Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Holiday Baking Book (copyright 1994, Clarkson/Potter Publishers) is a good addition to your Christmas cookbook collection even though this cookbook encompasses not just the Christmas season but special holidays throughout the year. Actually, I don’t keep it with my Christmas cookbooks; I have it filed with my Breads/Pastries cookbooks.
Beatrice’s interest in cooking began as a 12-year-old member of 4-H when she started winning state and national awards for cooking demonstrations (Confirming Catherine Hanley’s comments in Blue Ribbon Winners, recently reviewed on this blog).
In 1957, a young Beatrice won the Second Grand Prize for the Pillsbury Bake Off. (taking a page from Jean Anderson’s book, I decided not to take everything I read at face value, and since I have a complete collection of the Bake Off Books I went in search of the 1957 Bake Off Book. It’s the 9th Grand National Cook Book where I found Beatrice’s recipe for Chunk O’ Cheese Bread with a photograph of a very young Mrs. Ojakangas! Alongside the photograph she is quoted as saying that the money she won ($5,000) would come in handy to further her husband’s career. I can’t help but wonder – what about her career? Certainly being a grand prize winner at one of the early Pillsbury Bake Off contests was a boost in the right direction!)
Beatrice Ojakangas began her writing career as a food editor for Sunset Magazine. Since then she has written numerous articles for national magazines including Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Redbook, Cooking Light, Country Living, Southern Living, Eating Well, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Cooking Pleasures. She has been a regular columnist for theMinneapolis Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune.
But getting back to GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING BOOK, from the publishers we learn “No holiday would be complete without the wonderful baked goods that make every occasion special. Now Beatrice Ojakangas, one of America’s best loved bakers, presents more than 250 recipes in this comprehensive classic cookbook.
BEATRICE OJAKANGAS’ GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING BOOK takes you from spring to winter with 21 cherished holidays and the favorite baked treats that make them memorable…”
The author explains, “…when I reflect on my history of holiday baking, I feel very grateful for my simple Finnish heritage based on immigrant cuisine. Holidays didn’t have to be ten thousand things on the table. One or two specialties were enough. Usually there was a bread but often there were cookies and maybe a cake, too. At Christmastime we baked Pulla, perhaps a Swedish Tea Ring or Finnish Prune Tarts, and some butter cookies. Around Easter, there was always a symbolic braided bread wreath with eggs and a seasonal sweet, such as a strawberry pie…”
Ms. Ojakangas goes on to explain that, as she grew up, she met people who weren’t Finish or Scandinavian but had specialties for holidays, and she began to collect cakes, pastries, bread and cookie recipes. She says that she loves the fact that whatever your heritage, whatever the occasion, there are a multitude of baked goods, either traditional or innovative, that make the holiday memorable and special.
The author says that, when she began writing this cookbook, she thought it would be a snap, since her files were bulging with recipes from classes she had taught, parties she’d had, articles she had written—but the more she dug in, the more recipes she found that she felt couldn’t left out—but finally, she called it quits at 250 recipes. And these 250 recipes are all “winners”.
Starting with an Irish Beer Bread to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on March 17, this book traverses through the calendar year, presenting specialties for many special holidays, from Passover to Easter, from Memorial Day to Fourth of July, from Labor Day to Rosh Hashanah and from Halloween to Thanksgiving, to Christmas and Hanukkah all the way to New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
This is an “all baking” book that is sure to become one of your all-time favorites, filled with wonderful recipes and lots of tips and suggestions. There are also brief explanations of each holiday.
Beatrice Ojakangas has written more than twenty cookbooks—my curiosity was piqued so I began searching and writing down titles which I will list at the end of this article.
I have been so enchanted with this cookbook and have many pages marked with little post-it notes.
Amazon.com has BEATRICE OJAKANGAS’ GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING BOOK priced at $9.99 for a new copy or starting at ten cents for pre-owned (add $3.99 for shipping and handling). Alibris.com has copies starting at 99c for pre-owned or $12.50 for a new hard-bound copy.
I found the following titles while doing several searches:
A Finnish Cookbook 1964 (38 printings!)
Convection Oven Cook Book 1980
The Best of the Liberated Cook, 1981
Country Tastes: Best Recipes from America’s Kitchens, 1988
Best of Pancake and Waffle Recipes, 1990
Quick Bead, 1991
Best of Wild Rice, 1992
Pot Pies, 1993
Great Holiday Baking Book 1994
The Book of Heartland Cooking, 1994
Light and Easy Baking, 1996
Fantastically Finnish: Recipes and Traditions, 1998
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, 1999
Scandinavian Feasts, 2001
Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand, 2004
Great Old Fashioned American Desserts, 2004
Great Old Fashioned American Recipes, 2005
The Best Casserole Cook Book Ever 500 recipes, 2008
Petite Sweets, 2009
American Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cook Book 2010
I don’t have publishing dates for the following:
Best of Gourmet Recipes for Two
Best of Honey Recipes
Happy Holiday Baking!
–Review by Sandra Lee Smith