Seasonal treats

It’s that time of year! The traditional cookie recipes come out, and pies and custards are baked in a frenzy. If you’re looking to expand your baking horizons this year, try these delectable treats that are easy to make.

Gingerbread Cookies
These classic cookies are easy to make at home and cut out in any shape you like—and then decorate! Use frosting (DIY a piping bag out of a sandwich baggie with a corner snipped), red hots, sprinkles, or whatever you have handy. Alternatively, give them as gifts!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp fresh grated ginger (or 1 and ½ tsp dried and ground—add with the dry ingredients)
½ tsp allspice (optional – could use 1/8 tsp black pepper instead)
½ cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 large egg
½ cup molasses

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon a large bowl and set aside. Next, cream the butter with the sugar in a stand mixer or by hand with a rubber spatula until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses, in addition to the ginger if using fresh, and beat again until fluffy once more. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a disc, cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Turn the oven to 350 degrees.

When ready to remove from the fridge, dust a rolling pin with flour and then roll out the dough on a floured surface to about ¼ or 1/6 of an inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters, lay on greased cookie sheets, and bake for 10 minutes or until firm. Let cool slightly before removing to wire racks to cool completely, then decorate however you wish.

Nutritional info per cookie: 83.5 calories, 2.8 g fat, 12 mg, 57 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 14 g carbohydrates, .3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 1.3 g protein.

Chocolate Lover’s Tart
This rich, decadent dessert is perfect to bring to a party! Like a combination of cheesecake and truffle, this is a rich pie best served when cut into 16 thin slivers with a sharp knife, served with whipped cream on the side. Try replacing chocolate graham crackers with cinnamon graham crackers for a hint of cinnamon.

Serves 16

1 package (about 8 oz.) chocolate graham crackers (1 pack inside a box of 3)
½ stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz quality chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Break the graham crackers into pieces and then add to the food processor, pouring the melted butter over. Process until finely ground, and press into a tart pan or pie pan. For an even edge, use the bottom and sides of a measuring cup to press the crumb mixture evenly into the pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium saucepan over low heat, pour in the chocolate and the cream, stirring to combine as they melt together. When completely melted, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk with the vanilla. Slowly pour the cooling chocolate mixture about a half cup at a time into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to incorporate before adding more. You’re tempering the eggs so as not to cook them through as you pour in the chocolate. When the whole mixture is combined and whisked, pour into the pie or tart pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to puff and the center is softly set. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

Nutritional info per slice: 243 calories, 17 g fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 122 mg sodium, 148 mg potassium, 24 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 3.4 g protein.

Cinnamon Custard
Custard is one of those desserts that gets you right in the holiday spirit—warm, creamy, and decadent, it just sings of celebration. Dust more cinnamon on top after removing from the oven, or top with a few chocolate shavings.

Serves about 10

2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup sugar
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk all ingredients together, then pour into individual ramekins or a pie dish. Place the pie dish or ramekins in a roasting pan or on a lipped cookie sheet, then pour a cup or two of hot water into the roasting pan or baking sheet so that it comes up around the edges of the pie dish or ramekins. Carefully place the pan and dishes in the oven, and bake for 35 minutes. The center should still be slightly wobbly. Remove the pans from the oven, let cool, then place in the fridge. Dust with cinnamon right before serving.

Nutritional info per serving: 226 calories, 19 g fat, 120 mg cholesterol, 39 mg sodium, 59 mg potassium, 11 g carbohydrates, 10 g sugar, 3 g protein.

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