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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biscotti Bites

Biscotti Bites

Almond Biscotti Bites

Top: Each Biscotti Bite is a 12-calorie treat. Photo: Thomas Francois | FOT. Bottom: Almond, one of the three flavors of Biscotti Bites. Photo: The Bites Company.


Every person who is mindful of calories searches for those magical foods that deliver the satisfaction without the calories. We discovered one such food in Biscotti Bites from The Bites Company.

Before we wax poetic, note that other companies market products called Biscotti Bites. Some are miniature biscotti like Nonni’s Biscotti Bites, a product we enjoy very much.

But The Bites Company makes little round cookies, just 1-3/8 inches in diameter.

They’re less dense than biscotti yet still crunchy. And they deliver lovely biscotti flavor in in Almond, Cocoa and Lemon.

Company founder Dana Upton had made traditional biscotti for 30 years. She reworked her recipe so that her cookies would still deliver a biscotti experience at 12 calories a bite.

The recommended serving size is 10 cookies for 120 calories; 9 cookies have 3 Weight Watchers points.

The cookies are all natural, made in small batches from scratch with top-quality ingredients. The Almond flavor evokes traditional biscotti. The Lemon flavor contains fresh lemon peel, for a lilting lemon flavor. The Cocoa flavor is more subtle; we prefer the first two.

As for nutrition, Biscotti Bites are:

  • Are low in sodium, with no added salt.
  • Have less than 1 gram of sugar in each cookie.
  • Have the right “no” list: no canola oil, no GMOs, no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG, no soy, no trans fat.
    They are also kosher-certified, although the company is using up its supply of packaging without the hechsher.

    Biscotti Bites are sold in 4.5-ounce bags, and the Almond variety is available in 1-ounce single serve bags. You can buy them on the company website,, or head to Amazon for:

  • Almond Biscotti Bites
  • Cocoa Biscotti Bites
  • Lemon Biscotti Bites

    The MSRP for single packages is $5.99; a three-pack is $15.00. We promise, they’re worth every penny.

    They are so delicious that you can’t eat just one. Fortunately, you can have 10 at a time.

    Biscotti date back to ancient Rome. They were originally made not for a leisurely snack with an espresso, but as a long-shelf-life food that could be carried by travelers, back in the day when you were not likely to find food on the road.

    Among the travelers who took biscotti with them were the Roman Legions. Here’s the history of biscotti.



    TIP OF THE DAY: White Whole Wheat

    White Whole Wheat Flour

    White Whole Wheat Flour Comparison

    Top photo: White whole wheat flour may
    soon become one of the hot “better for you”
    foods. Bottom photo: white whole wheat
    flour compared to whole wheat flour from red
    wheat. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.


    We always start January with better-for-you tips of the day. There are a few weeks between the holidays and Valentine’s Day temptations where we can actually focus on better-for-you foods.

    Americans say that their number one resolution for the new year is to lose weight. “Eat healthier” is in the top five.

    One of the easiest switches Americans can make is to whole wheat flour in daily bread products—bagels, sandwiches, pasta, pizza crusts; baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and brownies; and family favorites like pancakes and waffles. Whole wheat provides lots of nutritional benefits and helps to mitigate the guilt of enjoying carbs.

    But many Americans don’t like the stronger taste of whole wheat.

    Enter white whole wheat flour, also called whole white wheat flour and marketed by some bread manufacturers as whole grain white bread. It’s milder in flavor and whiter in color than conventional whole wheat, and is a terrific option for nutrition-oriented people who aren’t crazy about the flavor of conventional whole wheat.

    Aren’t “white whole wheat” and “whole grain white bread” contradictions in terms?

    Friends, it’s only confusing at first. Just think of white whole wheat as “albino whole wheat.”


    Most of the wheat grown in the U.S. is hard red winter wheat. In Australia, most of the wheat grown is hard white spring wheat. Both genuses of wheat are milled into whole grain flour (containing the bran, endosperm and germ) that is equally nutritious.

    While white wheat has been grown in Australia for decades, different varieties needed to be developed to do well in American soil and climate. It has been slowly creeping into retail America, both in sacks of flour and baked goods. Even Wonder Bread now sells whole grain white bread!

    Why is it whiter?

