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Some sweet ideas for your holiday spread

Apple cake.
Apple cake. Staff photographer

My favorite part of receiving reader recipes is hearing the background stories, such as this story from Olympia reader Jean Kleinegger Stribling, who submitted a recipe for Aunt Vera’s Secret Pie.

“I have absolutely no idea how my Mom’s eldest sister, Vera, got the recipe, but I do know that everyone who ate a slice of her pie loved it, and many asked her for the recipe. She graciously gave it to family members and friends, but no one could ever bake a pie that was the equal of what Vera produced.

Mom, her mother (and Vera’s!), and various friends and relatives decided to get together and figure out what they were doing wrong. When they compared recipes, they realized that none were the same. Vera had deliberately changed the ingredients and measurements every time she gave the recipe to someone. The group was quite displeased to say the least. They decided their revenge would take the form of working together until they achieved a pie as great as Vera’s. They got very close, but something was still missing. My Dad, who’d participated as a taster, mentioned that Vera’s husband, Rusty, kept bees and suggested that perhaps honey was the missing ingredient. Bingo!”

Enjoy these recipes at your own Thanksgiving dinner table.

Mar’s Cranberry Frappe

Source: Marlene Cole, Olympia

1 pound fresh cranberries (see note)

4 cups tap water

Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange

2 1/4 cups sugar or 1 3/4 cups honey

1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur

Note: You will need a food mill for this recipe. It’s a must to achieve the right texture.

Cranberry note: Cranberries come in 12-ounce bags, so you will need to buy two bags, but won’t use the full second bag. Reserve cranberries for another use.

Cook the berries and sugar (or honey) in water very slowly until well done, about 10 minutes. Put berries through a food mill over a bowl and mash it through.

When cool, add lemon juice, orange juice and Grand Marnier (optional). Pour in a big bowl and place in freezer. Freeze until it's a thickened mush. Remove and beat with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Freeze again to a thickened mush, and beat again.

The beating keeps ice crystals from forming. Multiple sessions with the electric beater, at least 3-4 times, is the secret to this recipe.

Once it’s reached the desired texture, keep frozen until ready to serve. It should be something like a sorbet texture. The less it is beaten, the more dense the texture.

Apple Harvest Cake

Source: Melody Burson, Gig Harbor

4 cups apples, cored and chopped

2 cups sugar

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup raisins

For the apples: Mix the apples and sugar together and let stand for one hour. The mixture will be syrupy after an hour.

Heat oven to 325 degrees, butter or spray a 9-by-12 inch pan. We baked ours in a bundt pan in the test kitchen and had terrific results.

To the apple and sugar mixture, add all other ingredients. Stir well, your arm will get a workout. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature. The cake can be embellished with powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream.

Yield: Serves 12

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding with Bourbon Vanilla Sauce

Source: Laureen Lund, Gig Harbor

FOR THE BREAD:

3 1/2 cups flour

2 t baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

2 cup chopped pecans (reserve one cup)

FOR THE PUDDING:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

8 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup bourbon

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

VANILLA BOURBON SAUCE:

1 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of bourbon

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Note: Make the bread one to two days ahead.

For the bread: Sift together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add to it the eggs, oil, water and canned pumpkin. Mix well until all combined and no lumps. Stir in one cup of chopped pecans.

Pour into four greased 8-by-4 inch loaf pans. Fill only about halfway. Bake one hour at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick comes out clean. You do not want the bread to be soft or doughy in the middle. Cool at least overnight.

To prep the pudding: Use three loaves of bread. Cube the three loaves of bread and let them sit out to dry for at least an hour before using.

For the pudding: Mix all the pudding ingredients together until thoroughly combined in a large bowl. Add cubed bread. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

To bake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 4-quart shallow glass casserole dish. Pour the pudding into the greased dish. Sprinkle the remaining pecans on top and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bake the pudding on hour at 350 degrees. Test the center to make sure it is cooked through.

For the sauce: Bring about two inches of water to simmer in a double boiler. Whisk the sugar and eggs quickly in the double boiler and then add the bourbon and the vanilla and continue to whisk until hot about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

For presentation: Serve over the warm pudding. Sauce can be made ahead and reheated over a double boiler.

Pistachio Jell-O Pudding Salad

Source: Glenda Watts, Tacoma

1 (3-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 (8- or 9-ounce) container frozen whipped topping

1/2 cup nuts, chopped

Mix dry pudding mix with all other ingredients. Refrigerate until serving. It tastes better the longer it sits in the refrigerator and can be made the day ahead.

