December 18, 2005

Welcome Home Baker's and Friends,

Before I get started with the holiday recipes, I want to say that I hope you had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving and that many of you were able to spend this special day with your family or friends or both.

My husband Kenny and I had a lovely day and we also had a wonderful meal. We had a spiral sliced baked ham, seasoned green beans with sliced almonds and sourdough herb stuffing. Kenny made individual little ramekins of mashed sweet potatoes that were flavored with brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, chopped pecans and topped with marshmallow cream then baked in the oven. So very rich and decadent that I could only eat a few spoonfuls. For dessert, we had a lovely applesauce spice cake that I had made the day before. All in all it was a quiet and very peaceful (and filling) day and evening.

I know that so many of you anticipate the holiday season with some "nervousness" as there is so much to do and this is also the time of year that we do most of our "special" baking, so I hope I can put your minds to ease by sharing with you some easy but also very special beverage and dessert recipes that will help you enjoy your holiday season with less worry and stress.

The recipes below can be made for any of the festive holidays in December such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and also New Year's Eve. I am hoping you will enjoy these recipes and make one or two of them for YOUR particular special holiday.

Enjoy the recipes......Diana

Holiday Dates 2005

Sunday December 25

Begins at Sundown, Sunday December 25

Monday December 26

New Year's Eve
Saturday December 31

Holiday Guest Submitted Recipe

This month's Guest Submitted Recipe for Chunky Pecan Bars comes from Kara's Kitchen. As Kara says "These are like a pecan pie to go. I make these bars on Thanksgiving and Christmas! You must try them."

Chunky Pecan Bars

Servings: 6 dozen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) cold butter

3 eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup of Karo dark corn syrup
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Combine flour, brown sugar and butter until crumbly. Press mixture in prepared baking pan, bake 10-15 minutes. Combine filling ingredients and pour over crust and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes 6 dozen bars.

Source: Kara's Kitchen

Submitted By: Kara

Click here to view recipe and photo of Chunky Pecan Bars on Diana's Desserts Website

Holiday Beverages

Why not serve one or two of these festive beverages during the holiday season. They will surely help take the chill off those cold winter days and nights and your guests will thank you for them.......Diana

Hot Cocoa with Variations

Servings: 5 (8 oz.) servings

Greet your holiday guests with something warm, sweet and chocolatey. Hot Cocoa is a fine choice. The children will love it served with whipped cream or mini marshmallows.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
14 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 cups (32 oz/1 qt./1 litre) milk
1/3 cup hot water
Dash salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish: (optional)
Miniature marshmallows or sweetened whipped cream
Chocolate curls

1. Stir together sugar, cocoa and salt in medium saucepan; stir in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Add milk; stirring constantly, heat to serving temperature. Do Not Boil.

2 Remove from heat; add vanilla. Beat with rotary beater or whisk until foamy. Serve topped with marshmallows or whipped cream and chocolate curls, if desired.

Makes 5 (8-oz.) servings.


Add one of the following with the vanilla extract:

Spiced Cocoa:
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Serve with cinnamon stick, if desired.

Mint Cocoa:
1/2 teaspoon mint extract OR 3 tablespoons crushed hard peppermint candy OR 2 to 3 tablespoons white creme de menthe. Serve with peppermint candy stick, if desired.

Citrus Cocoa:
1/2 teaspoon orange extract OR 2 to 3 tablespoons orange liqueur.

Swiss Mocha:
2 to 2-1/2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee.

Cocoa Au Lait:
Omit marshmallows or whipped cream. Spoon 2 tablespoons softened vanilla ice cream on top of each cup of cocoa at serving time.

Slim-Trim Cocoa:
Omit sugar. Combine cocoa, salt and water; substitute nonfat milk. Proceed as above. With vanilla, stir in sugar substitute with sweetening equivalence of 1/2 cup sugar.

Canadian Cocoa:
1/2 teaspoon maple extract.

