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Family tradition lasts all year

Cookies are plentiful at Smithsburg household

Cookies are plentiful at Smithsburg household

December 16, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SMITHSBURG - Danielle Hommel, the cookie connoisseur of the family, will include Caramel Butter Bars on her holiday cookie tray this Christmas.

Hommel, a wife and stay-at-home mother of three, loves cookie baking, especially around the holidays. It's a family tradition to have a cookie tray at Christmastime, Hommel said.

Though, cookies always seem to be on hand at the Hommel residence - whether it's a holiday or not.

"I fix cookies about once every two weeks, so that we have enough in the house," said Hommel, 34, of Smithsburg.

"The butter bars might be my favorite," said her husband, Pete Hommel, 36.

Picking a favorite is difficult for him, since his wife is always making cookies. Pete Hommel said he'd eat any cookie, "as long as it doesn't have cream cheese."

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The Caramel Butter Bars come from a Taste of Home magazine recipe Danielle Hommel found and tweaked about four years ago.

Hommel said hers is a basic cake-mix cookie recipe, calling for yellow cake mix, a crushed Butterfinger, and white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips.

The charm - if all that chocolate wasn't enough to entice you - comes from an inner layer of melted caramel.

The bars are a little involved. Total time is an hour and a half to two hours, with about 30 minutes spent assembling and processing ingredients, Hommel said.

For Thanksgiving, Danielle Hommel made turkey-shaped cookies. The family put the cookies on sticks, wrapped them in plastic wrap and then attached construction paper "feathers" that listed what they were thankful for, Hommel said.

For Christmas, she plans to create a Christmas tree made of brownies in addition to the traditional cookie tray.

"You just stack the brownies up in a tree shape and put icing on it," Hommel said.

Hommel comes by her baking ability naturally. She grew up munching on an abundance of cookies in Lawrenceburg, Ind.

"My mother always kept cookies in the house," Hommel said.

Hommel also is a former music teacher who plays the French horn. Her husband plays the tuba and also is organist and music director at St. Ann Roman Catholic Church in Hagerstown.

Talking with cookie baker Danielle Hommel

The Herald-Mail visited Hommel, her husband and their youngest daughter, Emily, 2, at their home one snowy morning to discuss Hommel's Caramel Butter Bars, music and cooking, in general.

Q: So, when was the last time you played the French horn?

A: I haven't played for a long time now, because of the kids. I played in the (Hagerstown) Municipal Band for a while, but when the kids started coming, it's different.

Q: Do you have a favorite cookie?

A: Pumpkin-chip cookies. They're pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips. My family really likes them. I got the recipe from my mother.

Q: So, when you're not baking, you're cooking what?

A: Basically just dinner, or if somebody needs snacks at school, I like signing up for that.

Q: So what's a typical dinner like in the Hommel household?

A: We do pasta. We like seafood, chicken dishes.

Q: No steak and potatoes?

A: We used to, but now that we're watching what we eat, we do the lighter side. ... My kids, they're not so keen on it. I can get them to eat fruit, but vegetables? No.

Q: Is there a cookie you would not eat?

A: Anything with candied fruit. It's like, you see it and it just looks nasty.

Q: What about raisins?

A: I'm OK with raisins. The rest of the family is not OK with raisins. They'll just pick them out.

Q: Outside of sweets, do you have a favorite dish? What would be your ideal meal?

A: Oh, I love sweets ... I love Mexican. Have you ever heard of Don Pablo's? It's a chain. I wish we had one of those around here.

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