    Hard white wheat lacks the genes for bran color. Traditional red wheat has one to three bran color genes.

    The bran of white wheat is not only lighter in color but it’s also milder in flavor, because it also lacks the strongly-flavored phenolic compounds in red wheat. The milder flavor also means that products made with white whole wheat require less added sweetener to attain the same level of perceived sweetness.

    The flavor of whole white wheat flour is more appealing to people who prefer refined white flour. If that’s you, you can now have your cake [or bread] and eat it, too.

    In sum:

  • Hard white spring wheat flour yields milder-tasting baked goods than the red winter wheat flour traditionally used in the U.S.
  • Breads and cakes made with whole white wheat flour are lighter in color than those made with whole red winter wheat.
  • White whole wheat provides the same nutrition and fiber as flour made from red winter wheat.
    Here’s more information from The Whole Grains Council.



    Use it as you would regular whole wheat flour. Try these tips from King Arthur Flour, useful for both red and white whole wheat flours:

  • If you substitute whole wheat flour in a yeast bread recipe calling for refined white flour, let the dough rest for 15 minutes before kneading.
  • Substituting orange juice for some of the water in a whole wheat bread recipe tempers any potential strong flavor in the wheat.
  • Whole wheat dough shouldn’t be kneaded as long or as vigorously as dough made with all-purpose flour. That’s because whole wheat bran particles are sharp, and can potentially cut the developing gluten strands if the dough is handled roughly.
  • If the recipe is a bit too sweet (from the naturally sweeter white flour), cut down on the sugar next time.

    Cinnamon Swirl Bread

    Plan ahead for brunch next weekend: Try this cinnamon swirl bread recipe from King Arthur Flour.


    Pick up a sack of white whole wheat flour and try it with some favorite recipes. See if you can tell the difference in flavor.

    If you can’t find it at your supermarket, look at natural food stores.

    Get yours at



    RECIPE: The Easiest Seasonal Bundt Cake

    If you’re home from work for the holidays with guests dropping by, here’s a very easy seasonal bundt cake recipe. It freezes well, so you can stick it in the freezer and cut slices whenever you need them. It’s a delicious alternative to coffee cake, and a homey cake to bake for friends.

    What makes it so easy is starting with a cinnamon bundt cake mix. The best one we’ve tried is the Cinnamon Streusel Bundt Mix from Nordicware, makers of the bundt pan. At $15 a box it isn’t inexpensive, but it’s as good as homemade. As an alternative, Krusteaz and Betty Crocker have a mix for $2.50.

    For a seasonal touch, Chef Tom Fraker of added dried cranberries; we added pecans.

    For a fancier dessert, you can drizzle the slices with butterscotch or caramel sauce and garnish with whipped cream or mascarpone.



  • 1 box cinnamon bundt cake mix
  • Eggs, milk, and butter per cake mix directions
  • 2 Gala* apples, peeled and diced small
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Optional garnish: powdered sugar

    Cranberry Apple Bundt Cake

    A cinnamon streusel bundt, loaded with seasonal cranberries and pecans. Photo courtesy Melissas.

    *You can substitute the more tart Granny Smith or the more sweet Empire apples. All three hold their shape when baked.

    1. PREPARE the cake batter according to package instructions.

    2. TOSS the diced apples in flour and shake off the excess. Fold the apples, cranberries and pecans into the cake batter. Bake the cake as directed on the package.

    3. DUST the cake with powdered sugar right before serving (otherwise it will absorb into the cake). Place the sugar in a small sieve (mini strainer), hold it over the cake and tap it to dust the top.



    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: Make Holiday Cupcakes

    December 15th is National Cupcake Day.

    When a holiday like this falls right before Christmas, there’s only one direction to pursue: Christmas cupcakes.