Substitution: Can use one small can pineapple and one can drained fruit cocktail in place of large can of pineapple.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie

Source: Jerry Burg, Anderson Island

1/2 cup half and half

1 cup sour cream

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon flour

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Pie shell (9-inch), unbaked

Combine half and half and sour cream, pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, flour and all spices and beat well. Beat in egg, then pour into pie shell. Grate nutmeg on top, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes. Cool and top with whipped cream, if desired.

Mystery Cheesecake Pie

Source: Terry Fassburg, Gig Harbor

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, soft

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell

1 cup pecan halves

2 slightly beaten eggs

¼ cup sugar

2/3 cups dark corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla. Spread in pie shell. Arrange pecans over pie shell. Combine other ingredients and pour over. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Mom’s Shoofly Pie

Source: Evy Clark, University Place

3/4 cup dark molasses

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups sifted flour

1/4 cup butter (softened)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell

Mix the molasses, boiling water, baking soda and salt. With your hands mix the flour, butter and brown sugar. Pour about 1/3 of the molasses mixture into the pie shell; sprinkle about 1/3 of the flour mixture evenly over the molasses. Keep alternating ending with the flour mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve warm (not hot) or cold.

Pumpkin Torte

Source: Julie Rzadzki, Olympia

FOR THE CRUST:

1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

FOR THE FIRST LAYER OF FILLING:

8-ounce package cream cheese

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

FOR THE SECOND LAYER:

1 envelope plain gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup each: sugar, milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

Whipped cream for garnish.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar and butter thoroughly. Press into bottom of 13x9x2 inch pan.

First layer: Beat cream cheese in small bowl until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs and ¾ cup sugar. Beat until blended. Spoon over crust. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool.

Second layer: Soften gelatin in cold water. Cook pumpkin, egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, milk, cinnamon and salt in heavy saucepan, stirring constantly until slightly thickened and being careful not to curdle the eggs. Remove from heat, add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Cool.

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Beat in remaining ¼ cup sugar gradually. Fold into pumpkin mixture, pour over crust layer and chill overnight.

Garnish with whipped cream before serving.

Aunt Vera’s Secret Pumpkin Pie

Source: Jean Kleinegger Stribling, Olympia

Favorite pie crust recipe, or use a premade crust from the store

FOR THE FILLING:

1 small can pumpkin or half of a large can of pumpkin puree (don’t use pumpkin pie filling)

2 extra large eggs, separated

½ cup dark brown sugar, packed

¼ cup honey

1 small can evaporated milk or ¾ cup evaporated milk (Do not use condensed milk)

½ teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Make your pie crust. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take one of the egg whites and swirl it around the inside of the pie crust until the crust is thoroughly coated. Pour the remaining egg white into a small bowl and add the other egg white. Beat the egg whites until stiff.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, sugar, honey, canned milk, egg yolks and spices. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the pumpkin mixture until combined. Use your rubber spatula. Use as light a touch as possible because you don’t want to deflate the egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Put a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the pie plate to keep that part of the crust from over-baking. Put the pie on a rack set in the middle of the oven. Bake for about one hour or until a knife blade inserted into the filling comes out clean.

Remember to remove the aluminum foil 40 to 45 minutes after you put the pie into the oven so the edges of the crust will brown.

The filling will puff up and then fall when cooled, but the texture will remain very light. The filling will crack as it falls, but that can always be disguised by some whipped cream. Absolutely must be served with whipped cream.

Yield: 1 10-inch pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Source: Evonne Howard, Tacoma

FOR THE CRUST:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

FOR THE FILLING:

32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1-1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons cognac

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 eggs at room temperature.

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin

FOR THE TOPPING:

2 cups sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon cognac

1/4 cup sliced almonds, sautéed in butter for garnish

For the crust: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Press crust mixture into 10” spring form pan. Bake 8 minutes. Reduce oven to 325 degrees for filling.

For the filling: Beat cream cheese with mixer until smooth, gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup, cognac, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend well. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add cream and pumpkin and mix well.

To prep: Pour filling into crust. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off the oven. This is important. Do not open the oven during baking time or for one hour after the oven is off. After an hour, remove from oven. Chill at least three hours before serving.

To serve: Combine ingredients for topping and top before serving.

Yield: Serves 6-8

Frango Chocolate Pie

Source: Kathi Kershul, Tacoma

18-ounce box of Frango chocolates, your favorite flavor (see note)

12 large marshmallows

1/4 cup milk

¼ cup whipping cream

Your favorite pie crust

Note: You can purchase Frango chocolates at Macy’s.

Melt chocolate and marshmallows in milk in a pan set over a double boiler. Cool mixture. Whip the cream and add it to the chocolate mixture, blending well, but being careful not to deflate the cream. Pour into your favorite crust. A traditional graham cracker or chocolate cookie crust work best.

Chill until service, or freeze to make an ice cream pie.

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