Holiday baking is a Destin tradition

Savannah Vasquez
svasquez@thedestinlog.com
A group of children work on unwrapping Hershey's Kisses as well as shaping dough for doughnuts as Chef Jim Shirah looks on. [SAVANNAH VASQUEZ/THE LOG]

For more than 10 years, Chef Jim Shirah of Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant has cut out some time from his busy schedule at the restaurant to break out the cookie cutters with kids at Destin Community Center.

“It’s become a tradition,” said Shirah of the annual holiday baking event. “We have a great time talking about sanitation, nutrition, teamwork and how to have fun.”

This week, nine children, ages 7-13, took part in the two-day baking class. The kids rolled up their sleeves and got to work making sugar cookies, ginger snaps, red velvet cookies, peanut butter blossoms, wreath doughnuts and royal icing.

“A lot of them are ice box cookies that need to chill for 24 hours, so having the class spread out over two days has made it a lot less stressful,” Shirah said, noting that the class used to be condensed into one day. “A lot of what they are learning is time – how much time we have to take to execute each recipe so they can understand how much time it takes to bake.”

Allison McCraw, 13, said this is her seventh year participating in the program, and she enjoys it now even more than she did when she was younger.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “Now that I’m one of the counselors, I really like helping the kids out.”

As for the other children, Luke and Avery Lamb, visiting siblings from Kansas, agreed that the doughnuts where their favorite item to make.

“It’s just fun because you can push down and flip them in the flour and make shapes,” said Luke.

“I like the doughnuts the best,” added Avery.

As for the Destin Community Center, Children’s Coordinator Beatriz Miller said the holiday baking class has always been a hit.

“The kids are out of school, so we try to have fun things for them to do while their parents are busy,” she said. “Because of the holidays, we do baking so the kids learn recipes from scratch. It’s nice to do something like this when you know the kids appreciate it.”