Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Treasures: Apple Praline Cake and Soft Molasses Cookies

Food defines the holidays, doesn't it? Like the cookies your mom and grandmother made, the cakes that friends gave to you, the party dishes and traditional "must have" dishes that may only make an appearance once a year, just for the holidays.

Adding to the trove of new holiday favorites are


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour the bottom and sides of two 9 X 5 loaf pans.

2 1/4 cups pecans, chopped and divided
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups peeled and finely chopped Granny Smith Apples

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt

On a cookie sheet or low sided pan, toast 1 cup of the pecans in a single layer for 7 minutes, or until fragrant. (Check often after 5 minutes to avoid burning.) Remove from oven and cool; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla on low speed of an electric mixer until blended, about 2 minutes.

In separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add slowly to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Scrape down sides of blow and beaters; stir in apples and toasted pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle tops with remaining pecans and press very lightly into surface of batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. You may need to shield the pan edges from excessive browning the last 15 minutes or so. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack while making the praline.

Bring butter, brown sugar and pinch of salt to a boil in a HEAVY BOTTOMED 2 qt. pan over medium heat stirring constantly; boil 1 minutes. Place cake loaves back into their pans, pour praline over tops and sides. Let cool completely, at least an hour. Cover tightly overnight to improve flavor and infuse the cakes with the rich apply goodness you love.

Makes two loaf cakes.

* * * * * * AND * * * * * *

from The King Arthur Cookie Companion book
1 cup butter (2sticks, 8 oz.), room temp
1 cup sugar, plus more for coating dough
2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1  tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 cup molasses (Brer Rabbit is the best)
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses while beating at low speed, then the baking soda, salt, and spices. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl to incorporate everything well. Stir in the flour. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) two cookie sheets. Shape dough into tablespoon sized balls, roll in sugar, and place 2" apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. The centers will look soft and puffy, which is OK. As long as the bottoms are set enough to lift off the baking sheet without bending or breaking, they're ready to come out of the oven. Cool 10 minutes on pans, then move to wire rack to cool completely. 44 cookies.

Happy Holidays!