Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Filled Cookies

                It was the Christmas season in the early 1980s in South Dakota.  Preparing for our trip back to Huron to see the family during the holidays, I had gone to the library for some cookie recipe books and found an interesting recipe for Filled Cookies.  Hidden inside each soft cookie was a rich filling of dates.  I wanted the assortment of goodies I brought back to be different, and to “shake things up a little” from our usual fare.  Most of all, I wanted to impress my grandmother, who instilled in me a love for the kitchen when I was a child.
                I still remember walking in Grandma’s house for our Christmas Day feast and festivities, and handing her the box of new and unusual treats – and as she opened it, she exclaimed, “Are these filled cookies??”  I was surprised, but even more surprised at what she had to say about filled cookies...

     Grandma had spent her early years in her father's bakery, Bell Bakery, in Huron, South Dakota.  Her father, Pete Christensen, was a Danish immigrant and came to the United States at least two or three times to learn the baking trade from uncles in Nebraska.  He was not quite 17 years old at his first trip.  He came here permanently in 1908, and months later traveled to Huron to start Bell Bakery with his partner, Clarence H. Bell.  How they got acquainted is anyone's guess, but Bell was involved in the bakery business in Iowa.  He seemed to run the business end of things while Pete ran the baking part of the operation.

The I. O. O.F. Building, where Bell Bakery occupied the main floor.  You can see the sign hanging out from the building.  Before his marriage, Pete lived in one of the apartments above the bakery.
Pete (left) and two of his bakers in the back of the bakery.  Photo courtesy of Janice Payne.

     Pete was good at what he did, and it was no surprise that among the many bakeries in Huron, Bell Bakery was the leader. 

     Grandma pulled out a filled cookie and tasted it.  I was scared to death, wanting terribly to impress her with my baking skills, but terrified now that I knew she was familiar with how good - really good - filled cookies were supposed to taste.   She smiled and said, “These taste just great… I have not had filled cookies in years… my dad made the best filled cookies and people would come from miles around just for them.  He could never keep them in stock, and had to take special orders at Christmas time.”

     How happy I was that my first try at these cookies were successful, although Grandma would not have let on even if they weren’t.  But I was even happier to have a new family tradition to carry on.

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