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Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With Your Panettone Or Pandoro

Some people don’t know the delights of panettone and pandoro, Italian Christmas breads that are now in stores nationwide from. In Italy they’re Christmas and New Year’s staples, given as holiday gifts. Some Americans have adopted the tradition.

For years we had friends who’d receive them as gifts, then put them aside like so much fruitcake. We started a Panettone Rescue Mission, to take those panettones and return them as bread pudding or another dessert.

They’re delicious simply sliced and served with a cup of coffee or tea. But they adapt well to popular recipes.

Most regions of Italy have their own specialty Christmas sweet bread recipes. The three that are are imported to the U.S. include:

  • Pandoro, from Verona, an “Italian pound cake” made in an eight-pointed star shape, topped with icing or confectioners’ sugar. It is often flavored with lemon zest, although anisette and other flavors can be used.
  • Panettone, a Milanese specialty, a tall yeast bread packed with candied fruits and raisins. Today there are also chocolate chip versions.
  • Panforte is short and dense. While the origins of a sweet leavened bread date back to Roman times, this dense mixture of almonds and candied fruit, sweetened with honey and flavored with spices, was born in 12th century Siena. Think of it as Italian fruitcake.
    While a plain slice is delicious as is, pandoro and panettone can be turned into more complex dishes. Bauli, the major exporter to the U.S. of pandoro and panettone, has developed numerous recipes.

    If you want to bake your own, there are plenty of recipes online.


    Panettone With Coffee

    Panettone Shortcake

    TOP: A panettone yeast loaf or cake. BOTTOM: Panettone sliced into a shortcake. Photos courtesy Bauli.

    You can use pandoro and panforte interchangeably in recipes, but they are different in texture and flavor. Here are some recipes from Bauli along with some of our own favorite uses.


  • Toasted with butter, cream cheese, jam or ricotta
  • French toast, such as:
    • Baked French Toast With Custard Recipe
    • Eggnog French Toast Recipe
    • Pandoro Star-Shaped French Toast Recipe
    • Panettone French Toast With Mascarpone Recipe
    • Raspberry Jam & Hazelnut Spread Stuffed Panettone French Toast Recipe


    Pandoro On Plate

    Apple Bread Pudding

    TOP: The star-shaped pandoro. BOTTOM: Pandoro apple bread pudding. Photos
    courtesy Bauli.



  • A slice with coffee or tea
  • A slice with Nutella or chocolate spread (bananas optional)
  • Crostini (sliced thin and toasted), spread with fresh with goat cheese
  • Crostini with fruit and cheese

  • Slice and layer with custard, fruit curd or icing into a stacked “Christmas tree” (scroll down here for a photo)
  • A slice for dessert with a glass of sweet wine; crème fraîche, mascarpone or whipped cream optional
  • Chocolate Fondue With Panettone Or Pandoro Recipe
  • Bread pudding or trifle. Try this Panettone Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Fabio Viviani’s Pandoro Tiramisu Recipe
  • Pandoro Apple Bread Pudding Recipe (see photo)
  • Panettone “Shortcake” with Berries and Orange Ricotta Recipe
  • Pandoro Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
  • Sundae: a slice topped with ice cream, chocolate or caramel sauce and whipped cream
  • Warmed Slice With Dessert Wine Recipe (mascarpone optional)

    During the Renaissance, different European countries and regions within them created their own specialty holiday breads. When the bread was sweetened, the terms “bread” and “cake” were used interchangeably.

    All are delicious with chai or other spiced tea like Constant Comment; or with a conventional black tea.

    If you want to put some spirit into your snack, dessert or tea time, serve the Christmas bread with mulled wine (warm spiced wine) or with a sweet dessert wine, such as Spumante or Moscato.

