BAKING BONDS: Grandpa’s right-hand man is now grandma’s kitchen sidekick

Nathan Hess baking with his grandmother, Sylvia Hess.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

caption arrowCaption
Nathan Hess baking with his grandmother, Sylvia Hess.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Between the messes of powdered sugar, smudges of dough on the floor and stolen chocolate chips are where some families’ sweetest and timeless memories are created.

Our annual holiday cookie contest has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bakers from across the region have submitted thousands of recipes since the contest was first held in 1990. Each year we publish the top recipes so readers can replicate the winning desserts at home.

To fill the sugary void in our hearts this year, we asked readers to tell us about their most cherished bonds they’ve made through holiday baking and to share a favorite recipe.

ExploreBAKING BONDS: Family cookbook contains Ellis Island accounts, recipes and more

As Sylvia Hess’s grandson Nathan gets ready to come home to Beavercreek from college for Christmas break, Hess is preparing to transform her garage into their walk-in cookie refrigerator.

As soon as all three of Hess’s grandkids were old enough to stand on a stool and reach the kitchen counter, “gingerbread cookies were their first accomplishment.”

It was Hess’s now 24-year-old grandson Nathan Hess’s love for eating, knack for baking and most of all, his bond with his grandfather George Hess that has made him Hess’s right-hand man in the kitchen around Christmastime.

caption arrowCaption
Nathan Hess baking in the kitchen with his grandfather George Hess.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Nathan Hess baking in the kitchen with his grandfather George Hess.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

caption arrowCaption
Nathan Hess baking in the kitchen with his grandfather George Hess.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

“My husband liked to bake too,” Hess said. “I think Nathan really, really was close to his grandpa, and I think in a sense, it’s just kind of carrying on a warm memory — this is what we used to do, and we’re still doing it.”

George passed away six years ago, but Nathan continues the tradition with Hess, hurrying home each holiday season to resume his position in grandma’s kitchen.

Though Nathan is a busy graduate student studying mechanical engineering at Purdue University, he manages to find time in his heavy schedule to bake something to leave out for his roommates. Hess proudly said those treats tend to disappear overnight.

“Although all three (grandchildren) are great bakers now, Nathan gets home most often and both of us always look forward to our cookie marathons. And he does dishes too! What a gift.”

-Sylvia’s Pennsylvanian grandmother’s traditional recipe for her famous “Sand Tarts” — a favorite bake for her and Nathan:

  • 2 cups sugar (1 each white and light brown)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Flour enough for a soft dough (approx. 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons milk mixed with 3 egg yolks (extra large eggs)

Instructions:

“Cream sugar and shortening, add egg yolks and milk mixture. Sift flour with baking powder before adding. Chill.

Roll out paper-thin on floured board; cut shapes. (Work in small batches, keeping extra dough chilled and well- wrapped to avoid drying out.) Brush tops with egg whites, dust with sugar and cinnamon. Bake on ungreased sheets at 350. (It may only take 4 minutes, if you’ve rolled cookies thin enough!) Makes around 140-160 cookies.”

About the Author