STYLE

Satisfy your sweet tooth with holiday treats: shortbread, Nanaimo bars, torte

12/02/2013 09:14 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST
Here are some delicious treats to inspire you to try your hand at holiday baking.

Original Scottish Shortbread

Who doesn't love melt-in-your-mouth shortbread during the holidays? Here is an easy recipe.

250 ml (1 cup) softened butter

175 ml (3/4 cup) granulated or fruit sugar

625 ml (2 1/2 cups) sifted all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 150 C (300 F).

In a bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Gradually add flour, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Knead lightly. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/2-inch (1-cm) thickness. Using a cookie cutter or a glass dipped in flour, cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Source: "The 250 Best Cookie Recipes" by Esther Brody (Robert Rose Inc., www.robertrose.ca, 2013).

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Winter Wonderland Snowman Shortbreads

On the next snowy day, bake up some fun for your kids with this cute edible craft recipe.

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) softened unsalted butter

175 ml (3/4 cup) icing sugar (plus extra for decorating)

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) vanilla extract

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

750 ml (3 cups) all-purpose flour

Mini chocolate chips, gum drops, licorice whips, jelly beans, fruit leather, etc.

Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter with icing sugar, vanilla and salt until fluffy. Add flour and mix well. (Chill if needed until easy to handle.)

Measure level 30 ml (2 tbsp) portions into 8 balls for snowman bases; arrange on prepared baking sheet. Measure level 15 ml (1 tbsp) and 10 ml (2 tsp) portions respectively for 8 bellies and 8 heads of snowmen. Arrange on baking sheets. Chill dough balls for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). In batches, bake largest balls for 18 minutes, medium balls for 15 minutes and smallest balls for 12 minutes or until balls are golden on the bottom and set. Let cool completely.

Roll in icing sugar to coat. Create a paste using additional icing sugar and water (see Easy Icing Sugar Glue below); use to stack and assemble balls into a snowman shape. Decorate as desired with candies.

Makes about 8 snowmen.

Easy Icing Sugar Glue: Stir 90 ml (6 tbsp) icing sugar with 7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) water. Spoon a small dab between balls to assemble snowmen. Use toothpicks to help paste on small items such as chocolate chip eyes and buttons.

Source: Gay Lea Foods.

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Ultimate Nanaimo Bars

There's a lot of conjecture about the origins of this no-bake bar, but there is no doubt it is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo in British Columbia.

Base

125 ml (1/2 cup) butter, melted

50 ml (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

1 egg, beaten

75 ml (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

500 ml (2 cups) graham wafer crumbs (about 30 wafers)

250 ml (1 cup) shredded coconut

125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts

Filling

50 ml (1/4 cup) butter, softened

30 ml (2 tbsp) vanilla custard powder or vanilla instant pudding mix

30 ml (2 tbsp) milk (approx)

500 ml (2 cups) icing sugar, sifted

Topping

4 squares (each 30 g/1 oz) unsweetened chocolate

15 ml (1 tbsp) butter

Grease a 2.5-l (9-inch) square cake pan with butter.

Base: In a bowl, mix together melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa and vanilla until blended.

In another bowl, mix together crumbs, coconut and walnuts. Add butter mixture and mix well. Press evenly into prepared pan. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Filling: In a separate bowl, cream butter. Beat in custard powder, milk and icing sugar until blended. If mixture is too thick, add a few drops more milk. Spread evenly over base and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Topping: In a saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Spread evenly over topping, then cut into bars. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 bars.

Source: "The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares" by Esther Brody (Robert Rose Inc., www.robertrose.ca, 2013).

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Almond-Chocolate Gingerbread Torte

This decadent torte features the holiday flavour of gingerbread along with chcocolate and almonds.

To toast almonds, spread in an ungreased baking pan. Place in a 180 C (350 F) oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly brown; stir once or twice to ensure even browning. Almonds will continue to brown slightly after removing from oven.

125 ml (1/2 cup) butter, softened

125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar

125 ml (1/2 cup) molasses

2 eggs

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla

300 ml (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour

125 ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder

10 ml (2 tsp) ground ginger

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) cinnamon

5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) allspice

125 ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk

150 ml (2/3 cup) toasted slivered almonds, divided

Chocolate Ganache Glaze (recipe follows)

75 to 125 ml (1/3 to 1/2 cup) apricot or peach preserves

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Coat two 23-cm (9-inch) round layer cake pans with vegetable spray.

In a mixer bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Beat in sugar, then molasses to blend thoroughly. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

In another bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Beat into butter mixture just to blend. Mix in buttermilk. Coarsely chop 75 ml (1/3 cup) of the almonds; mix into batter. Pour into prepared pans, dividing equally and smoothing tops. Bake in centre of oven for about 15 minutes, just until springy to the touch. Let cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze; set aside.

Place one cake layer on a serving plate; cover with preserves and drizzle with glaze. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread glaze evenly over top and sides of torte. Garnish with remaining almonds. Let glaze set for at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

90 ml (6 tbsp) whipping cream

22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) light corn syrup

250 ml (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring whipping cream and corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and mix in chocolate chips until smooth. Let cool until mixture is thick enough to spread on cake.

Source: Almond Board of California.

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