Many people look to Miss Dish for advice about the niceties of Home Ec etiquette, and often she can comply. For shame, then, that she's hidden from her public for so long this sordid truth: She can't bake so good. Not good at all. She burns things, misjudges ingredients or makes things that look like Ernest Borgnine's face. Baking is an exact science, and the fact is that Miss Dish prefers things to be a little more fluid. Still, when the fah-la-las start coming around, she's overcome with urges to make holiday cookies. With this in mind, she barraged Mike Laufer, head baker and manager of way old-school Helen Bernhard Bakery (1717 NE Broadway, 287-1251), with questions about the truth of Xmas cookie baking, plain and simple.
Miss Dish: So what's the No. 1 piece of advice you have when it comes to making Christmas
Mike Laufer: Use the best ingredients. Don't use shortening instead of butter. Use true butter.
Any secrets to making good shapes?
We make our Santas by turning hearts upside-down. The top part of the heart becomes the beard. We also do that with heart-shaped cakes.
What's the most popular shape?
Christmas trees. Snowmen don't sell as well.
What do people have against the snowmen?
I think it's because they're smaller than the rest.
Sometimes people [MISS DISH!] make these nice-looking cookies and they get all ruined when you try to pry them off the cookie sheet. Do you have that problem?
We use parchment paper on all our trays, and the cookies come right off. You don't need to grease the pan at all. It's kind of expensive stuff, but you can reuse it. I've been known to sell some to people when they come in the store.
What are your favorite cookies?
My favorite are the homemade kind.
If you don't want to do it yourself Helen's has trees, bells, stars, Santas and that underdog the Snowman for $9.75 per dozen. Other tidbits from the world of nibbles:
HARK! At long last the New Seasons Market in Concordia (Northeast 33rd Avenue and Killingsworth Street) opens today, Wednesday, Dec. 5. The morphing of this corner from deserted mart to supermarket is bound to transform this neighborhood formerly served by one of the saddest Safeways ever.
HARK! As long as you don't mind forking over $100 a pound, some of the finest Swiss chocolates are now being dealt at the new Teuscher chocolate shop at 531 SW Broadway, 827-0587.
HARK! Oh the loneliness of being a Jew in Portland during Christmas. Want to have some fun? Ask the average clerk at Monster Market where the matzo is and you'll get a blank look worthy of a Diane Arbus portrait. Old Wives' Tales (1300 E Burnside, 238-0470) is there for you, bubelehs! Starting at sundown on Sunday, Dec. 9 (the beginning of Hanukkah), members of the tribe and friends and admirers can order latkes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for eight days.