    Whether you bake them from scratch or buy plain cupcakes to decorate, here are 10 easy approaches:

  • Candy cane cupcakes: Crushed red and white peppermints on chocolate or vanilla iced cupcakes (see photo).
  • Coconut “snowball” cupcakes: Chredded coconut on vanilla icing, plain or decorated with a mini candy cane or other Christmas candy.
  • Cone Christmas tree cupcakes: Cover a small ice cream cone with green frosting and invert on top of a cupcake. Add sprinkles or dragées for “ornaments.”
  • Dragée-dotted cupcakes: A sophisticated approach using metallic-colored gold and/or silver balls.
  • Frosty The Snowman cupcakes: Use black and orange gels or icing to create Frosty’s face atop flat-iced white cupcakes: eyes, nose and mouth (see photo).
  • Holly cupcakes: Use real or candy mint leaves and mini red candies to create a holly sprig.
  • Red and green icing: Use food color to tint icing, store-bought or homemade. Serve as is or with decorations of choice. Check out the special Christmas-wrap Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Rudolph cupcakes: To a chocolate-frostrf cupcake, add white frosting eyes or candy eyes, a red candy nose and pretzel antlers (see photo).
  • Sprinkles cupcakes: Garnish iced cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, confetti, stars or Christmas trees.
  • Star cupcakes: Crown cupcakes with foil-wrapped chocolate stars or red and green gummy stars.

    Before the advent of muffin tins, cupcakes were baked in individual tea cups (hence “cup” cakes) or ramekins. The first reference to the miniature cakes dates to 1796, when a recipe for “cake to be baked in small cups” appeared in the cookbook, “American Cookery.” The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook in 1828 (receipt is an earlier term for recipe). [Source]

    Back then, cupcakes were easier to make than cakes because they cooked much faster. It took a long time to bake a cake in a hearth oven; cupcakes were ready in a fraction of the time. [Source]


    Candy Cane Cupcake


    Reindeer Cupcake

    TOP PHOTO: Crushed peppermint and a mini candy cane, at Trophy Cupcakes. MIDDLE PHOTO: Snowman cupcakes © BOTTOM PHOTO: Rudolph cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes,

    Muffin tins (doing double duty as cupcake tins) became widely available around the turn of the 20th century, and offered a new convenience to bakers of muffins and cupcakes. But the next convenience took a while longer:

    For easier removal of cupcakes from the pan, paper and foil cupcake pan liners were created after World War II. An artillery manufacturer, the James River Corporation, began to manufacture cupcake liners when its military markets diminished. By 1969, they left artillery manufacturing behind and became a paper manufacturer.

    During the 1950s, the new paper baking cup gained popularity as U.S. housewives purchased them for convenience. Their flexibility grew when bakers realized that they could bake muffins as well as cupcakes in the baking cups. [Source]

    Cupcakes evolved into children’s party fare, but in the last decade have taken a more sophisticated turn. First, some younger couples began to choose “cupcake trees” instead of conventional wedding cakes. This prompted a flurry of cupcake articles and recipes, and ultimately the opening of boutique cupcake bakeries nationwide, offering what has become an everyday treat.

    In 2005, Sprinkles Cupcakes, the first cupcakes-only bakery in the world, opened in New York City in 2005. Now, cupcake boutiques are ubiquitous. Get your share, and have a happy National Cupcake Day.

    *Both receipt and recipe derive from the Latin recipere, to receive or take. Receipt was originally used in medieval English to designate a formula or prescription for a medicinal preparation, and the symbol Rx emerged in medieval times. The sense of receipt as a written statement that money or goods have been received emerged later, at the beginning of the 17th century. In terms of cooking instructions, recipe became an alternative to receipt in the 18th century, gradually replacing it over time. Here’s more.



    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.



    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


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  • 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.



    RECIPE: Cranberry Crumb Bars

    For a simple dessert or coffee break snack during the holiday season, try these “crantastic” crumb bars from the talented Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker. See more of her terrific recipes at



  • 1-3/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2-1/2 sticks cold butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries


    Try these crumb bars with a morning cup of coffee or as a snack. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line a 9×13 glass baking dish with aluminum foil and spray foil with nonstick spray.

    2. MIX together in a bowl 1-3/4 cups sugar, the oats, flour, almond meal, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Use your fingertips or a pastry cutter to blend in the butter. With a fork, mix in the eggs to create a dough that comes together. The dough will be a little crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the buttered pan.

    3. STIR together in another bowl the second 1-3/4 cups sugar, potato starch, vanilla and orange juice. Mix in the cranberries. Pour the cranberry mixture evenly over the dough in the pan.

    4. CRUMBLE the remaining dough over the berries and gently pat down so that dough is covering all of the cranberries. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is a light golden brown.

    5. COOL completely and chill in the refrigerator before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.



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