By Brack Johnson


'Tis the season to indulge in holiday desserts! Here are recipes from recent cookbooks that offer delicious finales to festive meals.


Among them is "From a Southern Oven" by Chapel Hill resident and acclaimed cookbook author Jean Anderson. She has received rave reviews for her newest book's collection of down-home recipes.



From a Southern Oven

The Savories, The Sweets

Published by John Wiley & Sons








Orange Christmas Cake
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1-/14 cup (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter softened (no substitutes)
2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup milk


Orange Syrup
1-1/2 cups strained fresh orange juice
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
Optional Garnish: Orange zest curls


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spritz three 9-inch round layer cake pans with nonstick oil and flour baking spray, line bottom of the pan with parchment, spritz again and set aside.


Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together in large mixing bowl and set aside also.


Cream sugar, butter orange zest and vanilla in large electric mixer bowl 3 minutes at high speed until fluffy, pausing frequently to scrape sides of bowl. Add egg yolks and beat only enough to combine. At low mixer speed, add combined dry ingredients alternating with milk, beginning and ending with dry, and beating after each addition just until combined.


With clean bowl and beaters, beat egg whites to soft peaks and fold gently into batter. Divide batter among pans, spreading to edges and smoothing top.


Slide pans onto middle oven shelf (they should not touch one another or walls of the oven) and bake about 25 minutes until layers begin to pull from sides of the pan and cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean.


Cool layers in upright pans on wire racks 15 minutes, loosen around the edges with a thin-blade spatula, then invert on racks, turn right side up, and cool to room temperature.


For Orange Syrup

Combine orange juice and sugar in small non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat. Adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in half the orange zest.


To assemble, place one cake layer right side up on large round cake plate, pierce top 12 to 15 times with toothpick, and gradually spoon on one-third orange syrup allowing to soak in. Set second layer right side up on top, pierce, and soak with another one-third syrup. Stir remaining orange zest into remaining syrup. Top cake with third layer, again placing right side up, then pierce, and spoon on remaining syrup. Garnish with orange zest curls, if desired.


Let cake stand at room temperature about an hour before eating. Cake gets better the longer it sets, if it stays around that long!


Makes one 9-inch 3 layer cake




The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook

Published by Quirk Books







Gingerbread Cookie Dough Peppermint Bark
For cookie dough
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons molasses
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour


For peppermint bark
12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) semisweet or dark chocolate chips
12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes


Combine butter, brown sugar, and molasses in a large mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add spices and salt and mix well. Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in large crumbles. Set aside.


In a microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup, microwave chocolate chips at half power for 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate is almost fully melted, stirring every 15 seconds. Remove from microwave and continue to stir until chocolate is smooth. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, spreading into an even layer. Chill until just set, about 10 minutes.


Repeat with white chocolate chips. Before the white chocolate layer sets, sprinkle crushed candy and gingerbread dough crumbles on top; press to adhere. Chill until set, 10 to 15 minutes, then break or cut bark into pieces. Refrigerate until ready to eat.


Makes 2 pounds.



Baked Elements

Our 10 Favorite Ingredients

Published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang








Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting
For the Pumpkin Almond Cake
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk


For the Almond Butter Frosting
1/2 cup almond butter
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 to 4 tablespoons almond milk, to taste
1-1/4 to 1-3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste


For the assembly
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted or pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted


Make the Pumpkin Almond Cake Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter one round 9-inch cake pan, line with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.


In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butters and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until just incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 30 seconds.


Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds.


Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, then turn the cake out on the wire rack. Remove the parchment, flip the cake right side up, and let the cake cool completely.


Make the Almond Butter Frosting

Place the almond butter, butter, 2 tablespoons almond milk, 1-1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse in short burst until the frosting comes together and is shiny and smooth. If you prefer a slightly looser frosting, add 1 to 2 additional tablespoons almond milk; if you prefer a thicker frosting, add 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Process again.


Yield: One 9-inch single-layer cake




The Kosher Baker

Published by Brandeis University Press
University Press of New England







Jelly Donuts
1/4 ounce (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
3/4 cup parve plain soy milk
4 tablespoons parve margarine
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pans and work surface
4 to 5 cups canola or vegetable oil, for deep frying
1/2 to 1 cup raspberry or strawberry jam


In a large bowl, place the yeast, 1/4 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and stir. Let sit at least 10 minutes.


