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Sweet Endings

How about some great ideas for sweet endings to a holiday meal or a special treat for your little, and big, carolers? It’s also a good idea to bake something tasty and tuck it away in the freezer for unexpected guests this time of year. This month I offer something for every taste, from dark, rich gingerbread to a truly good fruitcake recipe. After all, it wouldn’t be December without visions of sugarplums, would it? From my kitchen, peace to you and yours!

HOLIDAY GINGERBREAD CAKE
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
2-1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan. Process crystallized ginger in the bowl of a food processor, blending on medium until finely chopped. You may also chop the ginger very fine by hand with a knife if you prefer. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside. Melt the butter over low heat and stir in molasses, brown sugar, water, and coffee. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl, cooling. Beat in the ginger and slowly beat in eggs. Add the flour and spice mixture; stir thoroughly but only until just moistened and evenly colored. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool until warm or room temperature. Cut into 9 squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar for serving. If desired, drizzle store-bought caramel syrup around gingerbread. Serves 9.

OLD-FASHIONED SHOO-FLY PIE
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups molasses
2 beaten eggs
1-1/2 cups hot water
2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 325°. Mix together flour, butter, and sugar. Reserve 1-1/2 cups for crumbs. In another bowl, mix together molasses, eggs, water, and baking soda. Add to flour mixture (not the reserved crumbs). Pour into two ungreased 9-inch pie plates. Top with reserved crumbs. Bake for 1 hour. Note: This is not a traditional pie; it is more like a molasses cake. It’s just as good served warm for breakfast as it is for dessert. Serves 16.

CRANBERRY EGGNOG BREAD
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup eggnog (without liquor or liquor flavoring)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon rum flavoring (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In food processor, beat eggs and sugar. Add eggnog, butter, rum flavoring, and vanilla extract and blend well. In a large bowl, blend flours, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine damp cranberries with remaining teaspoon of flour to coat. Fold into mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Serves 8.

FABULOUS FRUITCAKE
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups applesauce
1-1/2 cups canned peach slices, chopped and drained
1 cup light raisins
1 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, cut in half
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups chopped pecans
Cherry and pecan halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 300°. Plump raisins for 1 minute in 1 cup boiling water; drain and set aside. Sift together first 7 ingredients and set aside. Cream sugar and shortening with blender. Add remaining ingredients, including raisins, to sugar mixture, stirring well after each addition. Add flour mixture and cream well with wooden spoon. Pour into greased and floured large tube or loaf pan. Decorate top with cherry and pecan halves. Bake 2-1/2 to 3 hours until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serves 16.

Coming Next Month: Soups & Sandwiches

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