December 5, 2004

Welcome Home Bakers and Friends,

Can you believe it, the "holiday season" is here already. Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's are all celebrated in the next few weeks. These festive times are joyously celebrated with family, good friends, and let's not forget, good food. A very special time to make our favorite dishes and desserts for all to enjoy.

The holidays are always a very memorable time for home baker's, who at this time of year, will be presenting their wonderful culinary delights for others to enjoy. I wish all of you good luck and success with your holiday cooking and baking endeavors.

In this special Holiday Edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter, the focus is on recipes for these festive celebrations and also a brief history about these important holidays.

Cranberries is the subject in the Food Tips and Information Section below, and also included is a very delicious recipe (and a definite "comfort food") for Cranberry Bread Pudding which is a perfect dessert for this time of year.

As always, a Guest Submitted recipe is included for your enjoyment, and this month the recipe is for Easy Banana Bread, submitted by Pat Wynn.

I hope you like the recipes below and that some of you will decide to make one or two of them this year for your holiday entertaining. Enjoy!!

Holiday Guest Submitted Recipe

Easy Banana Bread

Makes one (9 x 5-inch) loaf, 10-12 servings

This is a quick and easy banana bread that's really moist. I have made this many times for Christmas gifts for neighbors and friends.

3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix the flour and sugar together. Lightly beat eggs and add the mashed bananas and oil. Mix in the flour/sugar mixture. Add nuts. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees F (160 C). Cool in pan on wire rack.

Makes 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf, 10-12 servings.

Source: Grandma's recipes

Submitted By: Pat Wynn

Thank you Pat for submitting this quick and easy recipe for Banana Bread. It's a great gift-giving idea for the holidays....Diana, Diana's Desserts

Click here to view recipe and photo of Easy Banana Bread on Diana's Desserts Website


Celebrated From Sundown December 7, 2004 Thru December 15, 2004

The Story of Hanukkah

Every year between the end of November and the end of December, Jewish people around the world celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, an 8-day celebration. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, but the starting date on the western calendar varies from year to year. The holiday celebrates the events which took place over 2,300 years ago in the land of Judea, which is now Israel.

Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their God, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee.

Judah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word "Maccabee", which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.

When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N'er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished.

Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days.

Jews celebrate Hanukkah to mark the victory over the Syrians and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. The Festival of the Lights, Hanukkah, lasts for eight days to commemorate the miracle of the oil. The word Hanukkah means "rededication".

In America, families celebrate Hanukkah at home. They give and receive gifts, decorate the house, entertain friends and family, eat special foods, and light the holiday menorah.

Source: Holidays on the Net: http://www.holidays.net/chanukah/story.html

Desserts for Hanukkah

Hanukkah Rugelach

Servings: Makes about 44 cookies

These rolled-up pastries were brought to Israel when the Ashkenazi Jews left Eastern Europe. Happily, these treats have also made their way to the United States.

Rugelach is a very traditional cookie to serve for Hanukkah; sweet and so tasty, everyone will love them.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/226g) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apricot preserves or raspberry jam
1 cup loosely packed golden raisins, chopped
1 1/4 cups walnuts (1/4 lb), finely chopped
Milk for brushing cookies

Special equipment:
Parchment paper
A small offset spatula

Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined well. Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then flatten (in wrap) into a roughly 7- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill until firm, 8 to 24 hours.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Line bottom of a 1- to 1 1/2-inch-deep large shallow baking pan with parchment paper.

Cut dough into 4 pieces. Chill 3 pieces, wrapped in plastic wrap, and roll out remaining piece into a 12- by 8-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment, then transfer to a tray and chill while rolling out remaining dough in same manner, transferring each to another sheet of parchment and stacking on tray.

Whisk 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon.

Arrange 1 dough rectangle on work surface with a long side nearest you. Spread 1/4 cup preserves evenly over dough with offset spatula. Sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins and a rounded 1/4 cup walnuts over jam, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.

Using parchment as an aid, roll up dough tightly into a log. Place, seam side down, in lined baking pan, then pinch ends closed and tuck underneath. Make 3 more logs in same manner and arrange 1 inch apart in pan. Brush logs with milk and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of remaining granulated sugar. With a sharp large knife, make 3/4-inch-deep cuts crosswise in dough (not all the way through) at 1-inch intervals. (If dough is too soft to cut, chill until firmer, 20 to 30 minutes.)

Bake until golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool to warm in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes, then transfer logs to a cutting board and slice cookies all the way through.

