There’s a children’s song that teaches counting via Santa seeing a pie and eating it, then seeing another so he eats two, and so on. It never quite caught on when I was growing up and I don’t know if kids still sing it but it definitely comes to mind when I or a sister make mince pie or tarts for the holiday.
That’s a household tradition brought to the U.S. from England, where my Nana grew up. Nothing bespeaks Christmas so delightfully as the official holiday dessert, the mincemeat pie. And no, there’s not an iota of meat in this pie. But there is a lasting memory of the sweet and spicy taste, a memory recounted as Santa counts his pies.
In fact, a number of popular Christmas songs evoke traditional Christmas desserts. Here are three such desserts and hopefully the recipes will enhance your holiday joy because, “We wish you a merry Christmas” (song for recipe #3).
NANA’S MINCE PIE
The traditional Christmas pie
“Ho ho ho, eating my mince pie,” sang Santa
Double crust prepackaged pie crust
1 jar mince pie filling
1 pkg dry mincemeat, 7 to 9 oz.
1/4 C light brown sugar
In a large bowl, mix the jar of mince pie filling and 1/2 to 1 package of the dry mincemeat. The goal is to add a bit of bulk to the filling, which the dry mincemeat does, but not to overfill the pie.
Prepare pie crusts according to package directions. Place the bottom crust in 9 inch pie pan. Dot the bottom with a little butter throughout. Spoon in mixed mincemeat. Sprinkle half the brown sugar lightly across the filling. Place the top crust over the pie and crimp. Bake according to directions on the mince filling jar. When removed from oven, sprinkle the remaining brown sugar across the hot pie so it melts and glazes the crust. Cool at room temperature until safe to eat. Makes 6 to 8 slices.
Store, covered, up to a week in refrigerator. Reheat to serve again or serve cold.
Tip: To enhance the delight of this classic pie, serve with a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with a light touch of cinnamon.
ANGEL FOOD CAKE
“Angels we have heard on high”
1 1/3 C egg whites (approximately 11 large eggs)
1 1/3 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C superfine sugar (sifted, divided; or granulated sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C cake flour ( sift before measuring, about 4 oz.)
Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a large mixing bowl use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue beating until the egg whites hold soft, glossy peaks. Gradually beat in 1 C of the sugar. Fold in the vanilla.
Sift the already measured flour 3 more times and mix with the remaining 1/2 C of sugar. With a large spatula, fold the flour mixture gently into the batter until well blended.
Spoon the angel food cake batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube cake pan. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes. When done, the cake will be golden brown and will spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. Remove from oven and invert the pan, cake and all, until it is entirely cooled. The pan should have extensions on top which will keep the cake from resting directly on the countertop. If not, invert the center tube onto a large soda bottle or support the edges of the pan with a few cans or jars. Let cool completely.
To remove the cooled cake from the pan, carefully slide a spatula or knife around the sides. Remove the sides and then slide and loosen it from the bottom and the middle tube with a spatula or knife. Serves 12.
The cake, if covered tightly, will keep 2 to 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator.
Tip: Once cooled, the cake can be lightly frosted on top, as a drizzle, or sprinkled with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger or cloves. For a festive holiday look place red (cut strawberries, dried cranberries, maraschino cherries or other cherries without seeds) and green (fresh leaves of mint, green candies whole or chopped, green apple cubes, green grapes) and blue (berries, purple grapes) etcetera, placing them lightly on top of the glaze.
“Oh bring us a figgy pudding and bring it right here.”
1/2 C butter (at room temperature)
1 C molasses
2 C figs (dried, stems removed, chopped fine)
1/2 tsp. lemon peel (grated)
1 C buttermilk
1/2 C walnuts (chopped)
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Whipped cream for topping
Use an electric mixer to cream the 1/2 cup of butter until it is fluffy. Add the 2 eggs and 1 cup of molasses and beat again. Add the 2 cups of figs, 1/2 tsp. of lemon peel, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 1/2 cup of walnuts. Blend for one minute.
Add the 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp. of baking soda, 2 tsps of baking powder, 1 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg. Blend until everything is fully mixed. Grease and flour an 8×4 inch soufflé dish and pour in the batter. Bake in a 325 F oven for 1 hour. It’s done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Spoon the pudding out onto plates or cut it into wedges and serve warm. Top with whipped cream. Makes 12 servings.
Tip: For a holiday flair, lightly pour some brandy over the pudding before serving. Traditionally, the alcohol is set on fire briefly to char the outside of the cake, but letting the brandy flavor sink into the warm pudding then adding whipped cream may be all you need to please family and guests.
By Jean Redstone