Pere Noel
Pere Noel
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Christmas Goodies 




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~ Brillat-Savarin's great aunt Pierette

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Close-Up of Painted Wooden Figures at Shop in the Christmas Market in Munich Winter Garden
Close-Up of Painted Wooden
Figures at Shop in the
Christmas Market in
Munich Winter Garden

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Santa and His Reindeer Flying Through the Sky with a Sleigh Full of Christmas Goodies
Santa and His Reindeer Flying Through the Sky
with a Sleigh Full of
Christmas Goodies
Giclee Print

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Saint Nicolas with Children, The Original Santa Claus
Saint Nicolas with Children,
The Original Santa Claus
Giclee Print

Lefler, Heinrich
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Toys in Tow
Toys in Tow
Peggy Abrams
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Town Hall and Christmas Market in Hamburg
Town Hall and Christmas Market in Hamburg, Germany

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La Belle Cuisine


Unless otherwise indicated,
the source for all recipes in this feature is:

My Mother's Southern Desserts:
More than 200 Treasured Family Recipes
for Holiday and Everyday Celebrations

by James Villas with Martha Pearl Villas, 1998,
William Morrow and Company, Inc



Christmas Whiskey Pecans

“During the Christmas holidays, there are never less than three glass bowls of
these boozy pecans that Mother began making decades ago and that literally
taste like Christmas to me. And, of course, the same pecans turn up at cocktail
parties anytime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Since the pecans freeze
so beautifully in freezer bags, I usually have some on hand year-round.
A warning: They are utterly addictive.”

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons bourbon
3 cups pecan halves

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and evaporated milk and
bring to a low boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly, till the syrup
registers 240 degrees F. on a candy thermometer or forms a soft ball
when a small glob is dropped into 1/2 cup of cold water. Remove the
pan from the heat, add the salt, bourbon, and pecans, and stir till the
nuts are thoroughly coated with the syrup. Pour the pecans out onto
waxed paper and let them cool completely before storing.
Yield: 3 cups pecans

Martha’s Sweet Notes: To test for the soft ball stage without a candy
thermometer, drop a small amount of the hot syrup into 1/2 cup cold
water and roll the glob between your thumb and index finger; if done,
a soft ball will form.


Or, if you prefer a pecan confection without the booze…


Sugared Pecans

“Pecans are almost a symbol of Southern cooking, and nowhere do nuts
figure more prominently than in our numerous desserts… Nothing, of
course, is better than toasted, salted fresh pecan halves at cocktail parties,
but when Mother wants to put out bowls of treats for nibbling at bridge
games and book club meetings, these sugared pecans are always at the
top of the list. Remember not to make these pecans on a damp, humid
day, as they will not firm up properly, and be sure to store them in
tightly closed tins. Also, stored in sealed freezer bags, fresh pecans
prepared in any manner maintain their integrity for up to a year in
the freezer.”

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white corn syrup
Grated rind of 1 medium-size orange
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups pecan halves

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cream, corn syrup,
orange rind, and butter and bring to a low boil over moderate heat,
stirring constantly, till the syrup registers 240 degrees F. on a candy
thermometer or forms a soft ball when a small glob is dropped into
1/2 cup of cold water. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the
syrup into a medium-size mixing bowl, and beat with a whisk till cool.
Add the pecans and mix till well coated, then scatter them over a baking
sheet and let them cool completely before storing. Yield:  2 cups pecans


Or, perhaps a pecan treat somewhat more on the
savory side is more to your liking.


Spiced Pecans

Bon Appetit:
The Christmas Season icon

From the Editors of Bon Appétit, 2000,
Condé Nast Books, Clarkson Potter


 “Great to nibble on with Champagne.”