  • Gingerbread may be the best known Christmas “bread” in the U.S.; it originated in 15th-century Germany.
  • Pandoro is a star-shaped yeast bread sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, created in 19th-century Verona.
  • Panettone is a Milanese Christmas yeast bread, filled with candied fruits and raisins, that dates to medieval Italy. It is tall, dome-shaped and airy.
  • Panforte is short and dense. While the origins of a sweet leavened bread date back to Roman times, this dense mixture of almonds and candied fruit, sweetened with honey and flavored with spices, was born in 12th century Siena. Think of it as Italian fruitcake.
  • Stollen is the traditional German Christmas cake or “bread,” created outside of Dresden, Germany in 1437 (not in Dresden itself, a point of historic contention). It is so prized that the city has trademarked the name, Dresden Stollen. The oval shape, covered with powdered sugar, is said to represent the diaper of Baby Jesus!
    Here are more Christmas breads, with beautiful photos.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas-ize Your Food

    As we close in on Christmas, we like to “Christmas-ize” our food, adding red and green garnishes to everything from scrambled eggs (green and red bell peppers or jalapeños) to desserts (mint leaves and raspberries).

    We have fun doing it, looking for a different red and green combination at every meal. For sandwiches, we plate the lettuce and cherry* tomatoes next to the sandwich for presentation purposes, providing a fork so everyone can move them to the sandwich without fingers. Instead of drab green pimento-stuffed olives, we garnish the plate with bright green Castelvetrano olives with strips of pimento.

    You can also take the “cookie cutter” approach to savory foods, using your holiday cookie cutters to shape everything from bread (star- or Christmas tree-shaped toast or PB&J, for example). Or use the cookie cutters as molds to shape food (grains, for example) on the plate.

    Here’s how we garnished three of our favorite foods: fish/seafood, pasta and sushi.


    It’s easy to garnish any fish dish with pearls of green and red tobiko (flying fish caviar). But in this salmon and tuna tartare recipe, we shaped the tartare into Christmas trees.

    You can make the tartare with fish or beef (here’s a beef tartare recipe), or make some of each for a nifty surf and turf first course. The cucumber-base version can be readily picked up from an hors d’oeuvre tray.


  • Cucumber slices
  • Waffle potato chips (you can substitute conventional chips)
  • Tuna tartare and/or salmon tartare (recipe below)
  • Garnish: chives and/or wasabi tobiko caviar
  • Optional garnish: slices of yellow grape tomato for top of trees
    For The Tartare

  • 1 pound sushi grade tuna or salmon, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • Pinch salt

    1. BLEND together olive oil, wasabi, sesame seeds, pepper and salt. Add fish and toss until evenly coated.

    2. ADJUST seasoning as desired with additional wasabi powder, pepper and/or salt.

    3. ASSEMBLE on cucumber and potato chip bases as shown in photo.

    You can make this dish with any pasta, but the curved tortellini and the cubes of cheese are a nice counterpoint.

    You can blanch the greens or use them raw; you can serve the dish hot or at room temperature (like pasta salad).


  • Tortellini (any filling)
  • Sundried tomatoes (marinated in oil to soften)
  • Mozzarella (regular or smoked)
  • Baby spinach, baby arugula or other greens, washed and patted dry
  • Optional: grated or shaved Parmesan
  • Dried herbs: oregano, parsley, sage, thyme
  • Extra virgin olive oil or flavored olive oil (basil, chile, rosemary, etc.)
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: basil or chives
  • Optional garnish: pine nuts

    Christmas Pasta

    Cucumber & Tobiko Caviar

    Christmas Goat Cheese Log

    Christmas Filet Mignon

    TOP PHOTO: Tuna tartare Christmas trees; photo courtesy Bemka. SECOND PHOTO: Tortellini from Bella Sun Luci. THIRD PHOTO: Use red and green tobiko (flying fish roe) as a simple garnish; photo Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE. FOURTH PHOTO: Dried cranberries and pistachio nuts on a goat cheese log, at BOTTOM PHOTO: Filet mignon with a red and green salad from Double Ranch.


    1. COOK the pasta and blanch the greens, as desired. While the pasta cooks, cube the mozzarella. Have all other ingredients ready to add.

    2. DRAIN the pasta. Return to the empty pot and add the other ingredients (except garnish), adding just enough olive oil to help bind the ingredients. Toss to blend. Taste, and add salt and pepper as desired.

    3. PLATE, garnish and serve.


    Christmas Scallops

    TOP PHOTO: An appetizer of sliced raw
    scallops, topped with red spice and green
    herb at cChicago. BOTTOM PHOTO: California
    rolls stacked into a snowman at Genji Sushi.