Makes about 44 cookies.

Source: Gourmet Magazine May 2004

Click here to view recipe and photo of Hanukkah Rugelach on Diana's Desserts Website

Dreidel Cake

Servings: 12-16

Kids will love this white, blue, and gold decorated dreidel cake for Hanukkah. Just two simple cuts shape a 13 x 9 x 2-inch cake into a giant dreidel, a spinning top that's the traditional Hanukkah toy. Before piping the letter, use a toothpick to outline a guide on the white frosting.

1 1/2 cups solid shortening (such as Crisco)
1 package 2 layer-size yellow cake mix
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons almond extract
6 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons water
Blue food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Bake according to package directions. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening, vanilla and almond extract with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add 3 cups of the confectioners' sugar, beating well. Beat in 3 tablespoons of the water. Gradually beat in remaining confectioners' sugar and enough water to make a spreading consistency. Remove 3/4 cup frosting and set aside. Remove 3/4 cup frosting; add enough blue food coloring to make desired color. Remove 1/2 cup frosting; add enough yellow food coloring to make desired color. Set colored frostings aside.

3. Cut the cake as shown. Assemble cake pieces on a large serving tray, using white frosting to attach pieces.

4. Frost the top and sides of cake with white frosting. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip (#28 or #35) with reserved 3/4 cup white frosting. Decorate cake as desired. Using a pastry bag fitted with a writing tip (#2, #3, or #4) and some of the blue frosting, draw the outline of a Hebrew letter on top of cake. With a pastry bag fitted with the star tip and remaining blue frosting, fill center of the letter. Using a pastry bag fitted with the writing, star, or rose tip (#104) and reserved yellow frosting or any remaining blue frosting, add additional decorations to cake.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Click here to view recipe and photo of Dreidel Cake on Diana's Desserts Website


Celebrated on Saturday December 25, 2004

The Story of Christmas and the Christ Child

When Rome was a great Empire ruled by Caesar Augustus and Israel was governed by King Herod, in the village of Nazareth lived Joseph and Mary. Joseph was a carpenter and Mary was a young virgin who would become his wife. Mary told Joseph of a dream in which she was visited by an angel who told her she had been chosen to bear the Son of God and his name was to be Jesus.

One day the emperor sent notice that all persons were to register for a new tax. They were instructed to return to the towns of their birth. Joseph and Mary left Nazareth for Bethlehem. Mary who was with child, and close to the birth, rode on a donkey while Joseph walked beside her. They traveled for many days and only rested at night.

When they reached Bethlehem it was night. They looked for a place to rest but there were no empty rooms when they reached the inn. As they were being turned away Joseph mentioned his wife was with child and close to birth. The inn keeper took pity on them and told them of some caves in the nearby hills that shepherds would stay with their cows and sheep.

So Joseph and Mary went up into the hills and found the caves. In one cave was a stable room. Joseph cleaned it and made beds of fresh hay. He found a feeding trough which he cleaned and filled with hay to use as a crib. The next night Mary gave birth to a son and they named him Jesus, as the angel had said.

When the child was born a great star appeared over Bethlehem that could be seen for miles around. In the fields nearby shepherds were tending their flocks. An angel appeared to them surrounded by bright light. The shepherds were frightened and tried to run.

"Fear Not," said the angel, "For I bring you tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day in Bethlehem - a Saviour who is Christ the Lord."

"And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

Suddenly the sky was filled with angels, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men."

After the angels departed the shepherds set out for Bethlehem. When they reached the cave they found the stable and inside was the child wrapped in swaddling clothes.

As the star shined over Bethlehem, in the east three kings would see it. They knew it was a sign and they set off to follow the star. There was Caspar - the young King of Tarsus, Melchior - a long bearded old man and leader of Arabia, and Balthazar - the king from Ethiopia. They traveled on camels for many days over the mountains, and through the deserts, and plains. Always following the bright star.

When they finally arrived in Bethlehem they found the child in the manger. The 3 kings bowed to their knees and offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They would stay the night in the cave and the next day returned to their lands to spread the news.

Source: Holidays on the Net: http://www.holidays.net/christmas/story2.htm

Christmas Desserts

Peppermint Cream Filled Yule Log

Servings: 10

Reminiscent of a log on a blazing fire, this traditional Christmas cake symbolizes the warmth and hospitality of the holiday season.

