Good Tidings for the Nutty Season

… or a Christmas carol mash-up in which we fight nuts with nuts.

Sweets and the season are inextricably tied, and of course we don’t want them to go away. So we’ll give you sweets … but sweets that offer more than fleeting happiness and a jolt to your blood sugar: sweets featuring nuts. Not only are nuts low-carb, but they are also dense in nutrients—antioxidants, the good fats, vitamins (especially E), folic acid. Their high protein and fiber content makes them stick to your ribs better, so smaller portions do the job, and their lightly sweet oils make them more satisfying to the mouth. Nuts do the heart good, in all the best ways—a great balance for the necessary holiday decadence factor.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin: Serve these delights and you’ll go down in history!

COMFORT

Walnut, golden raisin and pistachio bread

1 1⁄2 ounces yeast

1 1⁄2 ounces sugar

1 1⁄4 pint skim milk

1 ounce butter

1 pound white flour

2 pounds whole-wheat flour

6 ounces raisins

6 ounces walnuts

6 ounces pistachios

2 ounces salt

Warm the milk and add to the yeast and sugar. Let rest for 10 minutes, until proofed. Melt the butter with the salt. Mix the flour in a mixer with a dough hook. Add yeast mixture and butter, and mix in the mixer until a dough forms. Place in a covered bowl in a warm spot for one hour—the dough won’t rise so much as it will lighten. Separate the dough into three dough balls, and gently fold in the raisins and nuts . Shape into loaves. Place on a lightly greased pan and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with Stilton cheese.

JOY

Marzipan balls

1 roll almond paste

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 egg white

a few drops rose water

unsweetened cocoa

Grate the almond paste, and mix with the next three ingredients using your hands, until the paste is smooth and light and hangs together. If it’s too moist, add sugar little by little. Roll teaspoon-sized amounts into balls, and dip (or roll) in the unsweetened cocoa.

Note: Use a light touch with the rose water—it should be a barely discernible note. Alternative: a couple of drops of orange oil.

GOODNESS

Hazelnut cake

13 ounces grated hazelnuts

2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

5 eggs

1 3⁄4 ounces all-purpose flour

4 level teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

a little milk

coating:

high-quality semi-sweet chocolate

2 tablespoons Crisco

Cream butter with sugar, add eggs and mix well. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add gradually to butter mixture, until well blended. Mix in vanilla. Batter should be neither too thick nor too thin—add a little milk if need be. Bake in a loaf pan at 325 for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

When cool, slice into bite-size cubes. Melt chocolate with shortening, and coat the cake cubes. Let dry on waxed paper. (Option: Leave cake intact, and coat it with the chocolate.)

LIGHT

Oma’s Weihnachts Plaetzchen (Christmas cookies)

cookie dough:

2 1⁄4 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

topping:

slivered almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 egg

Cream butter and sugar, and mix in eggs. Mix baking powder and flour, and add bit by bit to the butter mixture. Shape the dough into 1- to 2-inch cylinders, wrap in waxed paper, and freeze it until ready to bake.

Toast the slivered almonds in a 350-degree oven until golden and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Toss with the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.

Before baking, allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes, and then slice it into very thin rounds (1-2mm thick) and place one inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush them with the beaten egg, top them with the almond-sugar mixture, and bake in a 350-degree oven until golden, about 8-10 minutes.

HEAVENLY PEACE

Rice pudding with caraway and cinnamon

1 tablespoon caraway seed (ground)

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

9 cups water

1 cup rice flour

2 1⁄2 cups sugar

1 cup walnut halves

1⁄2 cup slivered almonds

1⁄2 cup pine nuts

Combine ground caraway, flour, sugar, cinnamon and water, and simmer slowly for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight. Soak the nuts overnight in separate bowls in water at room temperature. The next day, serve the pudding with the nuts on top, and sprinkle well with powdered sugar.

christine ennulat
Virginia Living’s Associate Editor
June 11, 2022

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