Countdown to Christmas, Part Three

My brother, Jim Conforti, and his wife, Donna, of Sound Beach, New York, know that I love to bake, eat and write about cookies, so they sent me several photos of their church’s December 3 Cookie Walk. A part of Port Jefferson’s First United Methodist Church’s annual Christmas Fair for the past 19 years, this year’s Cookie Walk earned the church more than $1600 for the 230 pounds of homemade Christmas cookies baked by church members and youth. With the Cookie Walk open to church members, as well as the public, cookie lovers came early to make their cookie selections, which were then piled high into white bakery boxes and sold for just seven dollars a pound, regardless of the cookie chosen. “Folks look forward to the church’s Cookie Walk all year long and a line forms outside the church’s doors well before the sale begins on Cookie Walk morning,” says long-time event chairwoman, Rollin Haffer.  Continued Haffer, “In today’s hectic, difficult economic times, people really enjoy our church’s old-fashioned warmth and the good, fuzzy feeling they get by being here.” Besides the old-fashioned appeal of homemade Christmas cookies, other old-fashioned desserts, such as those made with gingerbread, or cakes made with fruit and soaked in some kind of spirits, do much for the Christmas dessert table, too.  You’ll find a few of those recipes here. For further information about historic First United Methodist Church, which has been in existence since the mid 1800’s, visit the church’s website at www.  Should you be filled with the Christmas cookie spirit and wish to make a donation to this small, hard-working church, donations may be made through the church’s pastor,  Reverend David Manz, First United Methodist Church, 603 Main Street, Port Jefferson, New York 11777.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at


Gingerbread, a rich, dense confection baked as cookies or cake, is a spicy,
aromatic Christmas tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.  
Royal Icing

1/4 cup meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 cup cool water

Place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the cool water, and stir slowly to allow the sugar to dissolve. Mix on low speed at first, increasing to high speed over several minutes. Beat until the icing is fluffy. Keep the frosting covered with a damp towel and some plastic wrap until you have time to use it. Divide the frosting into smaller containers and mix with food coloring for several colors. To use for piping, put a tip in the bottom of a disposable pastry bag.
Using a coupler will allow you to change tips with ease. Use a tall, heavy-bottomed glass to hold the pastry bag while you add the frosting. Take care not to fill the bag more than half full. Close the back of the pastry bag with a twist tie or spring clip, to keep the icing from backing up over your hand when you squeeze it. Makes 3 cups icing.

Gingerbread Cake

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup light molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten well

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the sugar, salt and spices together in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and molasses and mix until well combined. In another bowl, mix the soda into the boiling water, then immediately stir into the molasses mixture. Gradually spoon in flour, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the beaten eggs, stirring until blended.  Pour mixture into a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until cakes tests done and springs back when lightly touched. Makes 1 cake to serve 6.

Gingerbread Cookies

Recipe courtesy King Arthur Flour (

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour

In a saucepan set over low heat, or in the microwave, melt butter, then stir in the brown sugar, molasses, salt and spices. Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl, let it cool to lukewarm, and beat in the egg. Whisk the baking powder and soda into the flour, and then stir these dry ingredients into the molasses mixture. Divide the dough in half, and wrap well. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out several baking sheets; there’s no need to grease them, though lining with parchment saves effort on cleanup. Once the dough has chilled, take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator, and flour a clean work surface, and the dough. Roll it out as thin or thick as you like; for slightly less crisp cookies, roll it out more thickly. Use flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the table or rolling pin. Alternatively, place the dough on parchment, and put a sheet of plastic wrap over it as you roll, pulling the plastic to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling; this will keep dough from sticking without the need for additional flour. For soft dough, or dough to be rolled extra-thin, you may choose to roll right onto the ungreased back of a baking sheet. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible to minimize waste.
Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets (or, if you’ve rolled right onto the parchment, remove the dough scraps between the cookies). Bake the cookies just until they’re slightly brown around the edges 8 to 12 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for several minutes, or until they’re set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Decorate the cookies with Royal Icing or Simple Cookie Glaze and food safe markers. Makes 3 dozen, 3-inch cookies.

Gingerbread-Pumpkin Trifle

2 to 3 cups crumbled gingerbread
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 (3.4-ounce) packages instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

For the pumpkin filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, spices, milk and pudding. Mix until smooth and well combined; set bowl aside. For the gingerbread crumbs: Set aside 1/4 cup of the cake crumbs for sprinkling on top of the trifle. Using 1/4 of the remaining crumbs spread them onto the bottom of a 3-quart trifle bowl. Spoon half of the pumpkin mixture on top of the crumbs. Sprinkle another 1/4 portion of the crumbs (you will have used half of the crumbs now) on top of the pumpkin mixture. Spoon one half of the whipped cream over the pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle third portion of the crumbs over the whipped cream, then top with remaining pumpkin mixture. Finally, sprinkle the last portion of the crumbs on top of the pumpkin, topping with the remaining whipped cream. To finish trifle, sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cups crumbs over the whipped cream. Place bowl in refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Apple-Bourbon Cake

Recipe source New York Apple Country (
Submitted by Caroline Kennedy, Bluffton

4 cups coarsely chopped peeled, New York State apples
1 cup bourbon
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Put apples in a large bowl and pour bourbon over the apples. Cover tightly and periodically tip upside down to mix the apples and bourbon. Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together with a wire whisk or rotary egg beater. Sift together the flour, soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture, stirring until well mixed. Fold in apples, bourbon and walnuts. Turn batter into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or cold with bourbon-flavored whipped cream or whipped cream cheese, if desired.

Kitchen Ade Note: This is a very wet, dense cake and definitely for adults only


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