For Cake Roll:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For Ice Cream Filling:
3 cups peppermint stick ice cream

For Frosting
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, cut up
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

To Prepare Cake Roll:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Well-grease and lightly flour a 15 x 10-inch jellyroll pan; set aside. With mixer, beat eggs and vanilla extract in large bowl 3 to 4 minutes or until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time. With mixer at low speed, beat in water. Add flour and baking powder; beat at low speed just until combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately loosen edges from the pan; turn cake out onto a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll up towel and cake, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side. Cool on wire rack. Unroll cake and remove towel.

Ice Cream Filling:
Stir ice cream just until softened; spread over unrolled cake to 1/2 inch from edges. Reroll. Diagonally cut 4-inch piece from an end. Place long roll on serving plate; place cut edge of piece against side to resemble branch. Place in freezer while preparing frosting.

For Frosting:
In heavy saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate. Cook and stir over medium heat until chocolate melts and mixture thickens, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the 3 tablespoons water and peppermint extract. Cook, stirring rapidly, until thickened again, 3 to 4 minutes. Cool 15 minutes or until mixture thickens. Quickly frost cake; return to freezer for 5 minutes. With fork, score wavy lines in frosting. Freeze at least 2 hours. Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Eagle Brand Kitchens

Click here to view recipe and photo of Peppermint Cream Filled Yule Log on Diana's Desserts Website

Holiday Fudge Torte

Servings: 8-10

This delicious fudge torte is perfect for a holiday or Christmas dessert. It is mildly coffee flavored and topped with a rich chocolate nut glaze. A special dessert that your guests will throughly enjoy.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup dairy sour cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fudge Nut Glaze (recipe follows)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease 9-inch round baking pan; line bottom with wax paper. Grease paper; flour paper and pan.

2. Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, instant coffee, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add butter, sour cream, egg and vanilla; beat on low speed of mixer until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 3 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack; gently peel off wax paper. Cool completely.

4. Prepare Fudge Nut Glaze. Place cake on serving plate; pour glaze evenly over cake, allowing some to run down sides. Refrigerate until glaze is firm, about 1 hour. Cover; refrigerate leftover torte.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Fudge Nut Glaze

1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1-1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine all ingredients except nuts and vanilla in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Cool 10 minutes; stir in nuts and vanilla.

Source: Hershey's

Click here to view recipe and photo for Holiday Fudge Torte on Diana's Desserts Website

Saint Nicholas Cake

Servings: Makes 1 (10-inch) cake

This Saint Nicholas Cake represents originality in one of the oldest of all cakes, the fruitcake. Cupcakes may also be made with this recipe. Instructions for making cupcakes follow cake recipe.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or 2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/226g) butter, softened
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons rum or brandy extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cut-up candied cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease and flour a 10-inch (12-cup) bundt or tube pan.

Remove 2 tablespoons flour and mix with fruits and nuts. Combine remaining flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large mixer bowl. Stir well to blend. Add butter, milk and flavoring. Blend on low to mix, then 2 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs and beat 2 minutes more. Stir in floured fruit and nut mixture. Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree F (180 C) oven for 55-60 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn out on wire rack to cool completely. Frost with glaze or sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Makes 1 (10-inch) cake.

2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vanilla
2-3 tablespoons hot water

Combine glaze ingredients, adding enough water to make a thick glaze consistency.

Saint Nicholas Cupcakes
Prepare batter as above. Spoon into 24 large muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 20-25 minutes.

Source: From Baking Festival, advertising leaflet, Robin Hood Flour, Canada, 1986

Click here to view recipe and photo of Saint Nicholas Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Puffed Pastry Snowflakes and Stars

Servings: Makes 60-80 (3-inch) snowflake or star cookies

An easy Christmas puff pastry cookie that is dipped in white chocolate for an extra special treat..Diana

4 frozen puff pastry sheets (2 packages, if using Pepperidge Farms Brand), thawed
12-14 ounces white chocolate, melted
Blue colored coarse sugar, or any color of your choice (optional)
Silver Dragees, small size (optional)

Roll out puff pastry sheets after thawing. Cut thawed, frozen puff pastry sheets with a snowflake or star cookie cutter. Bake puff pastries in a 400 degree F (200 C) oven for about 10 minutes or until golden. Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler. With your hands, lightly dip tops of pastries into melted white chocolate and sprinkle with coarse sugar, and silver dragees, (optional).