    You can add red and green garnishes to any fish dish, raw or cooked. In the photo of the raw scallop appetizer, it’s simply herbs and spices. Alternatively, you can pomegranate arils and pistachio nuts, drizzle red grape or cherry tomatoes with a green basil oil, or bell peppers, raw and diced small or cut into strips and sautéed.


    The photo shows a non-edible scarf and hat. We’ve substituted edible versions in our recipe. We purchase the California Rolls at the supermarket or get take-out from our corner sushi bar.


  • California rolls, purchased or homemade
  • Black sesame seeds or black caviar roe (e.g. lumpfish caviar) for face
  • Toothpicks
  • Optional nose: a small piece of carrot
  • Optional garnish: red “scarf” cut from a roasted red bell pepper (pimento) or a green scarf made from the top portion of a green onion
  • Optional garnish: “hat” made from small square crackers

    You can assemble a standing snowman by slightly flattening the bottom piece, or simply arrange it flat on a dark colored plate (for contrast with the white rice).

    1. CREATE the face on the top piece: eyes, nose and mouth. Use the bit of carrot as an optional nose.

    2. STACK three California roll pieces. For a standing snowman, use toothpicks to join the pieces.

    3. ADD toothpicks as arms.

    4. ADD optional “clothing”: red scarf and hat. For a hat, affix two crackers in a perpendicular fashion with cream cheese. If using a green onion scarf, blanch it in boiling water to make it easier to tie.

    Check out all the different types of sushi in our beautiful Sushi Glossary.
    *When tomatoes are out of season, cherry and grape tomatoes, raised in hothouses, have the best flavor.



    RECIPE: Christmas Peppermint Hard Candies

    Peppermint Stars

    Peppermint Christmas Trees

    Use your holiday cookie cutters to make these fun mint shapes from conventional peppermint candies. Photos courtesy Reynolds Kitchens.


    We love the recipe developers at Reynolds Kitchen, who often surprise us with their creativity. Just by looking at the photos, you can see what they’ve done with an everyday bag of striped peppermint candies.

    The result is like candy canes, but as Elle Woods would say, the shape is more funner.

    It’s also funner to make them with mints in both holiday colors, red and green. Brach’s makes their striped Starbrite Mints in both colors, as well as a sugar-free red and white mint*.

    So pick up the mints and get out every shape and size of cookie cutter that works for the holidays. Then, serve the mints:

  • On a platter, with after-dinner coffee
  • As decorations on holiday cakes and cupcakes
  • Wrapped in cellophane as stocking stuffers or party favors
    We’d suggest making them as tree ornaments, but can’t figure out how to affix something so that they hang evenly. We tried making holes with an ice pick before the shapes fully hardened, but it wasn’t neat. Ribbon didn’t stick to the peppermint with the glues we had at hand.

    Any other ideas?



  • All of your holiday-appropriate metal cookie cutters (borrow as needed)
  • Cookie sheet and parchment paper
  • Baking spray (or bland cooking spray)
  • A bag of red and white and a bag of green and white hard mints

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with Reynolds Parchment Paper.

    2. SPRAY oven-safe, metal cookie cutters with non-stick cooking spray, then place on the cookie sheet. Fill each cookie cutter with peppermint candies. Break the candies into smaller pieces to fill in the smaller areas of the mold (we used a meat mallet).

    3. BAKE for 3–9 minutes until the candies melt into cookie cutter shapes. Remove the sheet from the oven and let the candy harden. Stretch the cookie cutter a bit to remove the candy.


    This concept works for Valentine’s Day, too. Collect a bunch of heart-shaped cookie cutters.

    *We haven’t tested the recipe with sugar-free mints, but guess that they’ll melt in a similar fashion to the conventional variety.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Create A Special Christmas Mocktail

    Ocean Spray Mocktail


    A fun mocktail is a treat for non-drinkers. Top photo courtesy Ocean Spray. Bottom photo courtesy


    If you serve alcohol at parties, you’re bound to have some non-drinkers, designated drivers, and probably, drinkers who shouldn’t have another.

    Most hosts address the need with soft drinks and mineral water. But special occasions merit an extra step: a holiday mocktail.

    It’s easy to make it look and taste interesting, and those who can’t drink will feel special.

    For your Christmas mocktail, we suggest something red and green: a red- or rosy-hued drink with a green garnish.

