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Sweet treats add interesting twist to this holiday season

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By The Tribune-Review

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

All the holiday baking is well under way.

You have to have plenty of sweet treats on hand for all of the guests who come calling.

Here are a couple of ideas that you can do ahead and keep in an airtight container for a week or two and have on hand.

Sweet Pastry Twists

(makes about 45 twists)

1 egg

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 cups plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

oil, for deep frying

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Beat the egg with the sugar in a bowl; then stir in the milk.

Sift the flour with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and mix to form a stiff dough; add more milk if necessary.

Roll out on a lightly floured work surface. Cut into strips about 4 inches long by 1½ inches wide. Make a slit along the length, down the center, like a button hole.

Tuck one end through the slit, and pull to make a twist.

Fill a deep, heavy-based pan one-third full of oil (or, use a deep fryer if you have one). Heat the oil to 350 degrees; the oil is ready when a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown in 15 seconds.

Fry three to four of the pastries at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on crumbled paper toweling.

Sift the powdered sugar over the pastry after it has drained but before it gets cold.

These will keep in a dry, airtight container for up to two weeks. You can refresh them before serving with a light sprinkle of some more sugar, if needed.

•••

Here's a favorite cookie that goes great with coffee and will be a perfect after- dinner treat.

Amaretti

(makes about 40 cookies)

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 tablespoon corn flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup caster sugar/superfine sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange rind

1 cup ground almonds

2 egg whites

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Sift the plain flour, corn flour, cinnamon and half the caster sugar in a large bowl and then add the lemon rind and the ground almonds

Place the egg whites in a small, dry bowl. With electric beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining caster/superfine sugar gradually; beat constantly until the mixture is thick and glossy, stiff peaks form and all the sugar has dissolved.

Using a metal spoon, fold the egg white into the dry ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are just combined and the mixture forms a soft dough.

With oiled or wetted hands, roll two level teaspoons of the mixture at a time into a ball. Arrange on the prepared tray; allow room for spreading during baking. Set the tray aside, uncovered, for one hour prior to baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the powdered sugar liberally over the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to two days.

•••

Do you need to have a sweet treat on hand when all the troops come calling?

Here's a tasty item that will fit the bill.

These honey cookies will make everyone hit the right note.

Honey Spice Balls

(makes about 2 1 2 dozen cookies)

1 2 cup butter, softened

1 2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 2 teaspoon baking powder

1 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Uncooked quick oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the cookie sheets. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg, honey and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended.

Shape tablespoons of dough into balls and then roll in oats. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until cookie tops crack slightly.

Cool one minute on cookie sheets. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

•••

Are you having a tree trimming party?

Here's a “peppy” popcorn recipe for all of the helpers to enjoy and it works great for Steeler game parties too!

Cinnamon Hot Sauce Popcorn

(makes 18 cups)

10 cups air-popped popcorn ( 1 2 cup unpopped)

1 1 2 cups (7 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans

3 4 cup granulated sugar

3 4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 2 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce

2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into thin pats

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place popcorn and pecans in a 5-quart ovenproof bowl or Dutch oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine the sugars, corn syrup, hot sauce and honey in a 2-quart saucepan.

Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring just until the sugars dissolve. Boil about 6 to 8 minutes or until at the soft-crack stage (290 degrees on a candy thermometer). Do not stir and remove from heat.

Gradually add the butter and cinnamon to the sugar mixture, stirring gently until well blended. Pour over the popcorn, tossing to coat evenly. If the popcorn sets too quickly, return to the oven to rewarm. Popcorn mix may be shaped into 3-inch balls while warm, if desired.

Spread the mixture on greased baking sheets, using two forks. Cool completely then break into bite-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

As always, enjoy!

David Kelly has been a culinary columnist for 20 years. Originally from New England, he now calls Western Pennsylvania his home.

 

 
 


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