Makes 60-80 (3-inch) puff pastry snowflake or star cookies.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Puffed Pastry Snowflakes and Stars on Diana's Desserts Website


Celebrated from December 26, 2004 thru January 1, 2005

The Festival of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a 7 day festival celebrating the African American people, their culture and their history. It is a time of celebration, community gathering, and reflection. A time of endings and beginnings. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th, the day after Christmas, and continues until New Years Day, January 1st.

Each evening a family member, usually the youngest child, lights candles in a special candleholder and discusses one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. On the sixth day, which falls on New Years Eve, family and friends get together to enjoy a large feast and to celebrate their history, culture, and the upcoming new year.

The holiday of Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, during the period of US history in which African Americans were involved in struggles for their civil rights. This was the period of Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights movement, and Black Power.

Dr. Karenga wanted to create a holiday that would bring African Americans together in celebration of their black culture. He was inspired by the "first fruit" or harvest festivals that were celebrated throughout Africa. In fact the name he gave to the holiday, "Kwanzaa," comes from the Kiswahili phrase for "first fruit" - matunda ya kwanza. (Kiswahili, or Swahili, is the largest spoken language on the African continent and thus the language of Kwanzaa). When Dr. Karenga chose the word "kwanza" for the name of his festival he added the extra "a" at the end to give the word greater significance.

Dr. Karenga used these first fruit festivals as his model for Kwanzaa because they shared characteristics which he felt were important. These characteristics were:

1. The people gathered together to celebrate their crops and harvest
2. The people would give thanks to their Creator for a good harvest and life.
3. They would remember and celebrate their ancestors and the past.
4. They allowed the people to recommit themselves to their community.
5. They celebrated their history, culture, Creator, and the promise of the next year.

It was these characteristics that inspired Dr. Karenga when he developed the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles, of Kwanzaa. (Nguzo Saba is Kiswahili for "Seven Principles") These principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These are the foundation of Kwanzaa.

The dates of the celebration, December 26 - January 1, were chosen to correspond to the end of the year celebrations in America. Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas. This to bypass the commercial buying period but to take advantage of the seasonal holiday spirit.

Source: Holidays on the Net: http://www.holidays.net/kwanzaa/story.htm

Desserts for Kwanzaa

Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Orange Cream Frosting

Servings: 10-12

Sweet potatoes make this cake moist and the cranberries and walnuts add texture and color. A lovely cake to serve for your Kwanzaa celebration.

For the Cake:
2 pounds tan-skinned sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup dried cranberries

For the Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
31/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping:
1/4 cup sliced candied orange peel
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries

For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Pierce potatoes with fork; place on small baking sheet. Roast potatoes until soft, about 1 hour. Cool, peel, and mash potatoes. Measure 2 cups mashed potatoes; cool to lukewarm (reserve any remaining potatoes for another use). Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; line pans with parchment. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Combine oil, 1 cup sugar, and brown sugar in large bowl; whisk until smooth. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, then mashed sweet potatoes. Whisk in flour mixture in 3 additions. Stir in the 2/3 cup walnuts and the 2/3 cup cranberries. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pans on racks.

For the Frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, scraping down bowl often. Beat in orange juice concentrate and vanilla.

Cut around pan sides; turn out cakes. Peel off parchment. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Combine orange peel, 3 tablespoons sugar, the 1/4 cup walnuts, and the 1/4 cup cranberries in a small bowl. Stir to coat with sugar. Transfer to sieve; sift off excess sugar. Sprinkle fruit and nut mixture decoratively atop cake. Chill until frosting sets, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Source: Bon Appétit November 2001

Click here to view recipe and photo for Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Orange Cream Frosting on Diana's Desserts Website

Banana Pudding for Kwanzaa

Servings: 6-8

Banana Pudding is a very traditional southern style dessert. Why not make this delicious and simple dessert to serve your guests for your Kwanzaa celebration. It's a definite comfort food for all to enjoy!

For Pudding:
1 (12 oz.) box Vanilla Wafers
2 (4-serving size each) packages Cook and Serve (not instant) Vanilla Pudding or Banana Cream Pudding and Pie Filling mix
4 cups whole or reduced fat milk (do not use fat-free or lactose reduced milk)
3 medium-large size bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

For Topping (optional)
1 (8 oz.) container frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed, or 2 cups prepared whipped cream
Additional Vanilla Wafers, for garnish
1 additional banana, sliced, for garnish
Ground nutmeg

1). Line bottom and sides of 8 x 8 x 1-inch or 1-1/2-quart baking dish with vanilla wafers (use as many wafers as it takes to line bottom and sides of baking dish).

