What are you baking for the holidays?

Holiday baking treats

Do you have visions of shortbread? Are you, like me, one of the few people who honestly likes fruitcake?

Now that we are officially in the holiday season—with a month to go before Christmas, it’s time to preheat that oven.

This week I’m going to share a few of my favourite traditional recipes. I’m hoping if you have a favourite, you are willing to share it on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page (comments aren’t available here). It will be like a virtual cookie exchange.

I know sugar cookies are often a favourite for those who like to decorate their cookies but in my house, growing up, we had shortbread to decorate and that took all our creative juices (and patience).

There was plenty of mess with sprinkles and glacé cherries and chocolate chips. I think my mom just never mentioned icing as an option for her own sanity.

Her recipe for shortbread is a bit unique, so if you’re up for a change, here it is. They are made with golden sugar.

Our other family tradition came from my dad’s side of the family – the Icelandic side. Their version of a Christmas cake is a torte made of cookie-like layers that hold a cardamom-infused prune filling. Vinertarta, as it’s called, is still one of my cherished holiday treats. It is much less cloying than the English fruitcake, and quicker to make, too.

A treat that I took on as a standard years ago is great to have at a party – Spiced Praline Nuts. I first did it at our Rabbit Hollow Dessert Party, our yearly neighbourhood event that offered a groaning table of various treats that Hubbie and I would make to share. (It’s a great way to get to know your neighbours, and also to spread the calories around.) The party is back on this year after the pandemic hiatus, so I dug out my recipe:

2-1/2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, or your choice)
1 cup sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp each ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tbsp water (or rum for an adult crowd, if you wish)
½ tsp vanilla extract

Toast nuts at 375 F in the oven or toaster oven. Prepare baking sheet with silicone mat for finished mixture. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, spices and evaporated milk. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture boils and sugar dissolves. Cook until mixture reaches 234 F on digital thermometer or candy thermometer (soft ball stage if you know candy). Remove from heat and add water and vanilla. Stir well.

Toss in nuts and stir to coat, moving quickly (it will start to get stiffer). Be careful, this stuff is sticky and hot. Spread onto baking sheet in a single layer and let cool. Break into bite-size pieces and serve in a fancy dish or package as gifts.

Maybe in next week’s column, I should offer some diet-friendly recipes after this indulgence.

Wait, what am I thinking? You come here for gourmandise, don’t you? I’ll leave it to you to do your own balancing of treats and veggie sticks.

See you in the grocery store baking aisle.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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