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Recipes and Stories

12 December 2019: Fruitcake Season

My Christmas Fruitcake. Photography by Rich Burkhart.

For more than twenty years, beginning in the early days of researching my first cookbook when the handsome antique recipes first captured my cook's imagination, fruitcake making was one of my favorite holiday chores.

 

There was something soothingly nostalgic about it, even though it wasn't part of my childhood. My mother was a fine baker and had made the family fruitcakes in her youth, but she stopped making them when she married a minister and became a working mother with three rowdy boys.

 

And yet, candying my own citrus peel, picking over the pecans, hydrating the dried fruit and steeping it in whiskey, mixing the spice-and-sherry-laced pound cake batter, was always like a refreshing visit back to childhood. And the aroma after it went into the oven was worth every minute of the trouble it had taken to get it there.

 

Then, rather abruptly, I stopped—and not because I got tired of it. Read More 

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22 December 2018: Old-Fashioned Thumbprint Cookies

Old-Fashioned Thumbprint Cookies

Once upon a time, I was very organized. Any holiday baking that I did would’ve been long ago planned out and done by now. But life, as the saying goes, has been too much with us lately, and other things have had to take precedence over it.

Moreover, with our grandchildren a full day’s drive away, and most of my friends and neighbors either watching waistlines or already inundated with treats, the only people here to eat Christmas cookies are the two of us. Now, two people and multiple tins of homemade Christmas cookies, cheese straws, and fruitcake is a deadly combination.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a few homemade treats in the house, and there’s always someone who’s holiday will be brightened by a gift of things we’ve made ourselves. Read More 

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8 December 2017: MaMa’s Coconut Cake

MaMa's Coconut Cake (from Essentials of Southern Cooking, Lyons Press 2013/Licensed by Shutterstock)

Coconut cake is a traditional Christmas cake in the part of Carolina where I grew up, and both my grandmother’s made it, using basically the same recipe. But my maternal grandmother, known to us as “MaMa” (we pronounced it Maw-Maw) had a special touch that no one else could match.

Hers was one the most extraordinarily moist cakes I’ve ever had. The great secret for its moistness is also the reason it tasted more intensely of coconut than any other.  Read More 

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21 December 2012: Christmas Cheese Straws

An old-fashioned Christmas treat: classic cheese straws with a cup of tea

Of all the Christmas goodies that hosts and hostesses have traditionally laid by for drop-in guests during the holidays, cheese straws speak closest to my heart. Called cheese “biscuits” in nineteenth century manuscripts and community cookbooks, they’re not to be confused with the cheese-flecked baking powder bread popular today: back then “biscuit” was still being used (as it still is in Britain) in its older form to designate a crisp cookie. Read More 

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