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Holly Ebel: How Gerald became a smart cookie

December 19, 2018

If the name Gerald Dormady rings a bell, there’s a reason.

This gentleman, born and raised in Rochester, has been a finalist in the Post Bulletin’s annual holiday cookie contest at least five times. If not a finalist, he has entered recipes almost from the beginning. In fact, when Jeff Pieters handed over the mound of recipes to me recently, he added, “There’s one from Gerald.”

As it turns out, that cookie was judged the winner. What vaults Dormady’s creations to the top is that they are nicely decorated, tasty, sometimes unusual but always distinctive.

Wanting to know more about how he pulls off these tasty tidbits so often, I decided to pay him a visit.

As is true of so many with a passion for baking, it began in his home kitchen with a mother and grandmother who were excellent bakers, especially around the holidays. He still has his mother’s recipes and uses them, maybe with a tweak here and there.His sisters, also proficient bakers, do the same.

Dormady comes to this with a career spent in the military, both as a cook in the Air Force and then with food services that supplied military bases. He definitely knows his way around the kitchen, though it wasn’t always cookies.

One of his first baking ventures was decorating cakes, everything from birthday cakes to wedding cakes. However after a kerfluffle with a client about cost — he billed $75 and this was in the early ’80s, what a bargain — he decided to do cookies instead. The rest is history. Plus, he says, “Cookies were a whole lot easier.”

Most of his baking happens during the holidays, with four dozen going to the Gift of Life Transplant House. This year included in the donation were his winning mitten cookie, a mint cookie with a lemon glaze, and decorated sugar cookies. A daughter in California gets a big batch, and — lucky me — I also received a tin with a delicious assortment.

As you’d expect from someone who does cookies, Dormady always is on the lookout for new recipes. In fact, he has a three-ring binder chock-full of recipes as well as copies of all the PB cookie contest recipes. An estimate would be close to 75, all neatly organized, not jammed in a drawer like many of us do.

Is there a special ingredient that attracts Dormady to a recipe — say, almond flavoring or coconut?

“No, not really,” he said. “I just want the end result to taste good. I can pretty much tell by looking if it’s going to be a good one. But believe me, I’ve had my share of failures.”

Cookies aren’t the only thing he turns out. Candies are also one of his sweet talents, including raspberry truffles, chocolate-covered cherries, chocolate-covered marshmallows, his take on an Almond Joy, and mint and orange patties.

With the hundreds of dozens of cookies he has baked over the years, is there a favorite? He answered with no hesitation: “A honey cookie. The recipe has been handed down through the years and came from my great grandmother who brought it with her from the Czech Republic. It was my favorite as a child and still is. “ He’s shared the recipe with us.

When Dormady isn’t deciding what to bake or cook next, he drives a van twice daily for Kids on the Go, a door-to-door transportation service for youngsters and young adults with disabilities.

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