Cherished Holiday Dessert Recipe

We asked Beyond readers to send us their most cherished holiday dessert recipe,
the one that has to be on the table each year to make the celebration feel complete.
Here are some of those treasured treats.

Trisha Green from Agoura Hills says her family looks forward to homemade almond roca each year. 

Donna Bondy has been making this family favorite every year for Christmas. She says she needs to triple the recipe because her family eats the rugalach like popcorn! The recipe is from her mom, who taught her most of what she knows about baking and cooking.

Lisa Bailey of Simi Valley sent in this splendid and oh-so-simple recipe for peanut butter balls.

ALMOND ROCA

Makes 1 pan

3½ oz. almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 stick butter
¾ cup brown sugar
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Spray 9″ cookie sheet. Cover bottom of sheet with chopped almonds, reserving 2 Tbsp. for top. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and stir with wooden spoon. Continue to stir while bringing mixture to a boil. Boil for 7 minutes, stirring constantly. (Editor’s note: If using a candy thermometer, remove from heat at 290° F, the hard-crack stage.) Immediately pour hot mixture over almonds and spread smoothly to edges with spatula.

While hot, sprinkle chocolate on top and let soften and melt. Smooth evenly with spatula. Sprinkle reserved almonds on top. Place in freezer for 20 minutes. Remove from freezer and break apart.

Store in airtight container.

RUGALACH

Makes 3 dozen cookies
1 cup butter
1 8-oz. block cream cheese
2 cups flour
⅓ tsp. salt
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup ground nuts (walnuts,  almonds or pecans)
½ cup sugar
2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, ground
½ cup currants
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream 1 cup butter and the cream cheese together. Add flour and salt and blend until smooth. Divide dough into 3 parts. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill. Combine last five ingredients. Roll chilled dough into 8″ circles. Brush with ¼ cup melted butter. Sprinkle with nut mixture. Cut into 10-12 wedges. Start at wide end and roll each piece in the nut filling. Place on greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

Makes 3-4 dozen
1 stick margarine (melted)
2 cups creamy peanut butter
3½ cups sifted powdered sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies
1 6-oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips or Hershey milk chocolate bars
1 tsp. paraffin cooking wax, optional  (used for hardening chocolate)

Mix first four ingredients together. Roll into walnut-size balls. Melt chocolate and cooking wax in a double boiler.  Quickly dip balls into chocolate and place on a waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate has hardened. Store in Ziploc bags or tight-lidded container and keep in refrigerator.

Top to bottom: Almond Roca,
Rugalach, Peanut Butter Balls

Beigli and Biscotti

Walnut and poppy seed rolls known as beigli are a very popular Hungarian pastry. Beigli originated in Germany, and Hungarians adopted it in the 19th century, making it a customary Christmas treat. For Gabriela Hoffman of Agoura, no holiday dinner is complete without it. 

Kringla, a traditional Norwegian treat, is a simple bread-like cookie with a hint of sweetness. Making the figure-8 shape out of moist and sticky dough is something bakers take years to perfect. Mim Haukoos brings kringla to her family dinner in Agoura Hills each Christmas.

BEIGLI

Makes 10-12 slices per roll

 DOUGH (4 rolls):

1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 compressed yeast cake
½ cup powdered sugar
3¼ cups flour
¾ cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
pinch of salt

NUT FILLING (2 rolls):

½ cup milk
1 cup superfine sugar
2 tsp. vanilla sugar*
½ tsp. grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. raisins
Pinch of cinnamon
3 cups ground nuts
3-4 tsp. honey
(or 1-2 peeled,  grated apples or  2-3 tsp. apricot jam)

POPPY SEED FILLING (2 rolls):

½ cup milk
1¼ cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla sugar*
1⅔ cups ground poppy seeds
3 Tbsp. raisins
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
4 Tbsp. honey

OTHER:

1 egg yolk for glazing

To make dough:

Dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm milk, then add the yeast. Mix the remaining dough ingredients with the yeast mixture and knead thoroughly. Cover dough with a dish towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.

To make nut filling:

Put the milk in a pan with the sugar and vanilla sugar and bring to a boil. Add the lemon zest, raisins, cinnamon, nuts, and honey (or apples or jam).

To make poppy seed filling: 

Mix the milk with the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar. Bring to a boil and add poppy seeds and raisins. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and honey. with a knife (usually close to an hour).with a knife (usually close to an hour). Let cool, discard fiber and seeds, scoop pulp into a food processor and puree until very smooth.

 To make pie filling:

Stir eggs with dry ingredients. Add 2 cups of pumpkin puree and evaporated milk.  Pour into deep-dish crust (use your own favorite crust recipe) and bake at 450°. After 10 minutes, reduce oven to 325°. Bake until firm (about 50 minutes, or when knife comes out clean).

KRINGLA

Makes 2 dozen

1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening, such as Crisco
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
dash of salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. mace

Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs, ¼ cup of buttermilk and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients and remaining buttermilk to creamed mixture alternately, a little at a time. Dough will be very light and sticky. Flour your hands. For each cookie, take a heaping teaspoon of dough and roll it into a 5″ cylinder, shaped like a piece of string cheese. A cutting board topped with waxed paper may be used to roll dough.  Shape each cylinder into a figure 8. Place directly on a well-greased cookie sheet in a 350° oven.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.

*Editor’s note: Kringla are particularly good when dipped into a hot cup of coffee.