Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine.

Tasting Memories

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about cooking and baking is the ability to transport us, for a moment, back to the time and place when we first tasted a dish, and, more importantly, remember the love of the person who used to make it. It’s such a joy when I pull out the recipe, sometimes written in their own hand, of a dish that someone important to me used to make.

I saw my cousin Leisa recently at the wake for my aunt, and we got to talking about our nan’s baking. Leisa had been craving her “pink and white” fudge and wondered if I had the recipe. I have many of Nan’s recipes from a collection of them in a tattered old notebook she and my great aunt kept, started in 1927, but not the one for fudge. It’s a simple, old-fashioned coconut fudge that she made in two layers, tinting one of them with a little red food colouring she called “cochineal.” As soon as Leisa mentioned it, I could taste it, too. We were both transported back to Nan’s kitchen pantry on Maunder’s Lane, where she kept the fudge in a tin lined with waxed paper. Our hearts would leap whenever she’d take us by the arm to the pantry saying, “Would you like a bit of fudge?”

The day before my aunt’s funeral, I went into my pastry kitchen to see if I could recreate the fudge. The first batch wasn’t quite right, but with a couple of adjustments, I nailed it the second time. I packed it in a tin and brought it to the church with me the next day. I waited until Leisa had thanked the last of the congregation as they left and I gave her the tin. It was such a simple thing, but the meaning for both of us was profound because of the wonderful memories we shared. I knew that little taste of something sweet, just a simple bit of fudge, would be a bright spot in what must have been a difficult time for her. And I had the power, through being able to cook, to give that to her.  I was delighted by her message the next day that it was just as she’d remembered it.

So this Christmas, I share with you some recipes that represent memories of some wonderful women, most of whom never knew each other, but who all have in common the understanding that there is a special ingredient that makes a recipe unique to the cook who makes it: the genuine desire to delight others, and through that experience, share the nostalgia and love that comes from that taste memory.

The fudge recipe isn’t included in this collection. It will be featured in the January issue.

Nan’s Ginger Snaps

My earliest memories of these cookies is that they sometimes had burnt bottoms. It makes me smile thinking about biting into a bit-too-dark cookie because it truly didn’t matter – what I tasted was her love of feeding us. I have added a touch of cayenne pepper to this old-fashioned style gingersnap to enhance the gingery bite, but I think Nan would have approved.

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup molasses (fancy, not black strap)
  • 2 tbsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using electric mixer with paddle attachment or by hand, cream butter, molasses, spices and salt. In a separate bowl, blend flour and baking soda. Blend flour mixture into butter mixture until combined and a smooth, soft dough is formed. Using your hands, roll dough into 2-teaspoon-sized balls, place them 2 inches apart on parchment-lined (or greased) baking sheets, and flatten to 1/4" thick with a fork or with heel of your palm. Try to keep edges smooth. Bake 12-15 minutes until crisped.  They will be very slightly soft, but will crisp completely on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight tin. Makes 32 cookies.

Mincemeat Tarts

This recipe is an homage to a lady I never knew, but she has become significant in my life.  My partner Christopher’s mother Julia was known for many things, but at Christmastime, especially for her mincemeat tarts. One story he tells is that he didn’t realize just how many tarts she made each Christmas to give to friends and family until he noticed his father, one year, making many trips to drop them all off. Julia clearly understood the joy of sharing something she loved.

  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried figs
  • 1/2 cup sultana raisins
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup candied mixed peel
  • 1/2 cup shredded suet
  • 1 large (or 2 small) lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 large (or 2 small) orange (zest and juice)
  • 2 large apples (firm such as Cortland or Spartan, not Delicious or McIntosh)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup blended whiskey (not peated or smoky)
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup roasted pistachios
  • Unbaked tart shells

It’s nice to make this a week or so ahead of serving to allow the spices to permeate, but it is quite delicious made and used right away. Chop apricots and figs into raisin-sized pieces. Place all dried fruit and suet in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Grate skin of lemon and orange into the pot. Juice citrus fruit into the pot. Peel and core apples and chop into 1/2" dice. Add to the pot and immediately toss to coat with citrus juice. Add sugar, molasses, apple juice, vinegar, spices, bay leaves, salt and whiskey. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples have softened, dried fruit has plumped and mincemeat has thickened, about 30-45 minutes. If it gets too dry during cooking, add a little water. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Store in mason jars in fridge until ready to use. (Process in a canner if not using within a few weeks.) Just before using, stir in pistachios.

