Saturday Night Recipe Thread: Holiday Treats

From my recipe blog:

I was doing some recipe searching for a project I’ll post about later and sesame seeds were heavily featured. That put me in mind of Sesame Brittle. I thought it might be nice to have it to crumble over ice cream on the Sundae Bar on Christmas Eve.

Such a simple recipe. No candy thermometer needed. I always use oiled wax paper, but I’m wondering if oiled parchment would work better. The heat of candy on the wax paper melts it in places. Difficult to peel off.

Sesame Brittle

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • salt

saucepan, wax paper (or parchment) and baking sheet

In the saucepan over high heat, melt butter and sugar and stir to combine. Without stirring, cook until mixture becomes a light to medium caramel color, about 3-5 minutes, then add sesame seeds and stir in.

Pour mixture onto a well-oiled wax paper or well-oiled parchment paper covered baking sheet and spread into an even, thin layer, about 1/8 to 1 /4-inch thick, with a wooden spoon. The shape will be irregular but don’t worry, you are just going to break it into pieces after it cools anyway.

Immediately shake a bit of salt over top of mixture and lightly press into caramel using the spoon. I used less than a 1/4 tsp for the entire mixture and that was plenty, though your mileage may vary. Allow to set-up for about 10-15 minutes.

When brittle has hardened and cooled, break into pieces and enjoy. Store in an air-tight container. And then hide or it won’t make it to the party.

Top: Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, Spritz Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes (Pecan Cookies)

We skipped the annual cookie baking party – but the recipes for the cookies pictured above and below are here.

Fruit-filled shortbread

BTW, for those who were waiting breathlessly on what movie we chose for this year’s party – the winner is: Speed. A feel-good Christmas tale of two star-crossed lovers racing to fix Santa’s sleigh before the big night and realizing, as Santa takes off with his eight tiny reindeer, they were meant to be and share a first kiss as the credits roll. (I may or may not have watched one too many Hallmark Holiday movies this week)

Open thread

(Has Betty Cracker done her annual drunken auntie cookie bakeoff?)

23 replies
  1. 1
    Wapiti says:

    We’ve been pursuing a dream over several years: a gingerbread-pumpkin pie mashup. We started with store-bought gingersnaps crushed for the pumpkin pie crust. Then we tried rolling out gingersnap dough and using that as a crust, but it rose and left no room for filling…

    So we’ve been making gingerbread and serving it with pumpkin ice cream or, better, pumpkin gelato. This year, we went back a step and cooked the pumpkin pie filling, sans crust, and served that on top the gingerbread, with whipped cream. Pretty good. But we might go back to gelato next year..

  2. 2
    dnfree says:

    There are several names for the cookie with pecans. My mom called them Pecan Balls, some call them Russian Tea Cakes as you do, and others call them Mexican Wedding Cookies, and still others call them Snowball cookies. Are there any other names I haven’t heard?

  3. 3

    @Wapiti: This might work for you. Pumpkin Cream Pie, Ginger Snap Crust

    I prefer it to regular pumpkin pie. Pumpkin Gelato sounds good, too.

  4. 4
    Yutsano says:

    @dnfree: Russian tea cakes (from what I understand) are made with walnuts because those are much more common in Europe. I think calling them Pecan Balls is a good compromise.

    Also: if you have a Silpat silicone baking sheet that will work beautifully for the sesame brittle.

  5. 5
    dnfree says:

    I have been baking family favorite cookies all week. The trickiest recipe is my grandmother’s anise cookies, which I made with her back in the 1950s. To make the dough, you beat powdered sugar and eggs together for ten minutes at high speed of the mixer. (This recipe is so persnickety that I don’t have the nerve to see if it would work without beating this long.) Then there is just a tablespoon of melted margarine, a little baking soda and a whole lot of flour to make the batter stiff, and a couple of tablespoons or more of anise seed. You roll the dough out right away and cut it into shapes and put it on the cookie sheets. Then you leave it in a cool place (like our porch in winter) overnight, then you bring it back in the house and let it come to room temperature in the morning, and then you bake it. When it works right, there is kind of a crusty outside layer and the cookie rises up from the bottom.

  6. 6
    dnfree says:

    @Yutsano: I see Betty Crocker’s recipe just calls for “nuts” and mentions the alternate names except Pecan Balls. She (Betty) claims that Mexican Wedding cookies are made with pine nuts.

