Visions of Sugarplums …
… and other, better-known holiday treats
Desserts have changed a lot since Clement Clarke Moore penned his classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” in which night-capped children were said to dream of sugarplums. But don’t go longing for days of yore; sugarplums are not the moist, delectable treats their name would suggest. They’re comfits — balls of dried fruit, seeds or nuts surrounded by an impenetrable candy shell. In other words, sugarplums are the stuff of nightmares, to the modern palate. The following desserts, however, are sure to sashay through the sweetest of holiday dreams.
‘Cherry’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies
- ¾ cup (1½ cubes) butter, softened
- ¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon almond or cherry extract
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon (or more) red food coloring
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 oz. (½ bag) chocolate chips
- 1 ½ cups dried cranberries
In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, baking soda, salt and flour. In another large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, almond or cherry extract and red food coloring and mix lightly, until the batter is an even red color. Add the flour mixture, a half-cup at a time. The batter will darken with the addition of the cocoa, so don’t overdo the red food coloring in the previous step. Add the chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Mix lightly on low speed until the chips and berries are distributed throughout the batter. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a cookie scoop to make small mounds of cookie dough that are about two tablespoons in volume. Place them a few inches apart on a non-stick or greased cookie sheet and bake for about 9 minutes. Check them at 7 minutes. These are a dark-colored cookie, so it’s easy to burn them. When they’re done, the tops should look dry, but not brown. Cool the cookies on their tray for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling wrack. Decorate with powdered sugar or frosting.
Eggnog Layer Cake
- *1 cup browned butter, set at room temperature
- 1 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup milk (not skim)
- 2 ⅔ cups flour
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoons ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
Cream Cheese Filling:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 3 ½ cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
- ¼ cup favorite eggnog
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Swiss Meringue Frosting:
- ½ cup egg whites
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake rounds. Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a medium-sized bowl. In an electric mixer, combine softened browned butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Mix well. Add eggs. Add vanilla and milk. Mix well, then, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture a spoonful at a time. Mix until just combined. Pour batter into cake rounds, taking care to distribute evenly. Bake 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool, then remove the cakes from their pans. Cool completely before layering with cream cheese mixture.
To make the filling, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix on high speed until light and fluffy. If mixture seems runny, add a tablespoon more confectioner’s sugar, more if needed. Layer between cakes (use entire batch of cream cheese mixture). Frost the cake with Swiss meringue frosting.
To make the frosting, whisk egg whites in an electric mixer on medium-high speed until they start to foam. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, waiting 20 seconds or so between each addition. Beat until mixture is well incorporated but still soupy. Spoon mixture into a heat-safe bowl and use the double-boiler method to heat the meringue to 160 degrees (very hot to the touch). Return the meringue to the mixing bowl, then beat the meringue on high speed for five minutes or until the meringue makes stiff, glossy peaks. With the mixer on low speed, add in the remaining ingredients and beat until the frosting looks completely smooth (about 5 minutes). Frost the entire cake with the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting and sprinkle nutmeg in a spiral shape on top.
Easy ‘Rocky Road’ Fudge Supreme
Pour a bag of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips into a glass bowl. Add one can of sweetened condensed milk and a dash of salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir. Continue microwaving, stirring every 30 seconds or until the chips melt easily when stirred. Stir until smooth, then add
½ teaspoon of vanilla and stir again, until vanilla is thoroughly incorporated.
Line a 9 x 13” pan with cling-wrap. Or go with a 9 x 9” for big, thick pieces of fudge. Coat the cling wrap with baking spray. Pour the fudge into the pan, and smooth it all around. If you like peanut butter, now is the time to dot the hot fudge with it, using a ¼ cup total. Use a buttered knife to swirl the peanut butter through the fudge, for a marbled look. For “Rocky Road” fudge, pour ½ cup of miniature marshmallows in the bottom of your pan before you add the hot fudge; add more marshmallows and nuts on top (tap them in place gently). Another variation is to top the fudge with walnut pieces (tapped into place). Simple and delicious!
Place the fudge in the fridge to cool. Once set, remove it from the pan by lifting the cling wrap. Cut the fudge into squares and wrap each square in colored cling wrap for a festive look. Store in a covered container in the fridge.