She’d rather bake than cook
by Sandy Bond
Amber Gill paraphrases silver screen icon Greta Garbo saying “I want to be alone,” as she completes the delicate work on a three-layer wedding cake entrusted to her.
The men-folk know to stay out of the kitchen.
It’s a tough request because Michael, 8, Gabriel, 11, Hunter, 13, and husband Randy are immensely proud of her-as a wife, a mom, cook, baker, full-time Certified Medic Aide (C.M.A.) and student.
Michael and Gabriel leaf through her “cake book” pointing out photo after photo documenting Amber’s best edible art and recalling for whom it was custom crafted.
Her mom loved the birthday cake featuring a chubby little troll. Her dad requested a “pig in a blanket.” On her culinary canvas, fish leap from mountain streams and a five-point buck is king of the forest prepared with lots of love. Randy’s grandfather, a retired farmer, requested a barnyard motif with edible haystack.
In addition to cake, one of the boys’ favorites is tiny chocolate candy bars encased in croissants.
“I consider myself foremost a baker, but not a cook,” she said. “My mother-in-law Beatrice Gill and I have at least one thing in common, we hate to cook! My mom is the cook in the family.”
The daughter of Doug and Marcia Schneider, Amber and her younger brother Shawn, 32, grew up in suburban Mandan, N.D., where their dad was in sales and their mom was a cook for the school district.
Amber’s mentor was maternal grandmother Martha Kuntz who she said is a phenomenal baker. Amber derived great joy from helping her in the kitchen.
“By the time I was 13, I was baking all the time,” she said.
However, she recalls one of her greatest cooking catastrophes came when she baked brownies as a surprise for her family.
“I inadvertently substituted the salt for sugar,” she said. “It looked fine-but was totally inedible.”
She admitted she hasn’t totally mastered wrestling with a spring form pan.
Randy and she dated and fell in love in high school and they wed several months after she graduated from Mandan High School in 1997.
Randy was employed by the Bobcat Manufacturing Company in Bismarck and Amber was the primary caregiver for the boys. She took particular delight in her part-time job at Magic Candle Cakery, where she learned the fundamentals of cake decorating.
When the Bobcat Manufacturing Company closed their doors December 31, 2009, Randy enrolled in Bismarck State College and received a degree in Power Plant Technology in 2010. He was able to apply this knowledge to become a certified water plant technician for WEB Water.
Amber became a C.M.A. at the Golden Living Center in Mobridge. She learned about a degree program through Sitting Bull College to enable students to become a registered nurse.
“I thought I would learn a little about it, and put it on hold for later,” she said. “However, thanks to the support I received from Jan Brockel at Sitting Bull College, the staff and my coworkers at the Golden Living Center and the information I received about scholarships through the facility, I enrolled for the spring semester.”
Balancing a full-time job and a full course load, she modestly but proudly concedes that she received a perfect 4.0 for her first semester.
It will probably take another three years for her to receive her nursing degree, but it will be worth all the hard work, she said.
“I absolutely love taking care of others,” she said. “But I couldn’t do it without the support of my family; they’ve been great.”
In their spare time, the family enjoys camping. Amber enjoys accompanying her men far afield in their hunting and fishing excursions; the trophy wall above their sofa is a testament to their success with many fine whitetail deer and antelope mounts.
A huge toothy northern was caught by Randy’s dad on Randy’s pole. They share bragging rights.
Although most of her reading has been from textbooks of late, in her spare time she has enjoyed reading “The Hunger Games,” a futuristic novel by Suzanne Collins, she said. She also enjoys the murder mysteries by Joann Flucks set in a bakery with at least one recipe in every novel.
Amber Gill’s Recipes
(Made on a waffle iron)
1 cup butter (melted)
1 ½ cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
2 cups flour
4 eggs (beaten)
2 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together. Drop 1 tsp. in each square of the waffle iron. Bake 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Can frost with chocolate frosting or roll in powdered sugar. Very quick and easy soft cookie.
(“My boys eat them faster than I can make them.”)
Mom’s Apple Crumble
5-6 medium apples (peeled and chopped)
¾ cup quick cooking oatmeal
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
½ cups butter
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
Place apples in a 9-inch by 9-inch pan. Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until crumbly. (You can use 2 knifes or pastry blender. I use my hands because it goes faster. Sprinkle crumble mixture over apples and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with extra sugar, cinnamon, and a little flour if you want extra taste. Enjoy warm or cold. If you want a thicker crumble topping double the recipe.
1 cup butter
3 cups brown sugar
2 cups cocoa powder
4 heaping Tbsp. instant coffee
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2-½ Tbsp. cinnamon
12 oz. vanilla yogurt
4 ½ cups flour
White sugar for rolling cookie balls in.
Mini chocolate chips (optional)
Beat butter in large bowl on high for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, cocoa, instant coffee, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scrapping sides of bowl often. Beat in eggs and yogurt until combined. Slowly add flour. Chill dough for about an hour or so. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Make dough ball the size of a large walnut and roll in white sugar. You may want to roll 2 times. Place on an ungreased or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes rotating pan half way through. Makes about 80 to 100 cookies. Can be cut in half.
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla
½ pkg. (7 to 8 oz.) almond paste
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat flour, butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until all combined. Cut almond paste into ½ inch slices and then cut into fourths. Shape 1-inch balls of dough around each piece of almond paste. Gently roll to form ball. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom is golden brown. Cool completely. Dip tops of cookies into almond glaze.
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. almond extract
4 to 5 tsp. milk or water
Mix all ingredients until smooth and spreadable.