  • Determine on the proportions, e.g. 2 parts cranberry juice and 1 part soft drink.
  • Decide if you want to serve a tall or short drink.
  • Consider a low-calorie option: The juice and soft drink ingredients both have diet versions, which will be especially appreciated by calorie-counting guests.


  • Cranberry juice*
  • Ginger ale
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: stemmed cherry†, lime wheel or mint leaves


  • Cranberry juice*
  • Orange soda‡
  • Garnish: stemmed cherry†, lime wheel or mint leaves
    You can make the drinks a deeper red color with grenadine.
    *Our favorite cranberry juice is Knudsen’s. Ocean Spray has several 100% juice flavors: plain or blended with blueberry-blackberry, cherry, grape, orange, pomegranate, raspberry, etc. Use 100% juice instead of “juice cocktails” or “juice drinks,” which are typically sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

    †The best maraschino cherries by far are the all-natural (and kosher-certified) Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino Cherries. They are “maraschino red” in color but taste great—nothing like the traditional varieties. The company also makes Bada Bing Cherries, with the deep burgundy hue of bing cherries. If you buy multiple packs online, use the extras as stocking stuffers.

    ‡San Pellegrino Aranciata (orange) and Aranciata Rossa (blood orange), and Boylan’s Orange, are the only ones we’ve found that use sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. San Pellegrino is less sweet and more elegant; Boylan’s is conventionally sweet.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry “Mistletoe” Kissing Ball

    You don’t need to buy mistletoe to encourage people at holiday get-togethers to kiss. Instead, substitute this “holiday kissing ball” from Ocean Spray.

    First head to the crafts store, then pick up fresh whole cranberries. You can pick up an extra bag or two for a Valentine Kissing Ball (and if you prefer, a foam heart instead of a ball).



  • 5” styrofoam ball
  • Red acrylic craft paint
  • 24-gauge beading wire
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks -or- wooden toothpicks
  • 1-2 12-ounce bag(s) Ocean Spray fresh cranberries
  • Optional: shellac spray
  • Trim of choice: ribbon, mistletoe, holly, ivy, bells


    Cranberry Kissing Ball

    A kissing ball, mistletoe optional. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.

    1. PAINT the foam ball with red craft paint. Set aside to dry.

    2. CUT an 18″ piece of wire and fold it in half. Push the folded wire all the way through the center of the ball, leaving a 1″ wire loop extending at bottom of ball and 3″ of wire extending at top.

    3. ATTACH the cranberries to ball with a hot glue gun or toothpicks, covering the ball completely. Spray with shellac for longevity (otherwise, the berries soften after 5 days or so, and the appearance will diminish). NOTE: The glue gun is a better choice. If you don’t have one, you can pick one up when you buy the foam ball at the crafts store.

    4. TWIST the two wires at top of ball into a simple hook for hanging. Use ribbon to tie the desired holiday trim to wire above and below ball, and hang with a hook.

    5. FIND someone to kiss and guide him/her underneath the ball.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Wreath Cake

    You may not feel up to making a Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake), but you can certainly make a wreath cake.

    While there is trend to pull-apart cupcake wreath cakes, we decided to try a traditional one.

    This recipe was adapted by Audra, The Baker Chick from one on It’s the third photo, requires no piping skills, and although it’s not as showy, it’s much easier to serve and eat.


    Prep time is 15 minutes, bake time is 50 minutes.

    Ingredients For 10 Servings

  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated
  • ¾ cup plus ½ cup white sugar, separated
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, separated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
    For The Decoration

  • Frosted grapes
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs (instead of the evergreen† shown)

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Spray or grease a 10-inch ring pan thoroughly‡.

    2. COMBINE the half stick of butter, 3/4 cup white sugar, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted; then add the cranberries, tossing until they are coated in the butter mixture. Pour into the bottom of the cake pan and set aside.

    3. CREAM together the 6 tablespoons of butter with the remaining ½ cup of white sugar and the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, one at a time, the rest of the vanilla and the buttermilk.


    Cranberry Christmas Wreath Cake

    TOP PHOTO: A professional wreath cake from Frederick’s Pastry. MIDDLE PHOTO: A wreath of cupcakes from BOTTOM PHOTO: An easier-to-make wreath cake from

    4. WHISK together the dry ingredients and slowly add to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed until well combined. Pour/scoop the batter over the cranberry mixture and use the back of a spoon to smooth as needed.

