Make us your home page
Instagram

Our reader-submitted holiday desserts collection marks a new tradition

Patty Yablonski | TIMES

It can be scary, deviating from tradition.

Around the holidays, these customs — especially the food kind — comfort us and fill us up with a good helping of nostalgia.

Our annual reader-driven Christmas cookie issue has changed this year, as we made the decision to expand it to different kinds of dessert recipes when we started calling for submissions in October. The hundred or so reader recipes we received since then have reassured us that the finished product will become part of your new holiday Taste tradition.

You submitted such a wide variety of holiday desserts that we barely got duplicated recipes. Everything from chocolate cake to doughnuts to fudge to pumpkin pie were sent in, via email and handwritten letter. It should surprise no one that fruitcake was the most popular submission. We received at least 10 versions, each a bit unique.

In addition to a recipe, we asked readers to explain why these desserts mean so much to them, and the stories were likewise diverse. You'll find a selection of 17 stories sent in from readers, along with their cherished holiday recipes. Here are a dozen of those, and for the other five, click below:

Caramel Pecan Rolls

Nusse Strudel

Polish Angel Wings, or Chrusciki

Banana Akaras

Sufganiyot doughnuts


Some of the other touching stories we received included:

A family tale from Chris Vivian of St. Petersburg, who wrote about his great-grandmother's (Nana's) pumpkin pie: "When I was growing up there were family favorite dishes for the holidays, but we'd try new things, too. Except when it comes to pumpkin pie — only Nana's Pumpkin Pie With Ginger Meringue would do then, or now. Nana moved from Czechoslovakia when she was only 16 and her cooking is still fondly remembered as the best. My mom transcribed recipes from Nana's scribbled cards back in the '70s and everyone has a copy of the little book."

Connie LeSeur of New Port Richey detailed the story of her signature treat, Holiday Fruit Drops. Last year the cookies traveled far and wide across the Tampa Bay area: "Baked and shared with friend from church. Baked and took to our 90-year-old aunt in Clearwater. Baked to take to 88-year-old mother-in-law. Baked to take to friends in Valrico. Baked to carry over to neighbor across the street and to the neighbor next door."

Martha Brockinton of Tampa (and a few others) makes None Such Prize Mincemeat Cookies. (Mincemeat is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, spirits and spices.) "The recipe I use is the one on the package of Borden's None Such Condensed Mincemeat, just like my grandma used to. The only thing I do different is how I crumble the condensed mincemeat. I use a food processor to break it up."

Lisa Bazzanella Smith of St. Petersburg told us about a Chocolate "Yule" Love Torte. ("It's easy, it's creamy, it's Christmas!" she wrote.) And John J. Pacheco of St. Petersburg shared recipes from his family's Portuguese heritage, including Portuguese Coconut Tarts, which his aunts would make using their hands because they did not have mixers.

Janet Sullivan of Pinellas Park wrote about Sultana Cake, something she has baked for more than 50 years and cannot remember a Christmas without. It was passed down from her grandmother, who came to this country from Aberdeen, Scotland.

"My grandmother never used a written recipe — everything she made came from her memory. She would often say 'a wee bitty of this and a handful of that.' Thankfully, her three daughters managed to get most of her goodies written down over time and they have been enjoyed by the generations that have followed."

And we received this story from sisters Barbara McGeever of Valrico and Sheilah Murphy of Fort Pierce about their family's Christmas Loaf: "For our family, the tradition of the Christmas Loaf began when a dear friend sent the recipe to our mother, Gladys Lennon, in 1968 — complete with a 6-cent Franklin D. Roosevelt stamp on the envelope."

Many recipes were tied to family traditions we hold near and dear, but some were not.

Mary-Ann Janssen of Dunedin shared her Christmas Cookie Truffles story, saying they always remind her of her first year of teaching: "In 1960, when I was a beginning third-grade teacher, I wanted my students to bring home to their parents a Christmas present they had made by themselves. I asked each child to bring in a cookie recipe ... and made a Christmas Cookie Book. Christmas Cookie Truffles is a cookie recipe from one of my students. I have tweaked the recipe over the years, and I make it every Christmas."

Other stories showed the way we sometimes adapt long-held traditions to more modern circumstances, like the Paleo-Friendly Salted Coconut Almond Fudge from Maureen Corbett of St. Petersburg that uses coconut oil and hazelnut-flavored Stevia extract.

She wrote: "Fudge has long been a tradition for our family. This past year, however, we 'fudge elves' have gone paleo. I began experimenting with this way of eating when I realized that sugar was sapping my energy. ... I always have been passionate about dessert, especially at the holidays. ... Our fudge tradition will continue, with a new and improved boost of nutrients from cocoa powder, coconut oil and almond butter."

Sounds good, fudge elves.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

Our reader-submitted holiday desserts collection marks a new tradition 12/01/15 [Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2015 12:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Colors and culture in Cuba overwhelm first-time visitor

    Travel

    I landed in Havana with many questions about what we would witness in our brief visit. There was so much rich history and culture I wanted to experience, but the stories I had heard from Cuban refugees rang in my brain. After the death of Fidel Castro, some Cuban immigrants danced in the streets of Tampa and told …

    Havana is a photographer's dream. Bright colors abound, from the walls to the classic cars to the streets filled with tourists, musicians and locals. All of these elements are a part of photographs that were so rare for Americans to capture until very recently. I loved photographing this scene in front of this perfect yellow wall.
  2. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  3. Ticket window: Bucs, Michael Carbonaro, The Zombies

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 27

    Events

    Clearwater Threshers: Kids 5 and older get their choice of red or blue fidget spinner. 7 p.m., Spectrum Field (formerly Bright House Field), 601 N Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. $6-$10. (727) 467-4457; threshersbaseball.com.

    A boy plays with a fidget spinner. (Associated Press)
  5. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 22: A rejuvenating visit to The House of the Gods (a.k.a. Pilgrim Paradise)

    Travel

    Day 22: Hospital de Orbigo to Murias de Rechivaldo: 22.3 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-22 = 520 km (323 miles)