Microwave Single Serving:
In microwave-safe cup or mug, combine 1 heaping teaspoon unsweetened cocoa, 2 heaping teaspoons sugar and dash salt. Add 2 teaspoons cold milk; stir until smooth. Fill cup with milk. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until hot. Stir to blend; serve.

Source: Recipe Adapted from Hershey's

Click here to view recipe and photo for Hot Cocoa on Diana's Desserts Website

Holiday Mulled Cider

Servings: 6

Serve this to your family and friends for a festive drink during the holiday season. It's a delicious warm and soothing drink for a chilly day or evening.

1 large lemon, cut in half
1 medium orange, cut in half
16 whole cloves
4 cups clear apple juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup honey
4 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Cut two slices (1/4-inch thick) from each lemon and orange half. Insert whole cloves into slices; set aside. Squeeze juice from remainder of fruit halves into a medium non-reactive saucepan. Stir in apple juice and honey; mix well. Add cinnamon sticks, ginger and reserved fruit slices. Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Strain cider if desired and place one or two cinnamon sticks in each glass or cup. Serve immediately in a heatproof serving bowl.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: If desired, a little brandy can be added to the cider to give it that extra "zip", or leave it alcohol-free so the kids can enjoy it also.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Holiday Mulled Cider on Diana's Desserts Website

Hot Buttered Rum

Servings: 8-10

What a wonderful drink to serve on a chilly winter's night. A perfect warm holiday drink to serve for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year's Eve.

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
8 to 10 cups apple cider or juice
1 to 2 cups dark rum
8 to 10 cinnamon sticks (about 3 1/2 inches each) optional

In a 1-1 1/2-quart pan over medium heat, stir butter until melted. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice; stir. Add sugar. Remove from heat; mix well.

In a 4-5 quart pan over high heat, bring cider to a boil, about 15 minutes.

Combine butter mixture and hot cider in a pitcher or thermos. To serve, pour hot spiced cider into mugs (12 oz.) and to each add 2 to 3 tablespoons rum, to taste. Stir with cinnamon sticks or spoons.

Makes 8-10 servings.

To make hot spiced cider, omit rum. Up to 1 week ahead, make spiced butter-sugar mixture (step 1); cool, cover, and chill.

To Transport:
Put hot spiced cider in a thermos; carry rum separately at room temperature.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Hot Buttered Rum on Diana's Desserts Website

Hanukkah Holiday Punch

Servings: 12-16 (cold version)

This delicious combination of fruit juices and ginger ale make a terrific Hanukkah holiday punch. Grape juice may be substituted for the red wine, so non-drinkers and children can also enjoy this festive punch.

This punch can be made for any of the festive holidays celebrated in December, not just Hanukkah. If you're not making it for Hanukkah, and you're not Jewish, you may use regular red wine instead of Kosher red wine.

For a "Warm" Variation (6-8 servings)

If you prefer to serve a warm beverage; place all the ingredients in a large saucepan (omitting the ginger ale and ice cubes). Add a sachet of mulling spices and 2 tablespoons of sugar and heat to just below boiling point and keep this temperature for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the sachet of mulling spices, pour warm mixture into punch bowl, and garnish with the sliced oranges and apples for an attractive and festive presentation. This warm variation makes 6-8 servings.

3 cups Kosher red wine (or substitute with grape juice for the children)
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup apple juice
1 liter (32 oz/1 quart) bottle ginger ale or lemon-lime soda (club soda may be substituted for a less sweet punch)
Ice cubes

Sliced oranges and chopped apples

Place all ingredients in a large punch bowl (except for ginger ale, ice cubes and garnish). Place in refrigerator to chill. Before serving, add ginger ale (or lemon-lime soda, or club soda) and ice cubes. Garnish with sliced oranges and chopped apples. When serving, use ladle to pour into punch glasses or cups.

Makes 12-16 servings (cold version).

Source: DianasDesserts.com

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

The Desserts

Festive English Trifle

Servings: 10-12

I would consider this to be "the star of the show" for serving at any festive holiday occasion. It certainly makes a grand impression for either a very special Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa dessert. Your guests will be so impressed.