    5. BAKE for 35-50 minutes, depending on your oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

    6. MAKE the frosted grapes. Garnish before serving.
    *If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to enough milk to make 1 cup.

    †Fresh evergreen can impart strong sap or needles.

    ‡There is not enough batter to fully fill out a bundt pan.



    RECIPE: Peppermint White Hot Chocolate & Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

    Christmas season is a bonanza for peppermint lovers, from candy canes to peppermint bark to chocolate-peppermint everything.

    Now, have a cup of peppermint white hot chocolate with a dark chocolate peppermint brownie. Both recipes are from McCormick.

    While together they create a chocolate-peppermint symphony, they can be split up and paired with non-peppermint, non-chocolate beverages and cookies.


    Ingredients For 6 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces white chocolate*, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
    *We chop up white chocolate bars from Green & Black’s or Lindt.



    If you’re a big fan of peppermint, this dessert is for you: white peppermint hot chocolate with chocolate peppermint bars. Photo courtesy McCormick.


    1. PLACE the heavy cream and chocolate in medium saucepan. Cook and stir on medium heat until chocolate is melted.

    2. STIR in half-and-half and peppermint extract. Cook and stir until heated through. Pour into serving cups. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

    There’s a recipe for every day of the month. See all the hot chocolate ideas.

    Here’s the difference between hot chocolate and cocoa.



    Top chocolate brownies with peppermint
    cream and chocolate ganache. Photo
    courtesy A Kitchen Addiction.



    This fudgy brownie is layered with peppermint frosting and a rich chocolate glaze. Prep time is 15 minutes, bake time is 15 minutes.


    Ingredients For 36 Bars

  • 1 package (family-size) fudge brownie mix or your own brownie recipe
  • 2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Crushed peppermint candies


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare the brownie mix as directed on the package. Spread in greased foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean. Cool in the pan on wire rack. Meanwhile…

    2. BEAT the confectioners’ sugar, 7 tablespoons of the butter (melted), cream and peppermint extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Spread evenly over the cooled pan of brownies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    3. MICROWAVE the chocolate and the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick)pf butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH, for 2 minutes or until the butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Spread over top of chilled brownie.

    4. SPRINKLE with the crushed peppermint candies. Cut into bars.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Holiday Garnishes

    Many people are so accustomed to the same old parsley or watercress garnish. It’s easy to create special touches can you use for the holidays. The majority can be used with either drinks or dishes of food, savory or sweet.

    We like festive red and green garnishes and star shapes. Consider:

  • Carambola (star fruit) slices (it’s greenish yellow; combine with a sprinkle of pomegranate arils for plate garnishes or notch for the rims of glasses)
  • Caviar: green- and red-colored golden whitefish caviar or green and red tobiko (flying fish roe)
  • Champagne grapes or red currants
  • Pomegranate arils on a slice of lime or kiwi
  • Red and green grapes: clusters, threaded, scattered, or on picks
  • Red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved on a cucumber slice or placed on top of baby arugula or spinach
  • Red radish slices atop cucumber slices

    Christmas Garnish

    A lime with pomegranate arils can dress drinks or plates of food. Photo courtesy Danny Meyer.

  • Rosemary sprigs, plain or stems threaded with whole cranberries
  • Sprinkled dried cranberries and green pistachios
  • Star shapes cut from fruits and vegetables (use a small star cookie cutter)
  • Whole cranberries (thread them with green grapes of popcorn as platter garnishes)
    For Desserts

  • Crushed candy canes
  • Frosted grapes
  • Raspberries or strawberries and mint leaves
    Other ideas? Please share!



    RECIPE: Christmas Ornament Cookies

    If our recent article on making Christmas tree ornaments from deyhydrated fruit didn’t appeal to you, how about cookie ornaments? Unlike the dried citrus, you can eat the cookies when you take down the tree.

    This is a recipe for people who want to hone their decorating techniques. Marian, cookie decorating expert and author of the blog Sweetopia, has created a tutorial to guide you. Follow her easy steps and master the art of marbling (also called feathering or swirling).