  7. 7
    Barbara says:


    The following recipe calls for graham crackers for the crust but I have always used ginger snaps and I love the combination of the ginger flavor with pumpkin.

  8. 8
    satby says:

    @Wapiti: @TaMara (HFG): one year I made a gingersnap crust-pecan pie bottom-pumpkin pie top layered pie. It was sensational, but very rich. No recipe, I just mashed a couple together.

  9. 9
    sfinny says:

    Love the recipes, but my Christmas Eve invite is for Asparagus and Wine. Have been trying to think of venues for some cookie baking, but nothing so far.

  10. 10
    Yarrow says:

    Tomorrow is cookie baking day for me. It’s an all day project. I’m already exhausted because I’ve been cleaning the house for two straight weeks–sometimes until 2 a.m. Something like four years of crap piled up while my life fell apart so there has been a lot to do. It’s a lot better now but there’s still so much to deal with.

    Anyway, cookie baking will commence right after breakfast. It’s kind of fun as they’re family recipes and everyone looks forward to them every year.

  11. 11
    sfinny says:

    @satby: And the pumpkin tart with ginger snap crust was a huge success at Thanksgiving. Wanted to do it again, but this time got tasked with veggies and wine.

  12. 12
    Yarrow says:

    @sfinny: How are you cooking the asparagus to bring to a gathering?

  13. 13
    The Golux says:

    I always use oiled wax paper, but I’m wondering if oiled parchment would work better.

    Seems like a perfect application for a Silpat.

  14. 14
    NotMax says:

    Ol’ stick in the mud here, on a whim, changed the wallpaper on one of the monitors. So used to the previous one that have been doing visual double takes all day,

  15. 15
  16. 16
    stinger says:

    @dnfree: I’ve heard all those names, especially Russian Tea Cakes, but when I was a kid, my inventive mother made them smaller, stuck a toothpick through each one, and called them Sputniks. (It was the ’50s.)

  17. 17
    Tim in SF says:

    Instead of wax paper, try a silicon baking sheet. No fear of melting. You can just bend it after the brittle has cooled to pop it off. They’re pretty cheap, too.

  18. 18
    Mary G says:

    @dnfree: My grandfather the Swedish baker called them sand tarts and made them with pecans.

  19. 19
    opiejeanne says:

    @Mary G: I think those are pecan sandies.
    Russian teacakes are little balls of chopped nuts, butter, and powdered sugar; after they’re baked and have started to “sweat” butter you roll them in more powdered sugar.

    I use pecans because I prefer them and I will continue to call them Russian teacakes so as not to confuse any of my family. I’m pretty sure pecans are native to the New World, which is why the Old World used walnuts.

  20. 20
    opiejeanne says:

    Tomorrow is the day to tidy up the house after our son goes home and get the bedrooms ready for Christmas Eve guests.

    I’m making the mashed potatoes for Christmas Eve tomorrow, as well as the dessert my grandma always made. We think it’s a Bavarois; she called it Delicious Pudding, and my dad thought it came from a Knox gelatine package. Fluffy and pink and sweet, but not everyone likes it. It’s kind of a pain to make because it feels like you use every bowl and pot in the house before it’s done, and while it’s cooling after cooking you have to catch it at the right moment and beat it to prevent separation.
    I’m also making an almond tart tomorrow, which is pretty much a slam dunk but looks impressive.
    My older daughter’s fiancé brought over the standing rib roast tonight and gave me instructions on what he wants us to do with it, 150 for several hours; he’ll take it out for a rest, then crank the oven to 500 to finish it with a crust. Other people are doing vegetable-y things, I’ll make a pear and walnut salad and Yorkshire pudding and heat up the mashed potatoes.

    We have some new neighbors from Israel and they brought over cookies today, so I may make them some Russian teacakes because I like them and I think those will be popular.

  21. 21

    I love those pecan cookies!

  22. 22
    Kristine says:

    I need to make that brittle.

    I also plan to make my first ever batch of gelato with the new ice cream maker either today or tomorrow. Espresso flavor.

  23. 23
    Another Scott says:

    @opiejeanne: My father loved Pecan Sandies and we’re the only cookies he would make. I never understood why he liked them so much – they were always so dry and powdery. :-\

    My mom found a recipe for Cowboy Cookies in a newspaper in the 1950s. They’re my favorite. I’ve been making them for 30+ years and have almost figured out all the important tricks. In another 10-15 years they should be perfected!


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