2). Combine pudding mix and milk in saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from heat. Layer slices of banana over vanilla wafers in baking dish, then add a layer of pudding. Repeat layers of vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding (pudding should be the very top layer).

3). Chill pudding in refrigerator until firm, about 3 hours. Spread thawed whipped topping (or whipped cream, if using) over the top of pudding and garnish with vanilla wafers and banana slices, and if desired, sprinkle with a little ground nutmeg.

Makes 6-8 servings.


1). Bananas should be medium ripe, but not overly ripe.

2). Banana pudding may also be layered in individual dessert glasses or dishes.

3). Sprinkle banana slices with a little lemon juice to keep them from getting brown while preparing pudding.

4). The amount of vanilla wafers you use depends on what size and shape baking dish you are making the pudding in. One (12 ounce) box of vanilla wafers will be enough for the pudding and garnish.

Meringue Topping Variation
A meringue topping may be substituted for the non-dairy whipped topping or whipped cream topping. If you are going to make the meringue topping, make it as soon as you finish layering the pudding and spread over top of pudding, sealing to edge of baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees F (160 C) for 15-20 minutes or until meringue is golden but not too brown. Chill pudding in refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.

Meringue Topping

3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Beat egg whites at high speed of a mixer until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue evenly over pudding, sealing to edge of dish. Bake at 325 degrees F (160 C) for 15-20 minutes or until golden.


Combine pudding mix and milk in 1-1/2-quart glass bowl and blend well. Heat in microwave oven on HIGH for 3 minutes. Stir. Heat about 3 minutes longer, stirring every minute, until mixture boils. Remove from oven and proceed as directed above.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo for Banana Pudding for Kwanzaa on Diana's Desserts Website

Food Tips and Information Section


Most Americans think of cranberries as little more than a condiment for their Thanksgiving turkey, but these tart little berries deserve more attention. The health focus on cranberries of late has been on their apparent effect in preventing urinary tract infections. Researchers are not sure of the precise mechanism, but it may be that the tannins in the berries (which contribute to their mouth-puckering tartness) help fight certain bacteria. Cranberries, like a number of other berries, also contain ellagic acid, a cancer-fighting phytochemical.

Cranberries are too tart to eat raw or in any unsweetened form, but they can be combined with sweeter fruits, such as apples or pears, so that very little additional sugar is needed.

Dried cranberries (sometimes called craisins), which are usually sweetened, can be substituted for raisins or other dried fruits in compotes, cookies, and muffins.

The wild cranberries favored by early settlers have been largely replaced by cultivated varieties that are larger, glossier, and more flavorful. Four major varieties of cranberries are now grown commercially in the U.S. They vary somewhat in size and color, but all taste virtually the same.

Only about 10% of the commercial crop is sold fresh; the rest is used either in juice or canned cranberry sauce. Fresh cranberries are available all year round, but are more plentiful beginning in September and through December. Frozen cranberries have become increasingly available.

Shopping for Cranberries
Cranberries are usually sold in bags, and since they're firm, rather than soft like most other berries, they're likely to be in good condition. Check them for firmness and good red color; the bag should contain a minimum of pale berries and debris.

Cranberries store well--about two weeks in the refrigerator, and a year in the freezer. You can put bags of cranberries in the freezer with no further preparation, and can cook with the frozen berries without thawing them.

It's easy to clean and pick over cranberries by placing them in a basin of cold water; twigs, leaves, and unripe berries are easy to spot because they float to the surface. The process should be done quickly, though--you don't want to soak the berries. Cook cranberries with a small amount of liquid (frozen apple juice concentrate is a good choice, because it sweetens the berries too) until the berries pop. Fold cooked berries into homemade applesauce or compote, or try adding them to sliced apples or pears to fill a pie, cobbler, or fruit crisp. If enough sweetener is added, cranberries can be used on their own without any other fruit to fill a tart shell.