    To marble, you simply add one or more colors of icing to a base coat and then drag a toothpick through the icing to create a marbled effect. Check out the step-by-step decorating instructions

    If you’ve made cookies like these before you, you know that all you need are time and patience. It gets easier with every batch.

    Bonus: You can use the marbling technique on cakes, cocktails with foam top layer, and of course, cappuccino and latte.

    These are gingerbread cookies, but if you prefer, you can make shortbread or chocolate shortbread cookies. Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes. Determine in advance how many colors of icing you want to use.



    Christmas Ornament Cookies

    Hang these ornament cookies on the tree, and eat them when the tree comes down (in theory). Photo courtesy

    Ingredients For 30 Cookies

    For The Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 6-1/2 cups (800 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon baking powder*
    For The Royal Icing

  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder (if not vanilla flavored, add 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract†)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2-1/4 pounds (about 5-2/3 cups) powdered sugar
    For Decorating

  • Christmas ornament cookie cutters
  • Piping bags
  • Piping bag couplers
  • #2 piping tips
  • Icing bag ties or rubber bands
  • Toothpicks
  • Ribbon
    *Omit the baking powder if you do not want cookies to spread/rise.

    †Clear vanilla extract is a flavoring used when you don’t want vanilla to discolor a light icing. It is not “real” vanilla extract. Rather, it is flavored with vanillin, which is used to make artificial vanilla extract.


    Ornament Cookies

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/gingerbread ornament step2 GBWB 230

    Christmas Cookie Ornaments

    The three steps to decorating ornament
    cookies. In the third photo, a toothpick is
    used to drag the icing up and down, as
    shown by the arrows. Photos courtesy Go
    Bold With Butter.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, on medium speed, until fluffy. Mix in the spices, then the eggs and molasses. Reduce the speed to low.

    2. WHISK together in a separate bowl the flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture, and mix until just combined.

    3. FORM the dough into a disk shape and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

    4. ROLL the out dough on lightly floured work surface or between 2 sheets of parchment paper to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out the shapes with cookie cutters and cut a small hole in the top of each cookie for the ribbon.

    5. PLACE the cookies approximately 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

    6. BAKE the cookies until lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let them cool on the sheets on wire racks.

    7. MAKE the royal icing. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the warm water and meringue powder (and the clear vanilla extract if necessary). Whisk by hand until frothy and thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and whisk by hand for 30 seconds more.

    8. ADD all the powdered sugar at once. Using the lowest speed, mix slowly with the paddle for 10 minutes. The icing will become thick and creamy.

    9. DIVIDE into portions to tint with food colorings. As necessary, thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.

    1. BEGIN by piping an icing outline around each cookie. Use a piping bag fitted with a coupler and #2 tip.

    2. LET the outline dry for a few minutes to create a solid border. You’ll be able to see the border somewhat when the icing dries, so alternately you could fill or flood your cookie in right after piping the outline. Once you’ve filled the whole cookie…

    3. SHAKE it gently left to right on your work surface, to help smooth the icing out.


    4. ADD your second (or more) layer or color of icing. Work as quickly as you can before the icing sets.

    5. TAKE a toothpick and drag it through the icing, drawing S-like shapes. Each combination of colors creates another look. Just by changing the way you set up your lines and drag the toothpick, completely different designs emerge.

    6. DO as much decorating as you like. Once the marbled icing has set (at least 15 minutes), pipe the icing at the top (crown) of the ornament, representing (use grey or gold). Let that set and pipe a few line details as desired.

    Don’t be intimidated by the piping. You don’t have to make perfectly marbled cookies like an expert baker. You can make abstract swirls, polka dots or whatever you like.



    RECIPE: Easy Gingerbread Cake & More Ways To Enjoy Gingerbread

    Gingerbread is a long-standing holiday tradition, the seeds of which are with the 11th-century crusaders returning from the Holy Land with ginger and other spices. The history is below.

    Beyond those first gingerbread cakes and cookies, ginger has found its way into present day mousse, waffles,



  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • Garnish: whipped cream*
    *Instead of vanilla-flavored whip cream, consider bourbon whipped cream.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda in a large bowl until combined; set aside.

    2. PLACE the milk in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave on high for 90 seconds. Whisk the butter into the bowl with the hot milk until it has melted. Add the brown sugar and molasses and mix. Stir in the egg.

