Festive desserts: Utah cookbook authors share favorite holiday treats
Baking • Cookbook authors from Utah share favorite holiday treats.
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Holiday dessert traditions come in many forms, from delicious cakes and cookies to candies and pies. Today, four Utah cookbook authors share recipes and stories about their favorite sweets.

Orange pound cake • Shawn Bucher, author of The First-Timer's Cookbook, created this recipe about six years ago. Now it's his go-to dessert. He likes to make several loaves at a time and keep them in the freezer. When he serves the cake, he makes it elegant by topping it with a cranberry reduction and cinnamon whipped cream.

"I love this recipe because it is fairly simple and has all the flavors of the holiday," he said. "It's something I could take to parties, give to neighbors or just have on hand." On a few occasions when Bucher has received an unexpected gift and "because of this dessert, I have been able to reciprocate quickly."

Pumpkin pie with gingersnap cookie crust • The unique crust, made of spicy gingersnap cookie dough, makes this pie a holiday favorite for Letty Flatt, who oversees the bakery at Deer Valley Resort in Park City.

"The crust's mahogany color and home-spun flavor perfectly complement the pumpkin filling," said Flatt, author of Chocolate Snowball. "And there is the secret addition of orange zest in the filling, my sister-in-law's trick for extra flavor. I like this recipe so much, I made it Deer Valley's holiday pumpkin pie recipe, too. To save time when the Deer Valley bakery is so busy, we pre-mix the filling spices and label it 'pumpkin pie spice.' "

Italian honey balls • No self-respecting Italian would have Christmas without a dish of these honey-sticky fried dough bites on the table, says Salt Lake City cooking instructor Marguerite Henderson.

Each region of Italy has its own special recipe for this deep-fried treat, sometimes called struffoli or pignolata. In Sicily, pine nuts are sprinkled on top along with candied fruits. "It has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember," said Henderson, author of several cookbooks, including Savor the Memories. "My children remember making struffoli with me when they were growing up to give to neighbors and friends. When my daughter was 3 years old, I caught her sneaking a honey ball from the table. When I asked her if she was eating a honey ball, with a round protrusion in her cheek she said, "No, not me."

Cereal candy • Laura Powell received the recipe for this easy, no-bake Christmas treat from her mother-in-law.

"I make it several times throughout the holiday season and it's something the kids look forward to with high anticipation," said Powell, a Utah blogger and author of Real Mom Kitchen. "It's delicious and highly addictive."

food@sltrib.com —

Orange pound cake with cranberry reduction and cinnamon whipped cream

Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar (or 1/2 cup agave nectar)

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons orange zest

Sauce

1 (64-ounce) bottle cranberry juice

Cinnamon whipped cream

2 cups cold heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix until combined.

In a third bowl, mix the butter with a hand or stand mixer until soft and smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour egg-milk mixture into butter and mix until combined.

Slowly fold one-half of the flour mixture into butter. Add remaining half of flour and fold until just combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. With a spatula, smooth top so batter is level.

Bake on the center rack for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes.

For the cranberry reduction, pour juice into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer for one hour or until reduced to the consistency of syrup.

Just before serving, pour whipping cream, sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl. Mix on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until desired thickness.

To serve, slice cake, drizzle each piece with cranberry reduction and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Source: Shawn Bucher, author of The First-Timer's Cookbook —

Italian honey balls (struffoli)

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons dark rum

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange

6 large eggs

3 cups vegetable or peanut oil

3 cups honey

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Colored candy sprinkles

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

In a mixer bowl, combine the flour, vanilla, rum, sugar, baking powder, butter and lemon zest. Beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, until dough is well mixed; about 2 more minutes of mixing.

Remove dough from bowl. Divide dough into 8 pieces.

On a floured board, roll each piece into a rope about 1/2 inch thick and 12 inches long.

Cut each rope into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside in a bowl with a little flour to prevent the pieces from sticking together.

When all the dough has been cut, heat oil in a 4-quart pot or larger. Drop in one piece of dough to see if the oil is hot. It should sizzle, then rise to top of oil.

When the oil is hot enough, add 12 pieces of dough to the oil. Cook until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined bowl. Dough should be crispy on outside and soft in center. Continue to fry remaining pieces, about 12 at a dime, until all dough is cooked. If oil starts to foam, turn off heat immediately and allow to cool. Continue with new oil. Remove paper towels from bowl when finished.

Heat honey and sugar in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling.

Pour hot honey mixture over fried balls in bowl and immediately toss to coat the dough with the honey. Gently pour onto a serving platter and shape into a pyramid.

Sprinkle with colored candy sprinkles and pine nuts, if desired. Can be made several days ahead.

Source: Marguerite M. Henderson, author of Savor the Memories —

Spicy pumpkin pie in a gingersnap cookie crust

Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon unsulphured mild molasses

1 tablespoon ice-cold water

Filling

2 eggs

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1⁄8 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄8 teaspoon ground mace

1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

For the crust, stir the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.

Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the molasses and cold water over the dough, mixing with the fork.

Work the dough with your hands, mixing until the pieces come together in a mass.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, 1⁄8 to 1/4 inch thick, and fit into a 9-inch pie pan, leaving a 1-inch overlap.

Fold the overlapping dough up onto the edge of the pie pan and crimp it into a fluted edge. (Or press the dough onto the edge into a fluted design.) Refrigerate or freeze until cold.

For the filling, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin and whisk until smooth. Add the sugar, orange zest, salt and spices, stirring until well mixed. Whisk in the evaporated milk.

Pour the filling into the cold pie shell. Place on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake 60 to 70 minutes, until the filling is set, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool.

Pumpkin pies should sit at room temperature no longer than 1 1/2 hours. Refrigerate the pie after it cools if you are serving later; let sit at room temperature again 1/2 hour before serving. If you wish, serve with whipped cream sweetened with a little maple syrup or sugar.

Servings • 8 to 10

Source: Letty Flatt, author of Chocolate Snowball —

Cereal candy

5 cups Cheerios cereal

5 cups Rice Chex cereal

6 cups Special K cereal

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup white corn syrup

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 dash salt

1 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place cereal in a large bowl. In a large saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Add whipping cream.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 230 degrees (softball stage in Utah) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the cereal and gently toss to coat. Press onto a large baking sheet to cool. Break into pieces.

Source: Laura Powell, author of Real Mom Kitchen