Add 1/2 cup of the sugar, the soy milk, margarine, eggs, salt, vanilla and 3 cups of the flour to the bowl with the yeast mixture and mix either with a wooden spoon or with a dough hook in a stand mixer. Add between 1/2 and 1 cup more flour, a little at a time, and mix until the dough is smooth and not sticky, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing in well before you add more flour. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. I use a warming drawer on a low setting, or you can turn your oven to its lowest setting, place the bowl in the oven, and then turn off the oven after 5 minutes.


Punch down the dough, then shape back into a ball and let it rest, covered with the towel, for 10 minutes. Take 2 cookie sheets and sprinkle flour on them.


Sprinkle some flour on the counter and roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out circles and place them on the prepared cookie sheets. Re-roll any scraps and cut out more circles. Place the cookie sheets back in the warm place. Let rise another 45 minutes.


Heat about 2 inches of oil in a medium saucepan to 360 degrees for a few minutes and adjust the flame to maintain that temperature.


Take out another cookie sheet and line it with foil. Place a wire rack on top of the cookie sheet and set near the stovetop. Add the donuts top-side down in the oil and cook 1-1/2 minutes. Use tongs or chopsticks to turn donuts over and cook another 1-1/2 minutes. Lift with a slotted spoon and place on the wire rack to cool. Repeat with all the donuts.


Use a knife or skewer to puncture a hole in the side of each donut, moving the knife or skewer around inside to make space for the jam. Place 1/2 cup of the jam in a pastry bag fitted with a small, round tip (about 1/4 inch) and squeeze some jam into the hole; you will feel the donut getting heavier. Add more jam into the bag as needed. Roll each filled donut into the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and serve. These taste best the day they are made.


Store covered at room temperature for up to 1 day.


Makes about 25 (3-inch) donuts




Baking for Friends

Published by Tate's Bake Shop, LLC










Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark Muscovado or brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely crushed candy canes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts


Position the oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with a electric mixer on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in flour mixture, just until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips, raisins and walnuts.


Using 2 tablespoons per cookie, drop the dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. (Or use a 1-ounce food portion scoop to scoop the dough onto the baking sheets.)


Bake, rotating the position of the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the cookies start to brown on the edges, about 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, on cooled baking sheets.


Makes about 3-1/2 dozen cookies


Tip: To crush the candy canes, leave them in their wrappers and lightly tap with the handle of a dinner knife or a hammer until they are pieces about the size of a miniature chocolate chip.



The Brown Betty Cookbook

Published by John Wiley and Sons








Sweet Potato Pie
3-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon regular salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 recipes pie crust, prebaked in two 9-inch deep-dish pie dishes


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.


Place the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and rub the skins with oil. Roast the sweet potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool until easy enough to handle.


Using a knife, remove the skin of the sweet potatoes and place the flesh of the potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the potato flesh on medium-high speed to remove pulp, about 1 minute. Push the flesh through a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


In another bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and salt on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and the brown sugar and beat until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until blended.


Add the mashed sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla and cream and beat until smooth.


Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until the centers are set, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pies to a wire rack to cool completely.


Makes 2 pies; 6-8 servings each



Sweet Christmas
Homemade Peppermints, Sugar Cake, Chocolate-Almond Toffee, Eggnog, Fudge, and Other Sweet Treats and Decorations

Published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang





Saltine Chocolate-Almond Toffee
40 salted soda crackers (about 1-1/2 sleeves)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup thinly sliced almonds (or any nut you like)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or buttered foil.


Place the crackers on the baking sheet in a single layer. In a small saucepan, bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil.


When it begins to boil, let it bubble furiously for 3 minutes. Pour the toffee over the crackers and bake them for 5 minutes.


Remove the toffee from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Let it sit for a minute or two, then use a silicone spatula to spread the melting chocolate evenly over the surface.


Sprinkle the chocolate layer evenly with the chopped nuts and then let it cool. When it's completely cool and firm, break it into pieces. Store the toffee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Makes about 2 pounds of toffee