LOCAL FLAVOR: Cookies, cake and jam make great Christmas presents

With Christmas a little less than a month away, you may be looking for gift ideas. There is nothing like giving personal gifts that you have made. Whether you prefer baking cookies, cakes or breads, making candies or perhaps sharing something in the area of food preservation, put your ideas together now and get started.

Scripture Cake seems appropriate to make and give as a gift or to present on a buffet table for a holiday open house. Each ingredient of a Scripture Cake comes from a verse in the Bible, thus the name. Published recipes for the cake started appearing in magazines as early as the 1890s. A copy of a recipe, on a yellowed and frayed piece of paper that belonged to her grandfather, was given to America’s Test Kitchen by author Camilla Saulsbury to see if they could put together a recipe she could follow and replicate.

Scripture Cake is attractive on the table, but also has a wonderful flavor, loaded with spices, some chopped nuts and dried fruit, such as chopped figs and raisins. The oven is not preheated when baking this cake, just turn it on and put in the cake. Rather than baking the cake in a tube pan, smaller loaf pans can be used if you wish to give them as gifts. Adjust the baking time accordingly.

Scripture Cake

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup olive oil

6 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup evaporated milk

2/3 cup golden raisins

2/3 cup dried figs, chopped

½ cup salted pistachios, chopped

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup salted pistachios, chopped (for garnish)

Directions:

Grease a 16-cup tube pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, coriander and salt in bowl. Using a mixer set at medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and oil until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Fold in raisins, figs, pistachios and almonds. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Transfer batter to a prepared pan and smooth the top. Wipe any drops of batter off sides of pan and gently tap the pan on the counter to release air bubbles. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and place pan on rack. Set oven to 325 degrees and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, about 1 ½ to 2 hours, opening oven door only to rotate pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a small knife around edge of the cake to loosen, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Turn cake right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours.

To make the glaze: Whisk sugar, milk and lemon juice together in bowl and let sit until thickened, about 25 minutes. Drizzle glaze over top and sides of cake and sprinkle with pistachios if using.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen “Best Ever Lost Recipes”, Kitchen-Tested Heirloom Recipes Too Good to Forget, 2017.

Biscotti cookies are a great choice for those who like a cookie that is less sweet. This Italian treat is crunchy and perfect for dunking in coffee and cocoa.

Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 40

Ingredients:

½ cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour, divided

1 ½ cups finely chopped hazelnuts

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces melted with 2 tablespoons shortening (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds or until softened. Add sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla and 1 cup flour. Beat until combined. Add the remaining flour and nuts; mix well. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into 9-by-2-by-1-inch log. Place 4 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with egg wash to give a shiny appearance. Bake for 25 minutes; cool on cookie sheet. Cut logs into 1-inch diagonal slices. Lay on ungreased cookie sheet. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until toasted. If desired, melt chocolate. Drizzle chocolate over cookies or dip half the cookies into chocolate. Let chocolate set.

Source: “A Family Christmas, Handmade Gifts and Heartfelt Stories”, A House of White Birches.

If you have a friend who enjoys the home-brewed beer craze, surprise them with a jar of this Citrus-Wheat Beer Jelly. The recipe combines the smooth texture of jelly and the bold citrus flavor of marmalade with a subtle beer background. You can use whichever citrus juice you wish.

Citrus-Wheat Beer Jelly

Makes about 5 ½ pint jars

Ingredients:

2 (12-ounce) bottles flat wheat beer (flat beer is key to preventing vigorous bubbles and foam from forming)

1 cup bottled orange or grapefruit juice

6 tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin

4 cups sugar

Directions:

Prepare jars for canning. Combine the first 3 ingredients in a 6-quart stainless steel or enameled Dutch oven or kettle. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam, if necessary. Ladle hot jelly into a hot jar, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim. Center lid on jar; apply rim and adjust to fingertip-tight. Place jar in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled. Process jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat; remove lid and let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Source: “The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving”, 2016.

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