1 cup dried tart cherries
3 Bosc, Anjou or Bartlett pears
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups raspberry jam
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (see note below)
1 store-bought or homemade sponge cake or 1 store-bought or homemade 9 x 5-inch pound cake
1 cup sherry or Madeira or sweet Marsala
Homemade Vanilla Custard (see recipe below) or store-bought Vanilla Pudding Mix (large size box, 4.3 ounces) or Bird's Ready-Made Custard (about 4 cups)

For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Special Equipment:
You will need a 2 1/2 quart (liter) trifle bowl or other flat-bottomed clear glass bowl.

Prepare the Vanilla Custard or Vanilla Pudding Mix, if using. (See recipe below for Homemade Vanilla Custard). If you are making the Vanilla Pudding Mix, let cool before using, or chill Vanilla Custard in fridge for 4-6 hours before using in recipe. Of course, if using the Bird's ready-made custard, there is no preparation, just use in recipe at room temperature.

Put the dried cherries in a small bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to plump the cherries. Drain. Reserve about 2 tbsp. of the cherries for garnish.

Peel the pears, halve lengthwise, core and cut the pears crosswise into thin slices. Put them in a bowl, add the lemon juice and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the jam with the warm water and stir. Reserve about 2 tbsp. of the almonds for garnish.

Cut the sponge cake (or pound cake, if using) into slices 1/2 inch thick. In a 2 1/2-quart trifle dish or deep glass bowl, make a layer of one-third of the cake slices, cutting and fitting them together as necessary. Sprinkle the cake layer with one-third of the sherry. Dollop one-third of the jam mixture over the cake. Sprinkle the jam with one-third each of the pears, cherries and almonds, in that order. Pour 1 1/3 cups of the vanilla custard (or vanilla pudding) over the top. Repeat to make 2 more layers.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the trifle for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

About 30 minutes before serving, make the whipped cream: In a deep bowl, using a balloon whisk, beat the cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon the cream over the top of the trifle. Garnish with the reserved cherries and almonds. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. To serve, scoop out large spoonfuls, going down to the bottom layer.

Vanilla Custard

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To Prepare the Custard:
In a medium size heavy saucepan, stir the sugar, flour, ground nutmeg and salt. Gradually stir in milk, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Pour into bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted for the custard in this recipe. Use the larger size box of pudding mix (4.3 oz. size), and follow directions on pudding box to prepare pudding. Let pudding cool before layering the trifle. Also, store-bought ready-made custard may be used. If you are going to use vanilla pudding mix or ready-made custard instead of making the homemade custard, then making it the same day will be fine, otherwise the homemade vanilla custard should be made the day before preparing the trifle.

To toast the slivered almonds, in a small, dry fry pan over medium-low heat, stir the almonds frequently until they are fragrant and begin to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Festive English Trifle on Diana's Desserts Website

Chocolate Cranberry Torte

Another show-stopper!

Serve this scrumptious torte with the luscious-raspberry liqueur sauce on the side. A dessert your guests will not soon forget. What a great holiday memory!

Servings: 8-10

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord (black raspberry liqueur)

1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup Chambord (black raspberry liqueur)
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/226g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whipping cream
10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Chambord (black raspberry liqueur)

Fresh mint leaves

For Sauce:
Bring first 3 ingredients to boil in saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; cook until cranberries burst, about 5 minutes. Transfer to processor; puree. Strain puree into bowl; discard seeds. Mix in Chambord. Cover; chill at least 2 hours or overnight (sauce will thicken).

For Torte:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (180 C). Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Stir 3/4 cup cranberries and Chambord in small saucepan over medium heat until liqueur simmers, about 1 minute. Cool to room temperature. Drain cranberries; reserve liqueur and cranberries separately.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until beginning to bubble at edges. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; let stand 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in sugar, then eggs 1 at a time (batter will look grainy). Whisk in reserved liqueur. Add flour and salt; whisk gently until blended. Stir in reserved cranberries; transfer to prepared pan.

