Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fav Holiday Recipes: Autumn Punch & Cranberry Bliss Bars

Here are two often-requested and well-loved recipes you might like to try this holiday. The first is from my friend, Jessica. She served this punch at a recent party here and it was a huge hit. I have to tell you, I have NEVER enjoyed anything attributed to wine, but I really enjoyed this! It is called Autumn Punch, but we won't tell if you want to call it Christmas Punch or New Year's Punch or... Enjoy!

Autumn Punch

Prep: 20 minutes
Chill: 4 hours

2 tsp. whole cloves (ground cloves OK too or just put whole cloves in directly and strain them)
½ of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract instead)
1 64 –oz. bottle apple-cranberry juice (you can also use plain apple juice)
4 medium purple and/or green plums, pitted and sliced (or apples or pears)
1 750 – ml bottle Gewurztraminer or other fruity wine

Place cloves and vanilla bean in center of a 6-in square of cheesecloth. Bring corners of cloth together; tie closed with clean string. Pour apple-cranberry juice into a large container or pitcher. Add plums and spice bag. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours. (For easy preparation just add a tsp of vanilla and ground cloves to the mix). Remove and discard cheesecloth bag. Stir in Gewurztraminer. Serve beverage and plum slices over ice. (Or omit the ice and heat the juice mixture and wine in a 4-quart Dutch oven until hot. Serve in heat proof mugs.)

* * *

This next recipe is adapted from a holiday favorite served at our favorite coffeehouse that ends in "Bucks". Many of you have already requested this recipe of me and taken one look at it and said, "Never mind, can I just eat the ones you make?" The answer is - SURE! I will not stop making them for all of you, but wanted to share the recipe if you wanted to give them a whirl.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cookie/Cake Bottom:

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries (Craisins work just fine!)
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks (I use chips)


4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I use light cream cheese/neufchatel)
3 cups powdered sugar
4 Teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about one regular sized lemon)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries

Drizzled Icing (Optional):

(This is to get the __Bucks full effect. I omit this step because it is more time consuming and I think it makes them too sweet).

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening

Makes 16 servings - 1 hour 20 minutes / 40 mins prep
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make cake bottom by beating butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt and beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth.
Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. (Watch it in the oven - you do not want to over-bake! This was my mistake the first time making this recipe). Allow cake to cool.

Make frosting by combining softened cream cheese, 3 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. When the cake has cooled, use a spatula to spread frosting over the top of the cake. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced cranberries over the frosting on the cake.

(Optional Icing Step): Whisk together 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and shortening. Drizzle icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion or use a pastry bag with a fine tip to drizzle frosting across the top of the cake.

Allow cake to sit for several hours (I stick in fridge until entirely cool), then slice the cake lengthwise (the long way) through the middle. Slice the cake across the width three times making a total of eight rectangular slices. Slice each of those rectangles diagonally creating 16 triangular slices.

Serve and watch your friends and families scarf these babies up!

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