Christmas Baking Part 1: Prune Cherry Cocoa Nib Panforte & Apricot Pistachio Cardamom Panforte

There shouldn’t be any excuses for not baking this time of the year. Perhaps, it would be better to start a bit earlier and not a week before Christmas. But, as an old proverb goes – it’s still better later than never.

I think, I’m back.

I used to bake this Italian specialty in a round pan and give it whole as a gift to our Italian (and very appreciative) friends. But this year I’m making it different, baking it square, slicing into finger-like pieces and stuffing into multiple boxes along with other treats and cookies for many recipients. It saves me time, and saves them trouble to slice the panforte by themselves (surprisingly, but not everyone owns a good heavy sharp knife).

First panforte is quite hot and not too sweet due to the sour fruits I used (I liked this one most). The second one is milder and sweeter and will please more conservative taste. To distinguish one variety from another, I dusted the apricot panforte with icing sugar and left the prune panforte in its shiny beauty.

I want to emphasize a proper way of packaging these confections for gift-giving. The best would be to place each slice into an individual parchment cupcake liner (it will prevent them from sticking), or at least separate the rows with parchment strips. Do not put them directly onto decorative tissue paper. First of all, most of this paper is not food-safe. And second, the panforte will firmly stick to it.

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Chocolate Prune and Cereal Meringues

I was improvising to satisfy my son’s sweet tooth. Nut meringue are surely nice, but when the kid is allergic to all possible nuts existing, barely sweetened cereals make acceptable substitute. Bittersweet chocolate and some chopped prunes cut the sweetness down a little. The latter also add a bit of chewiness to otherwise crispy throughout cookies.

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Baklava Fingers

Maybe not as fabulous as the real thing, not as overloaded with nuts and oversaturated with aromatic syrup, still, these are pretty good for what they are – little sweet treats made of some phyllo leftovers (there’s always something left unless the baklava itself was made). The fingers also keep better, stay crisp longer.

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Chocolate Matcha Poker Chip Cookies

These are actually easier to make than it might seem. The process is similar to forming the Checkerboard cookies, only here the core is a matcha-colored cylinder which is subsequently wrapped into striped dough (alternating chocolate and matcha strips), then followed by a layer of chocolate dough.

Obviously, the cookies can be turned into chocolate-vanilla, chocolate-coffee, or any other variety you can think of.

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Caramel Eggnog with Tiny Spice Cookies

This rich, thick, boozy, yummy drink is a result of my experiments with the holiday classic. I served it in demitasse cups along with tiny honey-spice cookies (sort of my take on German Pfeffernusse; the original German cookies are supposed to be made in advance and aged for at least a week and I forgot to do that on time, so I improvised to get them quicker).

Happy Holidays, everyone!!!

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Pistachio Apricot and Orange Flower Water Biscotti

I wish I had more time to bake for my own family and friends this holiday season. I’ve been so busy lately. Biscotti of different kinds are always on my “to-bake” list around Christmas time. They keep well and make a nice gift.

I wish all my readers and fellow-bloggers the Merriest Christmas and Happy Holiday! And thank you very much for your kind comments and warm wishes!

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