Cranberry Nutritional Information

Fresh Cranberries/1 cup raw

Calories: 47
Total fat (g): 0.2
Saturated fat (g): 0
Monounsaturated fat (g): 0
Polyunsaturated fat (g): 0.1
Dietary fiber (g): 4
Protein (g): 0
Carbohydrate (g): 12
Cholesterol (mg): 0
Sodium (mg): 1
Vitamin C (mg): 13

Dried Cranberries/2 ounces

Calories: 209
Total fat (g): 3.7
Saturated fat (g): 0.5
Monounsaturated fat (g): 1
Polyunsaturated fat (g): 2.2
Dietary fiber (g): 14
Protein (g): 2
Carbohydrate (g): 48
Cholesterol (mg): 0
Sodium (mg): 9
Vitamin C (mg): 18

Source: WholeHealthMD - http://www.wholehealthmd.com/refshelf/foods_view/0,1523,144,00.html


Cranberry Bread Pudding

Servings: 8

A simple bread pudding is the perfect use for a day-old baguette or coarse country loaf. These breads have a similar texture and both have a rather bland flavor when stale-the perfect foil for a flavorful custard. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch slices, then cut again into 3/4-inch cubes. These bite-size pieces are perfect for soaking up all the custard yet still hold together well enough to give the dessert some texture.

12 slices day-old baguette, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
4 cups milk
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Lightly butter an 8-inch (20cm) square baking dish. Spread the bread cubes in it.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until well blended. Pour in the milk and whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand, pressing down on the bread occasionally, until it is evenly soaked, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Scatter the cranberries evenly over the surface of the soaked bread and press to submerge the fruit. Set the baking dish in a large, shallow roasting pan. Add very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake the pudding until a knife inserted near the center comes out almost clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Generously dust the top of each slice with confectioners' sugar.

Makes 8 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Cranberry Bread Pudding on Diana's Desserts Website

Turkish Delight for Holiday Gift-Giving

Servings: Makes approximately 80 pieces

Turkish towns are lined with sweet stalls selling unbelievable arrays of these aromatic treats and a relaxing hour spent acquiring each flavor is a traveler's essential.

A British man must have been doing just that when he labeled them Turkish Delight, but their true name is Rahat Lokum, which means 'little bite of contentment'.

These blissful sweets are usually served on birthdays or other special occasions and because they last for up to six months, most Turkish households have them on hand. Allow their soft texture and exotic taste to bring a sigh to someone's lips. Place the pretty bites in a box amid dustings of confectioners' sugar and finish with an organza ribbon for a truly lovely and different gift for the holidays.

This appealing candy is easy to make at home. Rosewater can be found at specialty food stores* (See note below on Where to Buy Rose Water online). When the sugar syrup boils, coat the inside of the saucepan with a brush dipped in water to prevent sugar crystals from forming.

4 cups granulated sugar
4-1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1-1/2 tablespoons Rosewater
Red or yellow food coloring (optional)
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Oil a 9-inch square pan. Line with plastic wrap and oil the plastic wrap.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, 1-1/2 cups of the water, and the lemon juice. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (240 degrees F/115 degrees C). Remove the pan from the heat.

In a second large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1 cup cornstarch and the cream of tartar. Gradually stir in the remaining 3 cups of water until no lumps remain. Stir constantly, until the mixture boils and is a thick, gluey paste.

Slowly pour the hot sugar, water, and lemon juice syrup into the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often to prevent sticking, for about 1 hour, or until the mixture has become a pale golden color.

Stir in the rosewater and tint as desired with food coloring. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Cool to room temperature and let stand, uncovered, overnight to set.

Sift the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch onto a large cutting board. Turn the Turkish Delight out and cut into 1-inch squares with an oiled knife. Roll pieces in the sugar mixture to coat well. Store in an airtight container with sheets of waxed paper, dusted with the sugar mixture, separating every layer.

*Note Where to Buy Rosewater Online Rosewater may be purchased online at: www.kalustyans.com or at: www.chefshop.com.

Makes approximately 80 pieces.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Turkish Delight on Diana's Desserts Website

Until Next Year

I hope you've enjoyed these festive holiday recipes in this special edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter.

I want to wish all of you a wonderful, joyous and peaceful holiday season, and that the New Year of 2005 brings you all the best.

My husband Kenny and I will be taking a break during the month of January, and I will be back with the next edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter in February, just in time to bring you some very special recipes for Valentine's Day which falls on February 14th.

I want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of my website since I started Diana's Desserts in February 2002, and to those of you who have submitted and shared your favorite recipes with us, a big thank you goes out to all of you.

Please continue to enjoy your baking and making of desserts and sharing your great goodies with others. As I always say, "As home baker's, we have much to share".

My husband Kenny and I wish you a Happy Chanukah, a Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanzaa. Peace and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Sincerely, Diana Baker Woodall and Kenny Woodall

Diana's Desserts
A Website Dedicated to Home Bakers

E-mail Address: diana@dianasdesserts.com