Bake torte until top is puffed and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with moist (not wet) batter attached, about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan on rack. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.)

For Glaze:
Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in Chambord. Let stand until glaze is thick but still pourable, whisking occasionally, about 2 hours.

Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; place cake rack in center. Cut around torte to loosen; remove pan sides. Place 8-inch-diameter cardboard round or 8-inch tart pan bottom on top of torte. Holding cardboard and springform pan bottom, turn torte over and place on rack. Remove pan bottom; peel off paper. Pour 1 1/2 cups glaze over torte. Using icing spatula, smooth glaze over top and sides (re-apply any glaze from foil if necessary). Freeze torte until glaze is set, about 10 minutes. Pour remaining 1 cup glaze over torte and smooth evenly. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup dried cranberries around top edge. Freeze until glaze is firm, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to platter. Cover with cake dome and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Arrange fresh mint leaves between cranberries at top edge of torte. Cut into wedges and serve with sauce.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Source: Bon Appétit December 2003

Click here to view recipe and photo of Chocolate Cranberry Torte on Diana's Desserts Website

Puffed Pastry Snowflakes and Stars

These fun to make and tasty cookies are great for Gift-Giving during the holidays. If making for gift-giving, wrap them in clear, red or green cellophane paper and tie with red or green ribbon. Many compliments will come your way with these wonderful holiday cookies when given as a homemade holiday gift. People really do appreciate something that comes from your home "kitchen".

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.

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 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.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall© 2003

Source: DianasDesserts.com

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

International Holiday Treats

Italian Panforte

This would make a wonderful treat to bring to your hosts home for a special holiday gift for all to share during this festive time of year! Also, makes a nice ending to your holiday meal. Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee, espresso, or tea.

Servings: Makes 1 (8-inch) cake

Panforte is the quintessential sweet of Tuscany at Christmas. It is believed that the Montecelles Nunnery in Siena created the first Panforte about the year 1,000 AD, and today this medieval sweet remains very much un-changed. A stroll through the city of Siena reveals several Panforte bakeries that satisfy any appetite for this luscious confection all year long. Panforte is a dense, rich concentration of candied orange peel, citron, chopped almonds, spices, honey, butter and sugar, shaped into a low, round disc. Panforte can be made with or without cocoa (or melted chocolate). This recipe includes unsweetened cocoa.

Note: Panforte can also be made in a square pan lined with edible rice paper and topped with rice paper before baking.

1/2 lb. whole almonds
1/2 lb. whole hazelnuts
6 oz. dried figs or other dried fruit (such as apricots or pineapple)
5 oz. dark raisins
5 oz. golden raisins
Rind of 1 orange
Rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon mace
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Toast almonds and hazelnuts on baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F (150 C). Line an 8-inch round cake pan with aluminum foil.

2. If using a food processor: Place figs (or other dried fruit), raisins, and orange and lemon rinds into food processor. Mix ingredients and process to puree. If processing manually: On a cutting board, finely chop figs (or other dried fruit), raisins, and orange and lemon rinds to a paste. Place mixture into a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

3. Sift together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, pepper, and mace. Add to dried fruit puree or mixture.

4. In a 1-quart saucepan heat honey, sugar, and orange juice until sugar dissolves. Carefully pour hot liquid into dried fruit and flour mixture. Add toasted nuts and stir to combine. Place fruit and nut mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 55 minutes.

5. Cool in pan 10 minutes. While Panforte cools, dust a 12-inch square of foil with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar. Turn Panforte upside down onto coated foil and peel back foil used to line pan. Dust top with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar. Cool completely.

6. Cut into 32 (1-inch/3cm) squares or cut into very thin wedges and serve immediately. To give as a gift, cut into quarters, cover in plastic wrap, and tie with ribbon.

Makes 16-32 servings (depending on the size you slice the pieces).

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

Danish Aebleskiver

A traditional Danish dessert served especially during the Christmas holiday season.

Servings: 2 dozen

What are Aebleskiver?

