By Beverly Barbour
The flavor of the holidays
Our tastebuds and our noses tell us when Christmas is in the air. When else do we have eggnog in cups and in desserts, when do we make a Yule log, and when is the house fragrant with ginger? These are American sensory delights; in the Scandinavian countries it is cardamom, in other countries, other sights and smells tickle memories of Christmases past.
Eggnog Cheesecake with Bourbon Cream
This make-ahead dessert uses the fresh eggnog found in the dairy section. It is a make-ahead as it needs to chill overnight. You can skip the bourbon and flavor the Bourbon Cream with any liqueur or with grated orange peel and vanilla, if you wish.
Crust Filling Bourbon Cream
Crust: Heat oven to 350 F. Spray or butter 9-inch pie pan. Place crackers in a food processor and turn into crumbs or place in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, butter and 1 egg white, pulse 5 times or just until moist (or combine in a bowl with a fork). Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake 8 minutes; cool for 15 minutes. While baking prepare filling.
Filling: Reduce oven to 325 F. Spread yogurt 1/2-inch thick onto several layers of paper towels (or onto layers of newspaper covered with paper towels). Let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl. Place cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl and beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add this mixture to cheese mixture; beat to combine. Add yogurt to cheese mixture; add eggnog. Beat at low speed until well combined. With clean beaters beat 2 egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into eggnog mixture. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover and chill overnight.
Bourbon Cream: Place whipped topping (or the equivalent whipped cream) in a bowl. Gently fold in 2 tablespoons eggnog and the bourbon; chill. Top each slice of pie with bourbon cream, sprinkle lightly with nutmeg before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Gingerbread Christmas Pudding with Orange Hard Sauce
English Christmas pudding is really a dense, moist spiced cake. This version is flavored with orange marmalade and topped with the traditional hardsauce. A butter-rum sauce is also nice with or without the hardsauce. Pudding can be made a day ahead and reheated in the mold by resteaming for 45 minutes. Or, reheat in the microwave.
Pudding: Coat inside and center of a tube pudding mold or Bundt cake pan with nonstick spray, then generously with butter. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then marmalade, molasses and orange peel. Add flour mixture and beat just until blended. Transfer batter to prepared mold. Cover mold tightly with lid or foil. Place rack or jar rings in large pot. Place mold on rack and fill pot with enough water to come halfway up sides of mold. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover pot and steam pudding until tester inserted near center comes out clean, adding more boiling water as needed to maintain level, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove pan lid to let steam escape and then lift mold from pot. Uncover and let stand on rack 10 minutes. Cut around top center and sides to loosen mold. Turn pudding out onto rack and cool 20 minutes. Serve cut into wedges with the sauce. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Sauce: Combine all ingredients in small bowl; stir to blend well. This can be made 4 days ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator but serve at room temperature.
American Chocolate Log (Bouche De Noel)
An orange mouse in a chocolate sponge cake roll with an icing make to resemble tree bark. Not for the faint of heart but everyone has to try this at least once. It takes a little time but can be made ahead in stages then assembled.
Cake Filling Icing
Cake: Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 15- by 10-by 1-inch jellyroll or cookie pan. Line with waxed paper or parchment paper, allowing 1-inch overhang on short sides. Butter paper lightly and dust paper and pan with flour; tap out excess. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add 6 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Beat egg yolks, 1/3 cup cocoa powder and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in another bowl until thick, about 2 minutes. Stir 1/4 of the whites into yolk mixture to lighten. Fold in the remaining whites. Gently spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until cake springs back when pressed in center, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on rack. Sift remaining 1 tablespoon cocoa powder over cake. Line a baking sheet with foil and invert cake onto foil. Peel off paper.
Filling: Place 2 tablespoons boiling water in small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over. Let soften 10 minutes. Heat 1/4 cup cream over medium-low heat until warm. Add to gelatin mixture; stir until gelatin dissolves. Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups chilled cream, confectioners sugar, orange peel and vanilla in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add gelatin mixture; beat until stiff peaks form. Spread filling over cooled cake, leave a 1-inch border on sides. Using the foil as an aid and starting at long side of cake, gently roll up cake, enclosing filling. Arrange roll, seam side down, on a platter. Cover tightly and refrigerate until filling is set, at least 8 hours or overnight.
Icing: Bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate, corn syrup and liqueur. Stir until mixture is smooth. Let stand until cool and thick. Whisk until soft peaks form (do not overmix). Spread over cake roll. Using the tines of a fork draw wavy lines through icing to represent tree bark. Sift powdered sugar over the roll before serving. Decorate with cranberries, chocolate truffles or meringues made to look like mushrooms, if you wish. Or with sprigs of holly. Makes 10 servings.