Passion for baking passed down through generations of moms

Baker Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay learned to bake by watching her grandmothers and mom. Courtesy of Lauren Liz Photo
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Baker Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay learned to bake by watching her grandmothers and mom. Courtesy of Lauren Liz Photo

Credit: Lauren Kress

A Little Baked Bakery owner inherited love for cookies, pies and cakes from mother, grandmothers

There are many things we can inherit from our mothers. The color of our eyes, a love of silly riddles, a passion for needlepoint.

Among the many things Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay inherited from her mother, Mary Leifheit Colson, is the belief that the gift of a batch of cookies is the best possible random act of kindness.

Until she was 7, Leifheit-Little lived in Yorkville, Illinois, where her parents met and her mom had grown up on a farm outside the town. “They had pigs and chickens and we always had fresh eggs. Fresh eggs are so important to me that I still get my eggs from Gary Johnson, a local farmer, rather than the grocery store.”

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Gramma Elymas Olson’s cake carrier holds a pride of place in Jen Leifheit-Little’s kitchen. (Courtesy of Lauren Liz Photo)

Credit: Lauren Kress

Gramma Elymas Olson’s cake carrier holds a pride of place in Jen Leifheit-Little’s kitchen. (Courtesy of Lauren Liz Photo)
Caption
Gramma Elymas Olson’s cake carrier holds a pride of place in Jen Leifheit-Little’s kitchen. (Courtesy of Lauren Liz Photo)

Credit: Lauren Kress

Credit: Lauren Kress

Both Elymas Olson, who raised Leifheit-Little’s mother and was called “Gramma,” and Elizabeth Leifheit, her paternal grandmother, lived in Yorkville and both were bakers. “Gramma Olson made cakes, cookies, jams and jellies. Gramma Leifheit was a pie baker. Cookies were my mom’s thing.”

Each year, the middle of October launched what the family called “cookie season.”

“This was back in the day when you could give out homemade treats for Halloween. We gave out popcorn balls and cookies we made at home. My earliest memory is of helping Gramma and mom make those popcorn balls. Eventually I graduated to helping with the cookies. Every fall, mom would make a batch of sugar cookie dough, roll it out, cut out leaf-shaped cookies, bake and then paint them. I was given the task of ‘sugar sprinkler.’ At Christmas, she would make more sugar cookies and I decorated some with my brothers, Jonathan and Jeremy. Those were the ones we got to eat. She’d decorate the rest and those were the ones pretty enough to give out as gifts.”

As she grew older, Leifheit-Little grew to be more skilled, learning the importance of having ingredients at room temperature and the best way to roll out cookie dough. She uses her mother’s rolling pin to this day.

The family left Illinois for Iowa and then ultimately arrived in Cedartown, Georgia, in 1979.

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Jen Leifheit-Little has collected three generations of recipe boxes. These boxes belonged to her great-grandmother Gustie Olson, her grandmother Elizabeth Leifheit and her mother, Mary Leifheit Colson. Courtesy of Jen Leifheit-Little

Credit: Lauren Liz Photo

Jen Leifheit-Little has collected three generations of recipe boxes. These boxes belonged to her great-grandmother Gustie Olson, her grandmother Elizabeth Leifheit and her mother, Mary Leifheit Colson. Courtesy of Jen Leifheit-Little
Caption
Jen Leifheit-Little has collected three generations of recipe boxes. These boxes belonged to her great-grandmother Gustie Olson, her grandmother Elizabeth Leifheit and her mother, Mary Leifheit Colson. Courtesy of Jen Leifheit-Little

Credit: Lauren Liz Photo

Credit: Lauren Liz Photo

“When we moved to Georgia, making cookies became a kind of therapy for our family. If you feel badly, do something good for someone else. Make them some cookies. If you’re having a bad day, make some cookies. After all, how can you feel bad when you’re eating a warm chocolate chip cookie?”

Her mother’s belief that cookies could help when someone was having a hard time, needed encouragement or some kind of love is so ingrained in Leifheit-Little that even now, if someone is facing a difficulty or tragedy, she makes sure she gets fresh-baked cookies to them as quickly as possible.

Her mother’s death in 2016 was a test of the power of baking. “I couldn’t snap out of my sadness until finally I knew I had to get out of bed. I started baking cookies again and giving them away, mostly to colleagues at Kennesaw State University. Then people started asking for them and I thought maybe it would be a good idea to charge for the cookies. Then people wanted to know if I could make them a pie. I got out Gramma Leifheit’s pie crust recipe and started making pies. Then cakes.”

ExploreKid-friendly baking: 3 treats that children will love to make — and eat
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Mary Leifheit Colson taught her daughter Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay the idea of sharing baked goods as a random act of kindness. Courtesy of Teri Canada

Credit: Jen Leitheit-Little

Mary Leifheit Colson taught her daughter Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay the idea of sharing baked goods as a random act of kindness. Courtesy of Teri Canada
Caption
Mary Leifheit Colson taught her daughter Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay the idea of sharing baked goods as a random act of kindness. Courtesy of Teri Canada

Credit: Jen Leitheit-Little

Credit: Jen Leitheit-Little

By 2018 she had licensed A Little Baked Bakery and opened an online store. The response was overwhelming, and Leifheit-Little, who was associate director of video production at KSU, found herself working there all day, then coming home to bake until 1 or 2 in the morning.

The next year, she, husband Tres Little and daughter Gigi moved to Ellijay. She began selling her baked treats at pop-ups and the Ellijay Farmers Market as well as online. Soon she’ll be opening a bakery in downtown Ellijay in space being developed in a building at 29 North Ave.