    3. ADD the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients bowl and mix until they are completely combined. Pour the batter into an 8″x8″ pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until it the cake is firm in the center. Cool the cake completely. Serve with whipped cream.


    Gingerbread Cake


    TOP PHOTO: Easy gingerbread cake made even easier in a disposable Reynolds Bakeware pan. When you’re bringing food to someone’s house, you don’t have to worry about getting the pan back. BOTTOM PHOTO: How about a gingerbread cheesecake? Here’s the recipe from


  • Easy Gingerbread Cupcakes Recipe
  • Gingerbread Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
  • Gingerbread Frozen Yogurt Recipe
  • Gingerbread Latte Recipe
  • Gingerbread Men Cookies Recipe (you’ll need a gingerbread woman cookie cutter to give equal opportunity to the ladies)
  • Gingerbread Whoopie Pies Recipe
  • Gingerbread Pancakes & Waffles Recipe
  • Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
  • Ginger-Lemon Cinnamon Buns Recipe
  • Mini Eggnog-Gingerbread Cheesecakes Recipe
    Even More
    Make a gingerbread sundae with cinnamon, ginger and vanilla ice creams. Add cubes of fresh-baked gingerbread bars or cake, topped with whipped cream, candied ginger and chunks of Chuao Chocolate’s gingerbread chocolate bar. The truly indulgent can add caramel sauce.

    Don’t want to make anything at all? Check out the gingerbread cottages, trains, wreaths and cake pops at

    Check your supermarket, frozen yogurt or gelato/ice shop for a seasonal gingerbread flavor.

    Look for Nonni’s Nonni’s Gingerbread Biscotti. We’re big fans.


    Gingerbread Man and Woman

    Gingerbread Cupcakes

    TOP PHOTO: Equal opportunity: Bake
    gingerbread men and women. Photo courtesy
    WMMB. BOTTOM PHOTO: Make these
    gingerbread cupcakes from Pillsbury.



    At the end of the 11th century, the Crusaders returned to Europe from the Middle East with ginger and other spices. Prior to the 15th century, “gingerbread” referred to preserved ginger. It began to be used to flavor cakes and cookies. Monks baked the first gingerbread cookies for holidays and festivals, which are called Lebkuchen in German.

    Why is it called ginger “bread” in English? The spice ginger, zingebar in Latin, became gingerbras in Old French, gingerbread in Medieval English and Ingwer in German.

    Gingerbread cookies were made year-round in a proliferation of shapes—flowers, hearts, trees and so forth in different sizes. The Medieval German Lebkuchen Guild† transformed gingerbread into a highly-decorated art, crafting the fancy shapes and decorating them with sugar and gold.

    But gingerbread men originated elsewhere. The credit goes to Queen Elizabeth I—or more precisely, an unnamed palace baker who toiled during her reign (1558 to 1603). Her Majesty bestowed “portrait” gingerbread cookies upon important court visitors, decorated in their likenesses.
    Who Invented Gingerbread Houses?

    According to a reference in, the tradition of baking gingerbread houses began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of fairy tales in 1812.

    Life imitates art: Inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, who nibbled at the witch’s candy-covered gingerbread house (and inspired our name, The Nibble), German bakers created miniature houses from the already popular lebkuchen (gingerbread). Artists were employed to decorate the houses, which became particularly popular during Christmas.

    “Hansel and Gretel” vastly increased the popularity of gingerbread cookies and other treats. Gingerbread men and animals became popular Christmas tree ornaments.

    The gingerbread tradition crossed the ocean with the German immigration wave that began in 1820. We thank them for the gingerbread.

    A ginger cookie is a soft, molasses-type cookie that is flavored with ginger and other spices. It is larger than, and otherwise differs from, a gingersnap.

    Unlike the fancier gingerbread, a gingersnap is a small, thin, plain round cookie with a hard, smooth texture like a gingerbread cookie. It is a smaller version of the traditional German Christmas cookie known as Lebkuchen. Like a gingerbread cookie, ginger snaps break with a “snap.”

    Gingersnaps contain a larger amount of ginger, and thus are spicier, than the chewier ginger cookies.

    *Only Lebkuchen Guild members could bake gingerbread, except during Christmas, when anyone could bake it.



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