She loves to bake. No amount of mixing, chilling, rolling, cutting with cute little cookie cutters, shaping by hand, sprinkling and icing, and cutting into 1-inch squares is too much for her. The last time I baked cookies, I made my husband take me out to dinner, because the stress of the tedious process put me over the edge (OK – that’s a slight exaggeration).
Over the Christmas holidays, I was treated to Diane’s Egg Nog Fudge, laced with rum extract. I immediately asked if she’d agree to be highlighted in my Valentine’s Day column. She was reluctant, but I persevered.
Diane was raised on a dairy farm in western New York (a little town called Mayville, at the top of Chautauqua Lake). When she was in high school, her mother worked full-time, so Diane helped out by having dinner on the table each evening when her mother returned home.
“I learned to cook and bake from my mother and my grandmother,” she said.
But, apparently, baking became her passion. When I arrived at the Schells’ lovely home in Bethany Meadows, Diane was wearing a red sweater and had prepared a sweet selection of the recipes she shares with us today. (Have I told you lately how much I love this job? When my husband returned from work that night and saw the little red plates with sweet selections, he loved my job, too.)
Diane has a teaching degree and spent several years teaching home-ec classes.
“I had so much fun,” she said. “I taught seventh- and eighth-graders for required courses, but also taught ninth- through 12th-graders who elected to take my course. They were so creative. We had a dessert luncheon for senior citizens and also made lap quilts to give to children at the local children’s hospital.”
Diane’s husband, Don, has been the pastor of Millville United Methodist Church since 2007. He, too, is a good cook and also likes to bake. In fact, he made the Caramels and Peanut Butter Fudge in today’s column. He joined us for the interview, but opted out of the photo. I think he wanted his wife to enjoy the spotlight. Ahhhhh, love is in the air!
I asked Don if Diane was a good cook and he nodded yes. If he had his choice for dinner, he said it would be a difficult choice, but he’d choose her pork chops.
Diane smiled and patted him on the knee.
“The first meal I ever made for Don was pork chops,” she said. (I told you that love is in the air, didn’t I?)
The Schells have four children – three sons and a daughter – and three grandchildren.
“Our sons all love to cook,” said Diane, “but our daughter has not yet joined them.”
Diane is retired from teaching, but she is a daily caregiver for an elderly lady. Besides baking, her hobbies include reading, cross-stitch embroidery and sewing.
The recipe for Foolproof Sugar Cookies was Diane’s mother’s. The heart-shaped cookies are a loving tribute to her mother, who passed away over the holidays.
Fool Proof Sugar Cookies
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
? 1-1/2 cups sugar
? 1 teaspoon salt
? 4 cups all-purpose flour
? 1 teaspoon baking powder
? 1 teaspoon baking soda
? 1 cup shortening or butter
? 1 egg
? 1 teaspoon vanilla
? Milk or light cream
Method for Foolproof Sugar Cookies:
Blend sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and baking soda. With a pastry blender, cut in the shortening or butter until it forms a crumbly mixture. Beat the egg and vanilla in a 1-cup measure and add milk or light cream to fill the measuring cup. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Put the dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours. Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Yield: If baking heart shapes, approximately 3-1/2 dozen cookies.
At a previous church where Don was pastor, Diane and the 15-plus kids in the youth group took on a Valentine’s Day cookie project. The following recipe for the Colossal Chocolate Chip Cookie was used as a fundraising project; they made more than 50 heart-shaped cookies.
“We bit off more than we could chew,” said Diane (Is that a pun?). “We had no idea this would be so popular. We boxed the big cookies and decorated the boxes. The youth group made lots of money to help fund a camping trip.”
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
? 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
? 3/4 cup brown sugar
? 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
? 1 egg
? 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
? 1-1/2 cups flour
? 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
? 1/2 teaspoon salt
? 1 cup chocolate chips
Method for Colossal Chocolate Chip Cookie:
Beat butter or margarine, brown sugar and white sugar; beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Place dough in refrigerator for 1-1/2 hours or in freezer for 45 minutes, until the dough is well chilled but not hard. (Chilling makes the dough less sticky and helps prevent excessive spreading during baking. The dough will still be somewhat sticky.)
Grease a 12-inch round foil baking pan or use a pizza pan lined with aluminum foil and greased with shortening. Place dough in the center and press evenly to within ½ inch of edge of pan (shape into a heart if desired). Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool. Decorate as desired. Yield: 1 colossal cookie!
I rarely eat sweets, but certain treats do call my name. I love caramel. I taste-tested one of Don’s caramels (truth be told, more than one) and will tell you that brown sugar gives caramels a whole new twist. Bye-bye Kraft, hello Don Schell!
? 1-3/4 sticks butter or margarine
? 1 cup light corn syrup
? 2-1/4 cups brown sugar
? 1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
? 1 teaspoon vanilla or rum flavoring
Method for Caramels:
Melt butter or margarine in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the corn syrup. Add brown sugar and mix well. Gradually add the condensed milk, stirring constantly. Cook over medium/low heat to firm-ball stage (248 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla or rum flavoring. Pour batter into a buttered 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Cool and cut into squares. Yield: Approximately 81 one-inch caramels.
I love peanut butter. I often eat it right off a spoon. A great protein fix. Although butter and sugar are not at the top of the food pyramid, a piece of Don’s fudge now and then won’t kill me, will it?
Peanut Butter Fudge
? 1 stick butter or margarine
? 1/2 cup evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
? 2 cups granulated sugar
? 2 cups creamy peanut butter
? 1 teaspoon vanilla
Method for Peanut Butter Fudge:
In a large pan over medium heat, combine butter, evaporated milk and sugar and bring to a soft-ball stage (235 degrees on a candy thermometer), stirring often. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla; stir vigorously until well blended. Pour into a buttered 7-by-11-inch pan. When cool, cut into desired number of squares.
It’s a good thing that Diane didn’t prepare Chocolate Marshmallow Bars for the interview. I only have so much willpower. The ingredients in this recipe make the packaged Mallow Bars of my youth and S’mores look like child’s play. Diane uses a 10-by-14-inch Pyrex glass baking dish for the bars (slightly larger than the 9-by-13-inch lasagna pan).
Chocolate Marshmallow Bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
? 3/4 cup butter or margarine
? 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
? 3 eggs, lightly beaten
? 1 teaspoon vanilla
? 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
? 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
? 1/2 teaspoon salt
? 3 tablespoons cocoa
? 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
? 4 cups miniature marshmallows
Method for Chocolate Marshmallow Bars:
Mix butter or margarine and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add this mixture to the butter mixture. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa and nuts (if using). Add this mixture to the butter/eggs mixture.
Put mixture into a greased 10-by-14-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. Sprinkle 4 cups miniature marshmallows over the cake and bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Using a knife dipped in water, spread the marshmallows evenly over the cake. Cool and add the topping (recipe follows).
? 1-1/3 cups (8 ounces) chocolate chips
? 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
? 1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
? 2 cups Rice Krispies cereal (snap, crackle and pop!)
Method for topping:
Combine chocolate chips, butter or margarine and peanut butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and well blended. Remove from the heat and add 2 cups Rice Krispies cereal and mix well. Spread over the bars. Chill. Yield: 3 dozen bars.
If you’d like to meet the Diane and Don, or if you’re looking for a new church, stop in at the Millville United Methodist Church on the corner of Atlantic Avenue (Route 26) and Club House Road; Praise Service is at 6 p.m. Saturday; Sunday service at 9 a.m. The phone number is (302) 539-9077.
(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by e-mail at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)