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A love of baking and decorating cookies has passed along to the third generation. Gigi Little, Jen Leitheit-Little’s daughter, employs her artistic skills in painting cookies. (Courtesy of Jen Leitheit-Little)

Credit: Jen Leitheit-Little

A love of baking and decorating cookies has passed along to the third generation. Gigi Little, Jen Leitheit-Little’s daughter, employs her artistic skills in painting cookies. (Courtesy of Jen Leitheit-Little)
Caption
A love of baking and decorating cookies has passed along to the third generation. Gigi Little, Jen Leitheit-Little’s daughter, employs her artistic skills in painting cookies. (Courtesy of Jen Leitheit-Little)

Credit: Jen Leitheit-Little

Credit: Jen Leitheit-Little

The love of baking is still being passed down from mother to daughter. Gigi satisfies her artistic side by helping decorate her mother’s cookies, and when she wants a batch of cookies for a band event, she’s the one making the cookies. “I am there to help but she feels really good about taking her cookies to band and saying, ‘I made these.’”

RECIPES

Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery in Ellijay offers three recipes that are twists on baking she learned from her mother and grandmothers.

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Pistachio Lemon Cookies are very tender. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery

Credit: Jen Little

Pistachio Lemon Cookies are very tender. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery
Caption
Pistachio Lemon Cookies are very tender. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery

Credit: Jen Little

Credit: Jen Little

Pistachio Lemon Cookies

These lemon-scented sugar cookies are a variation of the cookies Jen Leifheit-Little learned to bake with her mom. With a large proportion of cornstarch in the dough, they make very tender cookies.

The dough is delicate and a bit sticky, so take care when rolling, or add a bit more flour to make a less sticky dough. These cookies also puff up quite a bit when baking, so leave plenty of room between them on the baking sheet.

Pistachio Lemon Cookies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Water, if needed
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped salted, toasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries (optional)
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and lemon zest and beat 1 minute at low speed. Add butter and increase to medium speed. Beat until batter is pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks and vanilla and mix 30 seconds or until yolks are incorporated into butter. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. When mixture forms a ball, stop machine and remove dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  • When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface. Use a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut rounds. If you wish to make wreath-shaped cookies, use a smaller cutter to cut out the center of each cookie. Arrange cookies on baking sheet with plenty of space between. If baking the cookie centers, put them on a separate baking sheet as they will bake faster. Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes or until they’ve just begin to turn golden brown at the edges. Centers will take about 7 minutes. Remove from oven, cool 2 minutes on baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While cookies are cooling, make glaze: In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice until mixture is smooth. Add water if needed to make a consistency like heavy cream. Move the glaze to a flat-bottomed bowl.
  • When cookies are cool, dip cookies upside down into the glaze, then return glaze-side-up to baking rack. Sprinkle immediately with chopped pistachios. Adding cranberries creates a festive holiday look. Let sit on racks until glaze hardens. Makes 30 cookies.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per cookie: 126 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 2 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 6 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 72 milligrams sodium.

— All recipes adapted from ones provided by Jen Leifheit-Little of A Little Baked Bakery.

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Marmalade Coffee Cake is perfect for fans of coconut macaroons. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery

Credit: handout

Marmalade Coffee Cake is perfect for fans of coconut macaroons. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery
Caption
Marmalade Coffee Cake is perfect for fans of coconut macaroons. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Marmalade Coffee Cake

This coffee cake resembles a mashup between moist cake and citrus-flavored macaroons. If you’re a fan of sweet, chewy coconut macaroons, this is the coffee cake for you. Leifheit-Little makes the coffee cake with shortening because that’s what her grandmother did.

Marmalade Coffee Cake
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 3/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar or Sugar in the Raw
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, extending the paper up two sides of the baking dish. Spray parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and orange zest and beat 1 minute at low speed. Add shortening and egg and increase to medium speed. Beat until batter is pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Decrease speed to low and slowly pour in the flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. When all ingredients are incorporated, spoon batter into prepared baking dish. Brush batter with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
  • In a small bowl, combine coconut, marmalade and remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Spread evenly over batter. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool coffee cake on a wire rack. When cool, lift cake out of baking dish using parchment paper as handles. Makes 9 squares.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per square: 347 calories (percent of calories from fat, 34), 4 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 13 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 32 milligrams cholesterol, 253 milligrams sodium.

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Time for a snack? Enjoy Rosemary and Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bread. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery

Credit: Handout

Time for a snack? Enjoy Rosemary and Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bread. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery
Caption
Time for a snack? Enjoy Rosemary and Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bread. Courtesy of A Little Baked Bakery

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Rosemary and Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bread

The use of olive oil in this batter plus the chopped rosemary turns this loaf into a sweet but savory cake perfect for snacking. We used chocolate chunks when testing the recipe. The use of parchment paper to line the loaf pan allows the cake to cook through without overcooking the sides.

Rosemary and Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bread
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/4 cups 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar or Sugar in the Raw
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, extending the paper up two sides of the baking dish. Spray parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk eggs and then add olive oil, buttermilk and rosemary. When well combined, fold in dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Stir in 3/4 cup chocolate. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup chocolate and gently push chocolate into the batter. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until top has domed and cracked and a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake. Move to a wire rack and allow to cool, then use the parchment paper to remove the loaf from the pan. Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 399 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 5 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 25 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 48 milligrams cholesterol, 202 milligrams sodium.
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