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Festive treats

From cranberry-orange bread to eggnog, some fresh twists on some time-honored favorites

Dorothy Grover-Read’s culinary talents can be found on her blog “The New Vintage Kitchen” (, billed as “[a] Vermont innkeeper’s collection of classics reimagined for today’s kitchen,” from which these recipes are gleaned. Her column has regularly appeared in The Commons special sections for years.

BELLOWS FALLS—From Thanksgiving through the holiday season, we get the sweet little clementines, tangerines, and sometimes mandarin oranges. My Christmas Clementine and Cardamom Cake makes a nice use of them — all of them, as you use every bit of the fruit except the seeds. You can also substitute another favorite sweet orange, but adjust the amount accordingly.

Every year, I give away these cakes at Christmastime; it’s become a ritual, along with making the candied orange peels with my granddaughter. It’s usually a dessert, but it can be a lovely part of a holiday brunch as well. Best of all, you can make it a few days or weeks ahead of time (it freezes well) so it’s a great stress-free addition to your holiday routine.

Since you are using the peels in the recipe, it is especially important that you use only organic fruit here, since the peel is where much of the pesticides accumulate in a lot of conventionally grown fruit. The entire fruit lends a slight bitterness to the cake, which is not overly sweet.

Eat it plain, or pretty it up — it’s up to you. And, as a bonus, this cake is also gluten- and dairy-free.

Christmas Clementine and Cardamom Cake

¶6 sweet little clementines, whole

¶1{1/2} cup all-purpose gluten-free baking mix or all-purpose flour

¶1 cup garbanzo bean flour or all-purpose flour

¶2 tsp. baking powder

¶1 tsp. ground cardamom

¶1 tsp. ground ginger

¶Zest of 2 large oranges

¶{1/2} tsp. salt

¶6 large eggs

¶1 cup sugar

¶1 tsp. orange extract

Orange syrup:

¶{1/4} cup Grand Marnier liquor

¶{1/4} cup of simple syrup (made with orange juice instead of water and strained)

¶Candied orange peel, optional

Scrub your fruit well and prepare for a long cook. Place it in a deep saucepan with cold water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for two hours. If your lowest heat is still making too much of a bubbly fuss in the pan, you can put the covered pan in a low oven, 250 F.

Once they have softened and transformed, remove them from the water, drain them, and let them cool completely.

Cut each in half at the equator, removing any seeds. Place fruit on a large cutting board and chop the whole mass. You can also do this in a food processor, which is the easy way out, but leave some texture; you’ll want to see nice bits of the peel.

Prepare a Springform or Bundt pan with butter. Flour it well.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cardamom, ginger, zest, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the eggs until smooth. Add the sugar in a drizzle, then add the extract and fruit, followed by the flour mixture, a little at a time, and mix only until combined.

Put batter into the prepared pan, and set your timer for 30 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center and check to see if it comes out clean. The cake will most likely need 10 minutes or so more.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. If you are using a Springform pan, you can let it cool completely, then run a knife around the edge and release the cake from the pan. If you are using a Bundt pan, let it cool for the 10 minutes and use a butter knife to gently check the top edge for sticking. Place a rack on top, turn over, and gently shake to loosen.

Pierce the cake all over with a fork or ice pick, then drizzle the Grand Marnier and simple syrup mixture generously all over the top. Let it set.

Options for garnishing: You can dust the cake with a little powdered sugar and stop right there. Or you can make a glaze by thinning confectioners’ sugar with an orange liqueur.

However, our favorite is to drizzle with a dark chocolate ganache. Decorate with the candied orange peel, walnuts, or, if serving immediately, with some lovely little fresh Clementine segments.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Drizzle

¶4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

¶{1/4} tsp. instant espresso powder

¶Pinch of salt

¶4 oz. heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk

¶3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Place chocolate, espresso powder, and salt in a deep bowl.

Heat the cream to just below boiling and pour over the chocolate. Let set for a minute or so, then gently combine with a whisk. Don’t beat, just stir.

Once the mixture is combined, whisk in the butter gently and stir until melted.

Pour over cake and enjoy!

Individual cakes — For a pretty presentation or gift giving, make the cakes in individual Bundt forms. My pan has six wells for these little cakes.

* * *

My favorite cranberry bread is bursting with cranberries combined with orange, and the flavor is a celebration of the holidays. When I start cooking with oranges, that signals the holidays to me.

Cranberry orange nut bread combines sweet, savory, and tangy, and rounds out the bread basket! It is also really easy to make, and it doubles nicely.

My friend Nance brought me a loaf of this delectable bread many years ago and, I loved it, so she gave me this recipe and I’ve made it ever since. I added vanilla and, as time went on, the orange zest and orange extract as well, adding tons of flavor to the loaf.

