Holiday Sweets to Give or Keep


When it comes to sweetening up a long drive, a hike, or a movie, you just can't beat hard candy.

Sometimes I like to send friends and family holiday cookies and candies. Although it's possible to send cakes, cheesecakes and pies, I do not recommend it.

I think hard candies travel best because they are less likely to break. Cookies will taste the same in pieces or whole, especially if they are my favorite, which is actually any cookie with chocolate in it.

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

  • ½ cup butter
  • 6 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons White sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Quaker oats (rolled oats)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Beat the eggs, butter, and sugars till creamy. Sift together the flour, salt and soda. Then combine it with the egg mixture. Finally, add the remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 2-3 dozen cookies, and is easily doubled.

When it comes to sweetening up a long drive, a hike, or a movie, you just can't beat hard candy. Brittles and hard candies are easy to ship, easy to make, and hard to give away. These candies are all cooked at a high temperature, and will become sticky if not kept in an airtight container. Hard candies are easy to prepare and, when given a variety of flavors and colors, are a treat for all. Brittles are one of my particular favorites; the mixture of salty nuts and sweet crunchy sugar is irresistible to me.

Pecan Brittle

  • 4 cups pecan pieces
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon praline liqueur

A clever invention is the Silpad Nonstick Sheet Pan Liner, which is a silicon pad placed on a cookie or baking sheet and is used in place of a buttered cookie sheet or waxed paper. It can be bought at most cooking stores.

I place the silpad on the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place the pecans on the pan to warm in the oven while the candy is cooking.

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the cream, corn syrup, water and sugar. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. If sugar crystals form on the sides, brush them with a wet pastry brush.

Clip on a candy thermometer. Cook the syrup to 295F degrees, and stir in the butter, which will reduce the temperature. Continue cooking the syrup to 280F degrees or soft-crack stage. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, baking soda and liqueur. Add the warm pecans and stir until the nuts are well coasted. Pour onto the baking sheet.

Using two forks and working quickly, separate the brittle into fairly large pieces. Allow to cool completely, and store in an airtight container. Makes about 30 pieces.

There are many unusual dishes that I come across in old cookbooks, recipe folders of my friends and family and, now and then, something really intrigues me. I love cornbread, sweet or savory, white, yellow or even blue. A few years ago, I discovered a custard-filled cornbread, unusual for the fact that the custard forms during the baking, not layered in after cooking.

Custard-Filled Cornbread

  • 1-½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and mix the wet ingredients, except for the butter and heavy cream, in another. Combine all until just blended.

In a heavy ovenproof 10-inch skillet or 9-inch square baking pan, melt the butter in the oven until bubbly but not browned. Pour the batter into the skillet. Slowly pour the heavy cream into the center of the batter. Do not stir. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until browned and the center is firm to the touch. Serve warm.

There are several ways to doctor this up. You can add a half-cup of shredded cheese to the dry ingredients and/or a couple of diced jalapenos. Bacon pieces are a nice salty addition, too. This is a great morning dish.

Dorothy Sibole is a pastry chef living in Austin, TX. If you have questions about this article or the recipes, contact us at moc.gnikoocsaxet@nibrof_solkim