A traditional Danish sweet. Aebleskiver are often called "Danish doughnuts," but unlike doughnuts they are not deep-fried. They are traditionally prepared from a batter flavored with beer, spices, and citrus zest, that is leavened with baking powder (as well as eggs). Aebleskiver are cooked on top of the stove in a special pan known as an "aebleskivepande". The pan has deep individual half sphere indentations that form the aebleskiver as they cook. The batter is added to the indentations in the hot buttered pan, filling each about two-thirds full. Once the "doughnuts" have set on the bottom they are turned over and cooked on the other side, producing a round ball at the end of the cooking process. The traditional "old-country" way to turn the aebleskiver in the pan is to spear them with a knitting needle or a metal skewer. A small amount of jam or a slice of apple is sometimes inserted into the center of the Aebleskiver before turning them. The name aebleskiver translates to "apple slice." The cooked pastries are served warm, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting tops, OR, if desired, use granulated sugar for rolling aebleskiver in.

Special Equipment:
You will need an Aebleskiver Pan*

*Aebleskiver pans may be purchased online at: Amazon.com, Cooking.com, at Solvangmall.com, at other cooking stores on the internet, or at specialty cooking stores.

Optional Fillings:
Sliced apples

Beat egg yolks until light and fluffy; add the sugar and salt.

Sift the flour with baking powder and baking soda; then add to the egg mixture, alternating small amounts with the addition of the buttermilk, as you continue mixing.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold them into the batter.

On stovetop, preheat the aebleskiver pan on medium heat. Place approximately 1/2 teaspoon butter in each cavity and heat until butter is foamy.

Pour a little batter into each cavity in pan, filling each about 2/3 full.

*Note: If you wish to fill the aebleskiver with a little applesauce or sliced apple, jam, jelly, or preserves; spoon a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) into the center of each cavity at this point in cooking.

Cook aebleskiver over medium heat until golden brown and crisp on bottom. Turn each aebleskiver with a fork to cook the other side.

The aebleskiver is done when a toothpick, or cake tester, inserted in the center comes out clean. The total cooking time is about 2-3 minutes.

Important Note:
Add a little more butter to the aebleskiver pan cavities after making each batch.

Remove aebleskiver from pan and dust with confectioners' sugar, or roll them in granulated sugar. Serve while still warm with jam or applesauce.

You can add a small amount of ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, vanilla extract, grated lemon or orange zest to this recipe if desired.

Aebleskiver may be refrigerated and are delicious re-warmed in the microwave for 25-35 seconds.

Makes approximately 2 dozen aebleskiver.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall© 2001

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Greek Kourambiedes Cookies

Servings: Makes 4 dozen cookies

Greek shortbread is prepared mainly during Christmas. It is filled with almonds and sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

In Greece, the big midwinter feast isn't Christmas but New Year's Day. It's the feast day of St. Basil, the founder of the Greek church, and on that day everyone has a vasilopitta -- Basil's bread --a big sweet bread with a cross baked on top and a coin buried inside. You cut a slice for everyone, and the tradition is that whoever gets the gold will be lucky that year. But there are also foods special to Christmas, stuffed turkey with chestnuts, rice, raisins, pine nuts and spices. And everyone has to have something sweet on hand for the carolers who come to the house: nuts and raisins, and traditional cookies like KOURAMBIEDES, which are GREEK SHORTBREADS, or diples, which are supposed to look like Christ's swaddling clothes.

1/2 cup blanched almonds
16 oz. unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. cognac, or other brandy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Whole cloves (optional)
Confectioners' sugar (about 1 pound), for sifting over tops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Spread almonds in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; cool, and chop coarsely.

Beat softened butter in large bowl of electric mixer on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add the 3 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar; continue beating 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, cognac and vanilla; beat until smooth. Mix in almonds, flour and baking powder until mixed well (if dough is too soft to handle, add additional flour). Shape tablespoons of dough between your palms and roll into round balls or oval shaped or crescent shaped cookies. Place (push down slightly) one whole clove on top of each cookie, (optional).

