Merry Christmas one and all

I am sure you all have watched the cooking channel with all the professional chefs competing with each other where they give each participant like 45 minuets to complete a dish and when the time is up they must drop everything and stand back. That is how many of us are today with all the Christmas preparations — we didn’t have 45 minutes, but we had weeks to prepare and now our time is up like the chefs.

Don’t worry! No one will say anything and it is time to say, “I did what I thought was right: I shopped and hopefully everyone will like my purchases, I prepared a big fancy meal that hopefully everyone will enjoy, I did all my decorations and now TIME IS UP and time for me to step back, and if anyone does not like what I did they can feel free to take over next year.”

Now is the time to step back – attend Christmas eve services at the church of your choice and wish Jesus a “Happy Birthday” and big thank you for everything he has done for you.

From all reports, it seems as this was a very generous giving season to the needy, homeless and others that need help this time of year. Tomorrow is a special day and I feel everyone deserves and would like to have a little something from Santa, plus a nice meal and some quality time. I get satisfaction each year giving to the less fortunate.

Tomorrow the big day finally arrives that everyone has been waiting and preparing for. Tonight millions of little ones will have major problems trying to fall asleep in the anticipation of Santa to arrive.

I recall when my three children were small, they were so excited that sometimes it would be 2 a.m. before they would finally fall asleep, which made it difficult for Santa to place gifts under the tree. They were always awake by 6 a.m. checking to see if Santa had come. Great memories that we will never forget and sadly little children grow up too fast.

Count ONE – TWO – THREE and Christmas is here!

Enjoy all the great desserts and especially the desserts and cakes that only come around once a year during the Christmas season — recipes that are considered impressive by guests and family members and also ones that make the cooks reputation in the kitchen.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas with health, peace and love to you and your family, to our country and the entire world.

Until next week, enjoy!

***

Chocolate Pecan Mousse Tart

Crust:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

Mousse:

1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided

1 tablespoon bourbon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup coarsely choped toasted pecans

Crust: Preheat oven to 400. Beat first 5 ingredients at medium until creamy. Gradually add flour and salt, beating at low speed until just blended. Add finely chopped pecans and beat until combined. Shape dough into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 13×9 rectangle. Gently place in a lightly greased rectangular tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough into pan and up sides, trim off excess dough.

Bake at 400 for 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack about 30 minutes. Mousse: Microwave chocolate and 1/2 cup cream in a medium-size microwave safe glass bowl at high 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in bourbon and vanilla and let stand 5 minutes. Beat remaining 2 cups cream at medium high 2-5 minutes or until medium peaks form. Fold cream into chocolate mixture. Spread on cooled tart shell. Top with coarsely chopped pecans. Chill 4-24 hours.

***

Carolina Dream Cake

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

8 egg whites

Carolina Dream Frosting

Cream butter in large mixing bowl and gradually add sugar, beating well at medium. Add vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into batter. Pour batter into 3 greased and lined 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on wire racks. Frost between layers, sides and top of cake.

Carolina Dream Frosting

12 egg yolks

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup quartered candied cherries

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups chopped raisins

1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

Combine first 4 ingredients in double-boiler, beat at low speed until just blended. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add bourbon. Combine candied cherries and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour egg mixture over fruit mixture, mixing well. Cool completely.

***

Caramel-Filled Butter Pecan Cake

1 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

3 cups cake flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Filling

Butter Cream Frosting

1 cup chopped pecans

pecan halves

Cream shortening in large mixting bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extract. Pour into three 9-inch round cake pans, greased and lined. Bake at 375 for 22-25 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely. Spread Caramel Filling between layers and on top of cake. Spread Butter Cream Frosting on sides of cake. Press chopped pecans into frosting on sides. Garnish top with pecan halves.

Caramel Filling

3 cups sugar, divided

3/4 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

pinch salt

1/2 cup butter or margarine, cut up

Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until sugar melts and syrup is light golden brown. Combine remaining 2 1/2 cups sugar, milk, egg and salt. Stir in butter. Stir mixture into hot caramelized sugar. The mixture will tend to lump, becoming smooth with further cooking.

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until a thermometer registers 230, 15-20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Beat with a wooden spoon to spreading consistency.

Butter Cream Frosting

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

3 cups sifted powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream butter at medium speed and gradually add sugar, alternately with half and half, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

***

Baked Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups finely chopped mixed candied fruit

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow candied pineapple

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups flour, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 cup milk

Brandy Sauce

Combine butter and sugar in large mixing bowl and beat until well blended. Add eggs and molasses, mixing well.

Dredge fruit and pecans in 2 tablespoons flour and set aside. Combine remaining flour and next 5 ingredients, add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir fruit mixture into batter. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 2-quart ring mold. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. Unmold onto serving patter. Spoon Brandy Sauce over pudding.

Brandy Sauce

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon brandy extract

Cream butter and gradually add powdered sugar. Add enough milk to reached desired consistency. Stir in extract.

***

Pumpkin Custard

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 tablepoons Grand Marnier

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon lemon zest

sweetened whipped cream

Place half and half and whipping cream in top of a double-boiler, bring water to bil. Cook until throughly heated and set aside. Combine Grand Marnier, ginder and salt and set aside. Beat eggs at medium speed until frothy; add Grand Mariner mixture, beating until blended. Gradually stir about 1/4 of hot cream mixture into egg mixture, add to remaining hot mixture, beating constantly at low speed.

Add sugar, pumpkin and lemon zest, beating until smooth. Pour custard mixture into 6 6-ounce custard cups; cover each with aluminum foil. Set cups in 13x9x2 pan and pour hot water to depth of 1-inch into pan. Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove custard cups from water and cool on a wire rack. Chill 2 hours before serving. If desired, garnish with dollop of whipped cream.

***

Chilled Devonshire Souffle

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

5 eggs, separated

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brandy

1/2 cup amaretto

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups whipping cream

Sprinkle gelatin over water in saucepan; let stand 1 minute. Beat egg yolks and stir yolks and sugar into gelatin. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in brandy, amaretto and lemon juice. Cool. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat whipping cream until soft peaks form.

Fold egg whites and whipped cream into gelatin mixture. Spoon mixture into 2-quart souffle dish. Chill until firm.

***

Kiki Angelos is a food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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