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Tinley Park’s Creative Cakes bakery opens oven doors for local bakers

And the
winner is ...

Barb Medina’s cream cheese
crescents were the winner of
Creative Cakes’ Community Oven Day holiday cookie contest,
co-owner Beth Fahey said.

Medina, of Palos Hills, received a $50 Creative Cakes gift card and her cookie will be a featured item at the Tinley Park bakery this month.

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Updated: January 12, 2013 6:06AM



Kimberly Vick is the first to admit her pfeffernuse cookies are an acquired taste.

“The first year I made them my husband didn’t like them,” she said. “Now I think he’d leave me if I didn’t make them each Christmas.”

So even though the old family recipe, handed down from her German grandmother, calls for 18 cups of flour, two kinds of honey and ammonia and potassium carbonate — available only at the pharmacy — she toils each holiday to turn out hundreds of the tasty treats.

It’s a long, messy process.

This year, however, she got some help from Creative Cakes in Tinley Park. For the first time, the bakery opened its doors to the public Sunday, letting local bakers use the shop’s 18-by-24-inch cookie sheets and its 24-sheet-pan capacity revolving oven.

“This is wonderful,” said Vick, of Tinley Park, who brought her baking assistant, niece Julia Dybala. “It’s faster, easier and I don’t have to clean up.”

Like the other cookie bakers who signed up for the two-hour roll, cut and bake sessions, Vick and Julia came toting already prepared dough, their own cookie cutters and their preferred decorations.

Beth Fahey, who co-owns Creative Cakes with her sister, Becky Palermo, said they are always looking for ways to involve the community. They recently started offering classes, which have been very successful, she said.

Fahey learned of community baking events at a bakers’ seminar last year. It is customary in some cultures, particularly in India, for professional bakers to invite the public to use their equipment on certain days. It builds rapport and makes life easier for people who appreciate scratch cooking but maybe don’t have the time or energy to devote to it.

“On Sundays, our ovens are usually off anyway,” she said. “This seemed like a great day to let local bakers come in and use our equipment.”

Twenty-two people signed up for the daylong event. A $20 fee covered the cost of using a baker’s table, the giant baking sheets and the revolving oven that was manned by longtime employee Carole Delejewski.

“Most cookie recipes call for four dozen cookies,” Fahey said. “That can take a long time in a home oven. Here, we can crank them out in about 10 minutes.”

Each Christmas, Barb Medina, of Palos Hills, and her daughter, Tina Rangel, of Oak Forest, set aside a day for baking. They try to include the grandkids, who typically burn out after making about four cookies, Rangel said.

“All they want to do is eat them,” she said. The daylong bake-a-thon typically left the kitchen covered in flour and the munchkins looking like real-life cookies.

This year, they brought their prepared dough to Creative Cakes, where they rolled, cut and shaped cream cheese crescents to the tune of holiday carols.

“We are getting a lot more done. This usually takes all day,” Medina said.

Every year, Joann Gawczynski, of Park Forest, and her daughter, Judy Gawczynski, of Chicago, get together to bake pecan smoothies, jam ribbons and chocolate peppermint cookies.

“At home, this process normally goes on for about a week,” Joann said. “Here, it’s like going to the Laundromat; you get it all done at once.”

When Bob Gregg, of Orland Hills, saw the email announcement about the event, he sent it to his wife, Laura.

Three times.

“He kept saying, ‘We should do this,’” Laura said.

“Cookie day was always a big production,” Bob said. “Coming here seemed like a good idea.”

The couple cranked out dozens of sugar cookies, snickerdoodles and longtime family favorite chocolate peanut-butter whirlygigs.

Fahey said the event was an opportunity for her to meet customers.

“We’re usually in the back working and don’t always get to greet people,” she said. “It’s nice for people to be able to share stories behind the family recipes.”

For Sandy Kowalski, participating in the event was just a new twist in an ever-evolving baking tradition in her family.

“My husband and I used to bake together,” said the Orland Park mom. “Then for a long time, it was just me.”

Lately, her daughters, Leanne Deutsch, of Shorewood, and Amy Kowalski, of Lockport, set aside a day to bake with their mom.

“Here, there’s more room, better atmosphere. It goes faster,” Sandy said.

The group was churning out sugar cutouts and peanut butter cookies, their 95-year-old grandmother’s favorite.

In all, they expected to leave the bakery with a couple of hundred cookies.

Not bad, Amy said, for a couple of hours work.

Creative Cakes is at 16649 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park; (708) 614-9755; realbuttercream.com



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