In 1939, when she was 13 years old, Rose Marie Tumicki came from Canonsburg to live at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy in Moon. As intended, she graduated in 1943 but stayed on and joined the Felician Sisters.
She's been with them since and, for the most part, on the same 75-acre campus of what's now Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, living in the same provincial house, where she has become very well-known and well-liked for one of her interests.
As another sister quipped upon seeing her walking, with her cane, down one of the halls last week, "It's Sister Cookie!"
Sister Tumicki loves, loves, loves to bake.
She learned how to cook and to bake by having to do it at the convent, which is where she always wanted to be. She recalls dressing up like a nun and teaching empty benches in the yard.
Once she started at OLSH, as the school now calls itself, she couldn't go home and see her family. But her family could come see her. Or she'd telephone to get tips from her Mom, who once wrote out for her a step-by-step plan that she still has for cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Sister Tumicki says her mother was a good cook and baker and, "She put that love into me."
These days, Sister Tumicki still is putting love into her fellow sisters, including the ones who live in a special-care area of the residence, as well as school staffers and others, in the form of cookies and cupcakes and pies, as well as soup and savory dishes.
"Yesterday, I made chocolate-chip cookies," she was saying last Thursday, and while those were from pre-made dough, "Usually I start from scratch."
One of the specialties she's known for -- Holiday Brownies with candied cherries and walnuts that she found in "Taste of Home Baking" -- has been renamed Ruby Jubilee Brownies, because it is one of the desserts that will be served during the OLSH's Legacy Gala. The event -- starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday March 2, at the Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport -- honors her and the other Felician Sisters, 80 years after they founded the place.
The $75-per-ticket event's theme is "Amazing Journey" and the evening will feature a cocktail reception, dinner and assorted auctions (for details and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.olsh.org/advancement/olsh-legacy-gala/give).
But a highlight will be a tray of cookies and other desserts made from recipes from the sisters themselves -- their "Heavenly Favorites."
Most of the 40-some sisters still residing on campus contributed a recipe or a favorite cookie, and those are what are being baked for the event by the school's kitchen staff.
Sister Tumicki's brownies can contain red and green candied cherries, but rubies are the stone recommended for 80th birthdays, so they're going with all red ones this time.
"I hope they taste as good as when I make them," she teased during a visit to the kitchen last week, where Alladin Food Service Management's Sandy Dorn was starting another big make-ahead batch. Manager Sharon Konecsni says in all, they'll bake a total of about 200 dozen of about 30 different cookies and other treats.
The recipes are to be posted on the OLSH website -- http://www.olsh.org -- where they are sure to appeal to others who love, love, love baking, too.
Sister Tumicki absolutely lights up just talking about it -- talking about how she can't help herself from peeking in the oven to watch things rise and brown.
She also loves to see the effect her sweet gifts have on others.
"I just love it when it comes out and it's delicious and everyone loves it."
Ruby Jubilee Brownies
Sister Rose Marie Tumicki says she was drawn to try this brownie recipe because, "I never saw a recipe with cinnamon." She kept making it ever since staffers at Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School raved about it.
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
4 ounces (4 1-ounce squares) unsweetened chocolate
2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups halved red candied cherries, divided
1 cup chopped walnuts
In heavy saucepan melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Cool for 10 minutes. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Fold in 11/4 cups cherries and all the walnuts. Transfer to a greased 13-by-9 inch baking pan. Arrange remaining cherries over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick near the center comes out clean.
Yields 2 dozen brownies.
-- Sister Rose Marie Tumicki
SOUR CREAM HORNS
Sister Alexander Klawinski (at one point, the nuns took male names and some kept them) serves on the board at Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School. Growing up on the South Side, she and her sister, Mary Ann Radziukinas, learned to roll the horns properly. They used to save bacon grease and their mother would re-heat it to add into the cookies, which gave the cookies more flavor.
For the cookies
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 small yeast
1 1/4 cups butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 egg yolks
Sift flour and salt, add yeast which is crumbled in bits and add butter cut in small pieces
Blend in pastry blender until mixture resembles fine cornmeal. Combine sour cream, vanilla and egg yolks. Add to flour mixture.
Divide into 6 parts. Roll each part into a thin circle, and then cut into 12 pie-shaped pieces.
For the filling
5 egg whites beaten until stiff
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup ground nuts (usually walnuts)
Add sugar slowly while beating eggs and carefully fold in the rest of the ingredients.
Put filling on the pie-shaped pieces and roll from larger end to point.
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
-- Sister Alexander Klawinski
Correction: (Published February 28, 2013) An earlier version of this story had an incorrect amount of chocolate.
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Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr. First Published February 28, 2013 5:00 AM