Bake on ungreased baking sheets until set and very pale golden in color, about 15 minutes. The shortbread cookies should not be too brown, a very light color, almost no color. Remove cookies to cooling rack. Place remaining confectioners" sugar into sifter, and while cookies are still hot, sift confectioners" sugar over tops.

When cookies are completely cool, roll cookies in confectioners' sugar, and then repeat this rolling in sugar one more time. Place each cookie in a pretty paper muffin cup for serving.

Makes: 4 dozen cookies.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Greek Kourambiedes Cookies on Diana's Desserts Website

More Holiday Treats

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

Here's a treat that both the kids and adults will love.

Servings: 16

Brownies made with pumpkin and chocolate chips? A perfect brownie for the holidays.

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Coat a 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine sugar, pumpkin, egg, egg whites and oil in large mixer bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Add flour, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg. Beat on low speed until batter is smooth. Stir in morsels. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Makes 16 (2-inch) brownies.

Source: Nestle USA

Click here to view recipe and photo of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies 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.

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) unsalted 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' (icing) sugar
1 tablespoon soft butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vanilla extract
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 to 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


Hanukkah Pistachio Cookies

Servings: Makes 30 cookies

During Hanukkah, it's traditional to partake in homemade treats to commemorate the annual Jewish celebration of freedom. These specially shaped shortbread-style cookies, with decorative icing, help pass the venerated tradition from generation to generation.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup margarine (at least 80 percent vegetable oil)
1/3 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 C). In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour and sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut in margarine until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Stir in pistachios. Form mixture into ball. Knead just until smooth. Wrap dough. Chill for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

2. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a 10 x 6-inch rectangle. Cut the dough with decorative 2-inch cookie cutters or slice into thirty 2 x 1-inch strips. Place cut shapes or strips 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack; cool for 30 minutes.

4. In a medium mixing bowl combine powdered sugar, orange juice, and vanilla. Stir in additional juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the icing reaches piping consistency. If desired, tint a portion of the icing with food coloring. Decorate cookies as desired with icing. Store in a tightly covered container.

Makes 30 cookies.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

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


Serve these crunchy little cakes (also called wafers) at your Kwanzaa parties and celebrations as a delicious appetizer before the meal or a light treat after dinner.

Benne Cakes

Servings: 3 dozen

Benne cakes are traditionally associated with the Deep South, where bennes with sesame seeds are considered good luck. The recipe actually originated in West Africa, and is enjoyed the world over for its wonderful taste. Wafers and cookies made from benne are now a part of Kwanzaa ("first fruit" in Swahili), the African-American family festival that lasts from December 26 through January 1.

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (160 C) and lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and stir in the sesame seeds. Drop by the teaspoonful onto the prepared cookie sheet about two inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes 3 dozen Benne Cakes

Click here to view recipe and photo of Benne Cakes on Diana's Desserts Website

And Last But Not Least, A Champagne Cocktail for New Year's Eve

Champagne Cocktail

Servings: 1

A wonderful cocktail for New Years Eve, or for anytime you want to celebrate a special occasion.

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 dash Angustora bitters
1/2 cup chilled Champagne
1 sugar cube
Lemon peel

Stir sugar and bitters in pre-chilled Champagne glass. Add Champagne. Drop sugar cube into glass (it should land on the bottom). If desired, twist lemon peel over top and drop into glass.

Makes 1 champagne cocktail.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Champagne Cocktail on Diana's Desserts Website

Until Next Year

Well, that's it for this years special holiday edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter. I hope you've enjoyed viewing the recipes and also hope you'll make some of these festive drinks and desserts.

My wish to all of you is for a very peaceful and joyous holiday time and that you get to spend many happy moments with your friends and family.

Diana's Desserts Newsletter will return next year, most likely in February for a special Valentine's Day edition.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and wishing you all a wonderful New Year 2006.

Sincerely, Diana

Diana's Desserts

Diana's Desserts
A Website Dedicated to Home Bakers

E-mail Address: diana@dianasdesserts.com