For someone who makes several dozen cookies each Christmas, Donna Juzwik’s favorite is simple: the classic chocolate chip cookie.
“There’s nothing better than a hot chocolate chip cookie,” he said one recent afternoon.
Juzwik has been baking since childhood and likes to try new recipes all the time.
But she still goes back to her favorites.
As we chatted about cookies, she sat in her cozy living room, surrounded by her collection of 33 We Energies cookie books, which she has collected for several years.
“I started collecting the Cookie Books in the early 70s,” he said. “I also have the books of my mother and my grandmother, from 1939.”
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Juzwik has a personal connection to the 2018 Cookie Book, the 90th anniversary issue.
“I sent in my grandmother’s recipe for ‘Rocks,’ which is included in that issue, on page 10,” she said. “Three generations of my family ate those cookies at Grandma’s house for Christmas. I received 10 copies of the book that year, which I shared with my family.” (Sadly, you didn’t get a month of free heat, just the Cookie Books.)
Admittedly, “Rocks” isn’t the loveliest name for a cookie, but the cookie testers at We Energies deemed them worthy of cookie immortality.
Gouta cookies, which we assume resemble “rocks,” are primarily made up of butter, sugar, dates, and nuts. A similar recipe appears in the 1932 Cookie Book, meaning generations of cookie fans have been happily munching on “rocks.”
Juzwik is also an award winning laureate.
In 2013, her chocolate almond biscotti recipe won second place in the Kenosha News cookie contest. At the time, she said the secret was using a cake mix.
“I love these cookies, but they are usually too much work,” Juzwik told the Kenosha News at the time.
A twice-baked Italian cookie, biscotti can be very labor-intensive, but Juzwik found a quick recipe in Quick Cooking magazine. He also modified the recipe to make the cookies smaller.
In other words, he found a way to have his cake and cookies too.
For the 2014 Kenosha News Cookie Contest, Juzwik won first place, chosen by the public after a bake at Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly, for their Cranberry Pistachio Cookies.
Juzwik tried a basic pistachio cookie recipe, then added cranberries “to make it green and red,” he said.
If you’re spotting a trend here, you’re correct. Juzwik enjoys modifying recipes for his family and friends.
She also swaps recipes with her longtime friend and daily walking partner, Janet Germinaro, whom she calls “the real queen of cookies.”
While Juzwik ramps up her baking for the holiday season, she bakes year-round, especially “for all the holidays.” I also bake for Halloween and Easter and Valentine’s Day. I love sharing the cookies with my children and grandchildren.”
As of December, Juzwik bakes at least 12 varieties of cookies, producing about eight dozen of each type.
“I love making the tried-and-true recipes,” she said, “and also trying at least one new recipe every year.”
As we talked, Juzwik flipped through a huge binder in which he collected and organized his recipes.
Although he loves the classics, Juzwik also likes “baking with mastic. I like to do all the decorating that makes the cookies special.”
She also makes fudge (which can be notoriously “putty”) and adds a fun seasonal twist: “I mold it into the shape of a crown, with a bow made of licorice.”
In addition to her chocolate chip cookies—she uses “Ms. Field’s recipe with powdered oats, which gives it some substance”—Juzwik has classics that roll out of her oven every December: Pecan Cups, Pecan Turtles, pretzel (made with Rolo candies), Toffee Pretzel Bark (from Germinaro) and Kenosha News Award-winning Almond Chocolate Biscotti and Pistachio Cranberry Cookies.
Juzwik also loves gingerbread cookies and offers this fun decorating tip: “If you flip the gingerbread man cookie cutter upside down and spread out its legs, it looks like a reindeer, with the ‘legs’ as antlers.”
For bakers new to the holiday cookie rush, Juzwik advises shopping for grocery store specials weeks in advance.
“I buy butter and butter-flavored Crisco when they’re on sale,” she said. “I start buying the basics I need, like sugar and flour, when prices are good.”
Her other tip for beginners?
“Start with something simple, like a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and go from there,” she said.
And if you are pressed for time?
“Mix up a batch of cookie dough and toss it in the fridge overnight,” she advises. “Then you can bake it when you have time. Just keep up so it’s not overwhelming.”
When asked why he spends all this time, energy, and money baking for his family and friends, Juzwik is quick to respond.
“Everybody loves cookies.”