This bread is delicious with walnuts, but you can substitute other nuts or omit them altogether.

I made this recipe once with lime instead of orange, and it was good, but took forever to squeeze enough lime juice! You can never count on a lime to be nice and juicy unless you have a tree in your backyard.

Glaze with a little orange liqueur and confectioners’ sugar (recipe follows), or enjoy as is with a bit of butter!

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread with Orange Glaze

¶2 cups all-purpose flour

¶{3/4} cup sugar (scant)

¶1{3/4} tsp. baking powder

¶{1/2} tsp. baking soda

¶{1/2} tsp. salt

¶Zest of one orange

¶2 cups cranberries, chopped roughly

¶1 cup walnuts or pecans

¶1 well-beaten egg

¶{1/3} cup orange juice

¶{1/4} cup water, or more juice

¶{1/4} cup unsalted butter, melted

¶1 tsp. vanilla extract

¶{1/2} tsp. orange extract

Butter a loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with a whisk, then add the zest, cranberries, and nuts and combine.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk the egg, orange juice, water, butter, and extracts.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Mix just enough to combine; over-mixing will toughen the loaf.

Put into prepared pan and bake on the middle rack for 1 hour. At 45 minutes, turn the pan for even browning.

Let cool, then glaze and enjoy!

Orange Glaze


¶{1/2} cup confectioners’ sugar

¶1 Tbsp. orange liqueur or orange juice

Whisk well, and add a few more drops of liqueur to get the consistency you want.

* * *

You don’t need dairy to make a delicious eggnog, but eggs should be on the ingredient list!

When we were growing up, my mother had many holiday rituals. Among them, she improvised a most delicious and budget-friendly eggnog using canned milk. This is not a thick and gloppy eggnog; it’s light and refreshing.

She made it every Thanksgiving and Christmas and placed it in her punch bowl surrounded by pretty little glass cups. I still have the bowl and have added to her collection of cups over the years.

We never worried about salmonella then, but if you have concerns, you can substitute pasteurized eggs in any nog recipe. Of course, she always made this eggnog with a more-than-ample addition of spirits — sometimes dark rum, but usually whiskey, or a combination of both — and there are those who say the spirits do a good job of killing off the pathogens! But pasteurizing takes only a few moments, and I find it worth the peace of mind.

I’ve made variants of this eggnog using cooked eggs, raw eggs, and any number of combinations of milk, light cream, and heavy cream, and non-dairy substitutes. I made a no-egg version once, but I don’t recommend it at all! It was a nice beverage, but not eggnog!

However, dairy-free is easy and tasty for those who cannot or do not consume milk products. In general, the method is simple –– use about 1 egg per cup of liquid and a tablespoon of sugar, but the sugar is all to taste. The same goes for the optional addition of spirits. Most servings of eggnog are about a half cup.

I’ve used vanilla bean paste rather than vanilla extract, but you can use what you have. Soy, rice, or almond milk work great here, and oat milk is tasty but will probably separate, so you’ll have to stir it up once the eggnog rests.


Dairy Free Holiday Eggnog

Serves 10

¶4 fresh organic eggs, pasteurized (instructions follow)

¶{1/3} cup sugar

¶1 can full-fat coconut milk

¶1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

¶4 cups plant milk

¶Nutmeg, fresh


Place pasteurized eggs into a bowl with the sugar. Beat on high with your hand mixer until the eggs are light and thick and the sugar dissolved.

For some reason, using a hand mixer is essential when making this recipe because that is what we had when I was a little kid! I sort of feel like June Cleaver when I use it!

Add the coconut milk, followed by the vanilla and plant milk, drizzling it in.

Grate approximately {1/4} tsp. of nutmeg and taste — you may want a lot more, or this could be exactly enough. Add rum or other spirits.

Serve with a fresh grate of nutmeg on top.

To pasteurize eggs — Always use fresh, local organic eggs where possible, especially if you are concerned about food-borne bacteria.

Have the eggs at room temperature, then place them in a saucepan of room-temperature water. Slowly bring the water to 140 F (60 C) over medium/low heat and let the eggs rest in this bath for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. Keep a close watch on the temperature of the water — you don’t want it to go much higher than the 140 F (60 C). After the time is finished, plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking process.

Sylvia’s Holiday Eggnog

¶3 cans evaporated milk

¶6 eggs

¶1 cup sugar

¶1 cup water

¶1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

¶Liberal grating of nutmeg for garnish

Beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light. Add all ingredients and beat until well-blended. Grate nutmeg over top. Add whiskey, rum, or brandy if desired.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #691 (Wednesday, November 23, 2022). This story appeared on page B1.

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