The holiday season is upon us, and there is no better time to start getting those holiday favorites ready for baking, filling your home with holiday cheer. Here are some of my favorites, which I have gathered over the years.
SPICY HOLIDAY FRUIT BARS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped mixed candied fruit and peels
Stir together the ﬁrst seven ingredients in a bowl; set aside. Beat shortening in large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until ﬂuffy. Add buttermilk, molasses and egg. Gradually add ﬂour mixture, beating until combined. Stir in nuts, raisins and 1/3 cup candied fruit. Spread on greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Bake at 350º for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly in pan on wire rack. Frost with orange icing (see below). Decorate with additional candied fruit and peels, if desired. Cut into bars. Yield: 48 bars.
Orange icing: Stir together 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon ﬁnely shredded orange peel, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and enough orange juice (about 2 tablespoons) to make icing of spreading consistency.
PISTACHIO COOKIE STICKS
1-1/4 cups all-purpose ﬂour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 stick butter (no substitutes)
1/4 cup ﬁnely chopped pistachios
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 teaspoon shortening
Stir together ﬂour, sugar and cardamom in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles ﬁne crumbs. Stir in pistachios. Form mixture into a ball and place on a lightly ﬂoured surface. Knead until smooth. Pat or roll dough into a 10-by-6-inch rectangle and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325º for 25 to 30 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cut into 3-by-1-inch sticks while the dough is still warm. Cool on wire racks. Melt semisweet chocolate morsels and shortening in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Yield: 18 to 20 pistachio sticks
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Nut Slices
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter or margarine
2 cups all-purpose ﬂour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 pound ground walnuts or pecans
Beat cream cheese and butter or margarine in bowl with electric mixer until well-combined. Add flour; mix well. Shape into ball. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours. Cook sugar and milk in saucepan over medium heat until milk boils and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add nuts. Remove from heat; cool until spreadable. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to form an 18-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Spread each with nut filling. Starting from along side, roll up each strip, jelly roll-style. Cut rolls crosswise in half. Place, seam side down, on ungreased cookie sheets. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices without separating. Bake at 350º for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Let cool slightly. Remove; cool on racks. Yield: about 5 dozen.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 sticks butter or margarine
6 to 7 tablespoons cold water
2/3 cup prepared mincemeat
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
Stir together flour, brown sugar, nutmeg and baking powder. Cut in butter or margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle water, one tablespoon at a time, over mixture until all is moistened, tossing gently with a fork. Form dough into a ball. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour until easy to handle. Combine mincemeat and orange peel in a small bowl; set aside. Divide dough into quarters. On a floured surface, roll two of the quarters into 12-by-4-inch rectangles. Spread each with half of the mincemeat mixture. Roll the remaining quarters into 12-by-4-inch rectangles and carefully place over the mincemeat. Trim uneven edges. Cut each rectangle into 12 4-by-1-inch strips. Twist each strip twice. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350º for about 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Return to oven; bake 5 to 8 minutes more or until golden. Remove from pan; cool on wire racks. Yield: 2 dozen twists.
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels, melted and cooled
1 (7-ounce) package ﬂaked coconut
Line 1 or more cookie sheets with aluminum foil; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating about 3 minutes on high speed or until stiff peaks form. Fold in melted chocolate; then fold in coconut. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake at 325º for about 13 minutes. Cool cookies completely on cookie sheet. Carefully peel cookies off foil. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, using a clean piece of foil for each batch. (Dough will get stiff upon standing.) Yield: 3 dozen cookies.
PUMPKIN PIE FUDGE
3 cups sugar
½ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 can pumpkin puree (see note below)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, plus some to coat the baking pan
In a saucepan over high heat, mix sugar and next 4 ingredients. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, until foamy. Lower heat; continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until a drop of the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. (A soft ball will flatten when lifted from the water.) This step may take up to 45 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in pie spice, vanilla and 3 tablespoons butter. Let stand for 1 hour until lukewarm. Beat until mixture becomes very thick and loses some of its gloss. Scrape it into a lightly buttered 8-inch square pan. Set aside until firm, about 1 hour. Cut into 1-inch squares.
Note: Seasoned pumpkin pie filling may be substituted for plain pumpkin puree; omit salt and pie spice. Yield: 64 (1-inch) pieces.