When ready to use, if mincemeat is not saucy enough, stir in a little rum to moisten. Spoon mincemeat into unbaked tart shells and bake until crust is golden and mincemeat is bubbling, about 15 minutes for 3-inch tarts. (Add or subtract a little time if using smaller or larger pastry shells.)

Fabulous Cheese Crackers and Cheese-Marmalade Turnovers

I couldn’t pick just one recipe to represent Helen, as these both remind me of her. She was the sister of my stepfather, Richard. She had a simple elegance and almost childlike joie-de-vivre that made her a joy to be around. She told stories of dancing with American soldiers stationed in Pleasantville during the war and her face would light up with the pleasure of the memory. She adored sweets, but interestingly took extra special delight in whipping up these savoury treats. While the combination of cheese and marmalade might seem odd, trust me, everyone who has tasted the turnovers is astounded at how delicious they are.

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 (230g) tub MacLaren’s Imperial sharp cold-pack cheddar (made by Kraft, red plastic tub with black lid), blends easiest if left out of fridge for half hour before use
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 6 cups rice crisp cereal

Preheat oven to 350°F. This is most easily done with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, but can be done by hand. Cream cheese and butter together with the seasonings. In a separate bowl, whisk baking soda into flour; add it to cheese mixture, and begin to stir it together. When about two-thirds incorporated, stir in the cereal and mix all together until well combined. Form into smooth balls (golf ball size) and flatten into discs, about 1/3" thick, onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until crisp. Cool a few minutes on the tray before moving to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 36 crackers.

Cheese-Marmalade Turnovers

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 (230g) tub MacLaren’s Imperial sharp cold-pack cheddar (made by Kraft, red plastic tub with black lid),
  •    cold from the fridge, crumbled into
  •    1" bits
  • 3-4 tbsp ice water
  • 1 (500 ml or larger) jar of your
  •    favourite orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 375°F. Using a food processor, or by hand, blend together dry ingredients. Cut in butter and cheese by pulsing in processor, or by hand with pastry blender or fork, until reduced to the size of small oats. Dribble in ice water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse (or blend with wooden spoon) until mixture comes together in a soft dough. Roll out onto a lightly floured board to about 1/4" thickness. Cut into 3" rounds. (Repeat with cutaway dough formed back into a ball until all is used.) Brush off any excess flour.

Stir marmalade and place about 2/3 teaspoon on one half of a round, but not too close to the edge (it will keep the turnover from sealing). Don’t overfill or jam will ooze out. Very lightly brush the edge of the other half round with water and fold it over the jam half, forming a turnover. Press edges together and crimp them with a fork; trim the excess dough to make a nice, neat edge. Repeat with all dough. Place turnovers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes until crisped and golden, but still tender (like pie crust). They are delicious hot or cold. Makes about 24 turnovers.

Marshmallow Cookies

My mom, Daphne, is a fantastic cook. I recall her whipping up many delicious treats for my brother and me. Mom made marshmallow squares pretty often, sometimes tinting them pale green, sometimes topping with coconut. Mom thought me a bit funny including them in this column, suggesting I include something fancier, but I just love the simplicity of these cookies.

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • For the marshmallow
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 (7 g) envelopes unflavoured gelatin (or 5 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Green food colouring (opt)
  • 1 cup (approx.) toasted long-shred coconut (opt. – if not using coconut, make a mixture of 1/2 cup icing sugar and 3 tbsp cornstarch to dust the cut, sticky edges)

You need a stand or electric mixer for this recipe. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8" x 8" baking pan with parchment paper or grease it well. In a mixing bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until the size of peas. Dribble in milk while stirring, to make a crumbly mixture. Press smoothly into the bottom of the pan. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden. Place in fridge or freezer to cool.

In a clean mixing bowl, hand whisk gelatin into cold water. Let sit a couple of minutes to bloom. Then hand whisk in boiling water, then sugar, salt and vanilla (and food colouring if using). Using electric mixer, whisk at high speed for 5 minutes until opaque, thickened and fluffy. Smooth over cooled base. Top with coconut if using. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours until set (or quick chill in freezer for an hour). If you used parchment, lift cookies out of the pan and place on a cutting board, crust-side down. If not, loosen edges with a knife  and turn cookies out onto an icing sugar-dusted board, then flip them over crust-side down. With a sharp, hot-water-dampened knife, cut in quarters, and each quarter into quarters, for 16 squares. Roll cut edges in toasted coconut if you like, or dust with icing sugar-cornstarch mixture.

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