Most kids think their moms make the best cookies in the world.
Susan Liberto, of the Blue Anchor section of Winslow Township, has proof.
Liberto has a 1983 cookbook put out by Family Circle magazine featuring the "World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies." Among the 47 recipes included is one for Carol Ingemi's Choco Nut Dainties.
"She was proud. She enjoyed baking so much. It was really a part of her," Liberto said.
And it was a part of Liberto's childhood.
The 54-year-old woman grew up in Hammonton, the oldest of Carol and Dominic Ingemi's three daughters.
Her dad worked in construction while her mom stayed home, raised the family.
It was an arrangement Liberto still remembers with fondness.
"The women were able to stay home and be homemakers," Liberto recalled. " I would come home from school and she would be there. She'd get dinner started and we'd eat dinner as a family."
Ingemi was a good cook - she'd been doing it most of her life, her daughter recalls.
Ingemi had learned to cook at a very young age, by watching her mother in the kitchen. She'd been preparing meals for her family since she was 16 years old.
"My mother's dinners were always delicious and our family especially enjoyed her holiday meals. My sisters and I try to carry on her traditional recipes, especially during the holidays," Liberto said.
The holidays also were a time for baking. The Choco Nut Dainties were one of the many types of cookies Ingemi would make for Christmas.
"Most people who knew my mother would remember what a wonderful baker she was," Liberto said. "She was best known for her trays of Christmas cookies. She would start baking several batches of many different types of cookies the day after Thanksgiving to share with family and friends."
In addition to being an avid baker, Ingemi was also a patient one, her daughter recalled.
"She was a perfectionist. When she made her Choco Nut Danties, they were perfect," Liberto said. "When I tried to make them (recently) they were lumpy and bulgy and funny looking."
Ingemi also put a lot of time and effort into the birthday cakes she baked for her daughters.
"We had doll cakes that were actual Barbie-sized dolls, with the cake and fancy icing that would be made to look like the dresses," Liberto said. "My sisters and I would often not want to cut the beautiful cakes."
Liberto remembers other baked "works of art," including Raggedy Ann and Andy cakes, a "Little Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe" cake and a cake shaped like a basket of blueberries. That cake was so realistic someone reached in to grab a blueberry, only to be rewarded with fingers covered in blue icing.
For a while Ingemi earned extra money by selling her baked goods.
With an interest in cooking and baking came an interest in recipes. Liberto said her mom would search for recipes in books, magazines and newspapers. It was this love of recipes that persuaded her to enter her Choco Nut Dainties in the recipe contest.
"She entered the contest because she liked to bake - but also that free cookbook was an incentive," Liberto said.
In all, Family Circle received about 3,000 entries. Ingemi was surprised when she learned she'd won. She was even more surprised when she learned it had been a worldwide contest.
The contest made Ingemi a bit of a celebrity in Hammonton. Her daughter has a newspaper article celebrating her selection by the magazine. The picture shows Ingemi with her 2-year-old grandson Tony, Liberto's now 30-year-old child.
Ingemi died of pancreatic cancer in 1991, with Dominic Ingemi retiring from work to care for his ailing wife.
Liberto, a pharmacist, inherited her mother's love of baking and usually does desserts when her family gets together for Thanksgiving dinner.
Her and her sisters also kept up the tradition of fancy cakes baked for children's birthdays. And Liberto's children also share their grandmother's joy at working in the kitchen.
Liberto said her son, Tony, and daughter, Lauren, "both remember cooking and baking with her. Tony enjoys cooking and grilling. Lauren recently returned from Italy and enjoys preparing pasta dishes and ricotta cookies."
And it's in the kitchen Liberto frequently summons memories of her mom and the good times she had growing up.
"I always feel close to her in the kitchen. I always think about her," she said. "I also think about her when the kids accomplish things, how she would have been so proud of them."
Contact Steven V. Cronin:
•3/4 cup butter or
•3/4 cup sugar
•1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
•2 cups flour
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/2 6-ounce package
•(1/2 cup) Nestle's Semi-sweet chocolate morsels (plus 1 1/2 cups for coating)
•2 cup very finely chopped nuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, egg and vanilla thoroughly. Blend in flour and salt. Mix in chocolate morsels. Shape dough by teaspoonfuls into 2-inch logs. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Cool. Dip one end of each cookie into chocolate coating and roll at once in nuts. Place on waxed paper until set. Makes approximately 7 dozen cookies.
Melt 1 1/2 cups Nestle's Semi Sweet Chocolate morsels and 1 tablespoon shortening over hot (not boiling) water. Stir until mixture is smooth.