Makes about 4 cups

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 large baking sheets. Melt 1/4
cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add brown sugar, 1/4
cup water, salt and spices; stir until sugar dissolves. Add nuts to sugar
mixture and cook until syrup thickly coats the nuts, stirring often, 5
minutes. Transfer nuts to prepared sheets. Bake until golden, 10
minutes. Cool. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room


Santa Claus Hand-Dipped Candy Balls

“When my father’s Swedish mother died and the wife of one of his printing
customers brought this candy to the bereavement, Mother wasted no time
jotting down the recipe and making her typical adjustments. Eventually,
she began including the candy in her Christmas gift tins, and the rest is
history… Improbable as it may sound, she also puts out bowls of this candy
at holiday cocktail parties after heating guests plead, ‘But, Martha Pearl,
where is your Santa Claus candy?’ In case you forgot, Southerners love
sweets with their booze.”

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
One 14-ounce can condensed milk
[such as Eagle Brand]
Two 1-pound boxes confectioners’
sugar, sifted
2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon extract flavoring [rum,
sherry, maple, vanilla, etc.]
1/2 pound chocolate
1/2 block paraffin
About 100 pecan of walnut halves

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, condensed milk, and
confectioners’ sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the
chopped pecans and flavoring, cover with plastic wrap, and chill till
very firm, at least 2 hours.
In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate and paraffin together
over low heat, stirring.
Using your hands, rolled the chilled butter mixture into small balls about
the size of medium marbles and, stabbing each with a toothpick, dip the
balls into the chocolate to coat well. Place the balls on waxed paper and,
before the chocolate hardens, press a nut half into the top of each ball.
Let the balls cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Yield:  About 100 balls

Martha’s Sweet Note:  When dipping candies in chocolate and paraffin,
keep the mixture warm in the top of a double boiler over hot water so that
it doesn’t harden.


The Delta Queen’s Pralines

“Dibby Smoot, an old-fashioned Southern belle if I ever met one, was a real
character, and since she was a North Carolina transplant from Mississippi,
we all called her the Delta Queen till she finally sipped her last cocktail
just recently.
‘Martha Pearl, I’m getting thirsty,’ she would announce around four o’clock
in the afternoon during one of her ‘socials’, a directive that would send
Mother to the bar for Dibby’s favorite Early Times bourbon. ‘And you
might as well bring out some of those pralines I brought over.’ Now you
must understand that Dibby had absolutely no use for classic Louisiana
pralines [sacre bleu!], convinced that since the batter was never beaten
like hers, the texture was all wrong. At first, we balked at this heresy,
but then the more Mother tried Dibby’s ‘beaten pralines’, the more raves
she got when she served them at her Valentine’s Day party. The main
difference is that those pralines are lighter and more delicate.”

2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla or
maple extract (or a combination
of both)
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the pecans
and mix till well-blended. Cook, stirring, over moderate heat till the mix-
ture registers 240 degrees F. on a candy thermometer or forms a soft ball
when a glob is dropped into 1/2 cup cold water. Cool the mixture slightly,
then beat with a wooden spoon till creamy. Add the pecans and stir till
well blended and smooth. Drop the batter by the teaspoon onto waxed
paper and let the pralines cool completely before serving or storing.
Yield:  About 3 1/2 dozen pralines


Cocktail Brandy-Rum Balls

“Quite frankly, I’ve never understood the way Southerners absolutely relish these sorts of sweet confections with cocktails, a character fault on my part, no doubt, that has led Mother more than once to scowl, ‘You’ve just become too much of a Yankee!’…  In any case, when Mother makes these balls for her cocktail parties (and, believe me, they’re gone in no time), she always makes enough extra ones to add to her fancy gift jars with decorative ribbons intended for special friends.”

Two 7 1/2-ounce packages vanilla wafers,
crushed into fine crumbs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light or dark rum
1/3 cup brandy
1 pound walnut pieces, finely ground
Vegetable oil
Granulated sugar for rolling

In a large mixing bowl, combine the wafer crumbs, honey, rum, brandy,
and walnuts and mix till well blended. Rub a little vegetable oil on your
hands and roll small pieces of the mixture between your palms to form
balls about the size of large marbles. Roll each ball in granulated sugar
and store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.
Yield: About 55 balls

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