Three Sugar-Free Holiday Treats

It's December, Christmas is coming, and you're snowed in. What better way to pass the time than by making these sugar-free holiday treats?

| November/December 1979

  • 060-sugar-free-holiday-treats.jpg
    The finished sugar-free holiday treats: dough candy canes, molasses cookies, and a coffee cake wreath.

  • 060-sugar-free-holiday-treats.jpg

For just a moment, imagine that you're here on our Nova Scotia homestead. The fierce wind of a hard winter snowstorm shakes our windows and batters the surf against the ice-piled shore of the bay. But inside ... ah, inside our snug island cabin a crackling fire keeps us cozy-warm and—best of all—bakes our special, sugar-free holiday treats: three large, doughy "candy canes," a sweet-tooth-pleasing "Christmas wreath," and some zesty yuletide molasses cookies.

Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies

We find all three of our Christmas confections hard to resist, but the molasses cookies make for some especially good eatin'. To "batch up" these crispy treats, cream 1/2 cup of goose fat (use lard or some other conventional shortening only if you have to!) together with the same amount of butter, then beat in 1 teaspoon of ginger and 2 cups of molasses. Next, in a separate container, combine 1/3 cup of hot tea with 2 teaspoons of baking soda, and alternately add this tea brew and 4 1/2 cups of well-sifted flour to the creamed mixture.

Chill this prepared dough for a bit, then roll it out to a 3/8" thickness on a floured board. Try cutting round cookies (the recipe yields around 42 crispy 2 1/2" circles), or be creative and design angels, "gingerbread" figures, birds, butterflies, stars, bells, and other festive shapes. Bake your treats for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350°F oven (watch 'em close so they don't burn). After they cool, decorate the finished fixin's with raisins, nuts, or a flavorful sugarless icing. (The last-mentioned spread can be prepared by slowly adding 1/4 cup of honey and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or peppermint extract to an already well-whipped egg white, and then continuing to beat the entire mixture until it thickens.)

Dough Candy Canes

To cook up some large—and luscious—replacements for those all-too-common striped holiday sugar sticks, first let 1 3/4 cup of yogurt or sour cream heat up to room temperature. Then place 2 tablespoons of yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Allow the bread starter to "brew" for five minutes while you stir together your yogurt, 1/4 cup of softened butter, 2 beaten eggs, and 1/4 cup of honey. Next, add the readied "yeast juice" and 3 cups of flour to the yogurt-based mixture and beat these ingredients together until smooth. After that, mix in 1 cup of bran flakes and another 3 cups (more or less) of flour to produce a nice soft dough.

Knead the mass on a well-floured surface for eight minutes, then place it in a greased bowl, flip it over (to "lubricate" the entire surface), and cover the container. Let your dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk. At that point, put the mix through a second kneading and rising cycle, then knead the dough one more time.

Divide the spongy blend into three equal parts. Roll each segment out until into a thin 5" X 16" rectangular "loaf" and place them on greased cookie sheets. Spread one cup of dried fruit (apricots, cherries, dates, raisins, currants, etc.) on each rectangle, fold 'em over and pinch their sides together to form long rolls, and flip 'em so their "seams" are on the bottom.

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