Here are the winners of our Holiday Baking Contest


PG tested

Pat Harmon came up with this recipe years ago. I used 14-ounce packages of Fig Newtons -- about 11/2 packages.

-- Arlene Burnett

  • 1 1/2 packages fig bar cookies, divided
  • 5 eggs, divided
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice, divided
  • 3 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, divided
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • Aerosol whipped cream topping, optional

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Wrap foil around bottom and outside of pan to prevent seepage. Using about 18 of the fig bars, line bottom of pan, pressing to flatten cookies slightly.

Place remainder of fig bars into food processor bowl fitted with steel blade. Process until mixture is crumbly. Add 2 eggs and process until mixed. Add 1 teaspoon apple pie spice and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest and process until smooth. Chop 1/2 cup walnuts and stir into mixture. Place mixture into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a food processor bowl, process softened cream cheese until smooth. Mix in 3/4 cup sugar. Add remaining 3 eggs, 1 at a time, and process only until combined. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Pour mixture into cookie-lined pan. Drop spoonfuls of fig mixture, which had been set aside, randomly over top of batter. Spoon some cream cheese mixture over top to cover fig mixture. Bake in 325-degree oven for about 1 hour or until set. Turn off oven and open door. Leave cheesecake in for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop remaining 1 cup walnuts. Heat a heavy skillet and place walnuts in it, stirring nuts for about 5 minutes until toasted. Place nuts in a small bowl to cool. When cool, add remaining 1 teaspoon apple pie spice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Remove cheesecake from oven and sprinkle nut mixture over top. Cool at room temperature for 1/2 hour. Refrigerate for at least 5 to 6 hours or, preferably, overnight. To serve, garnish with whipped cream topping, if desired.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

-- Patricia A. Harmon, Baden


PG tested

"Loving both tiramisu and raspberries, I tried different variations of several tiramisu recipes before coming up with this one," says Joani Beggs McCormack of Bellevue. "It's a holiday staple in our house."

This is one of those recipes that makes you look like a gourmet cook. For best results, be sure to chill for at least 2 hours or even better, overnight.

-- Gretchen McKay

  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Chambord liquor
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 10-ounce jar raspberry Simply Fruit jam
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 small (30-count) package ladyfingers
  • 2 pints fresh raspberries
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons shaved white chocolate (optional)

In large mixing bowl beat mascarpone until smooth.

In another bowl beat whipping cream, 2 teaspoons Chambord and sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone and refrigerate 1/2 hour.

Heat jam, 2 tablespoons Chambord and water in heavy sauce pan until jam is melted. Keep warm on a low burner.

Dip ladyfingers into the heated jam to coat. Place a layer in bottom of your dish (you may need to break them to fit). Spoon some jam on top.

Spread 1/3 mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfingers. Cover with 1/3 of berries. (In a trifle dish, place berries against the sides.) Repeat layering ladyfingers, mascarpone mixture and top with the berries. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, sprinkle shaved white chocolate on top.

Serves 12 to 16.

-- Joani Beggs McCormack, Bellevue


PG tested

"This butter toffee, from an elderly friend of my mom's, is an absolute family favorite," writes Deanna Clouse of Zelienople.

I made this on a large cutting board topped with parchment, and used chopped almonds instead of ground. It's best to melt the chocolate in a pan or metal bowl set over simmering water (it'll stay creamy) but you can use the microwave if you do it in batches. Otherwise, it will harden before you spread both sides.

-- Gretchen McKay

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup ground or chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 giant Hershey milk chocolate bars (6 ounces), chopped and divided

Line a sheet pan with parchment or Silpat liner. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add sugar, salt and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Heat to boiling and cook to 310 degrees on a candy thermometer, stirring constantly. This will taker about 20 minutes; sugar will turn caramel colored.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate slowly over low heat in a double boiler, stirring occasionally.

When candy reaches 310 degrees, carefully pour onto a sheet pan and working quickly, spread it out, not too thick, with a silicone spatula.

Allow candy to cool for a minute or 2, then spread 1/2 of melted chocolate on top. Quickly sprinkle with 1/2 of the almonds, while chocolate is still wet. Place pan in a cool place and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Invert hardened toffee onto a second cookie sheet. Spread remaining melted chocolate on that side and sprinkle with remaining almonds. Allow to cool completely. Break into pieces with your fingers.

Makes about 3 cups.

-- Deanna Clouse, Zelienople

Cranberry Almost Pie

PG tested

"This is an easy, quick and yummy recipe I found in the 'Christmas Memories Cookbook' many years ago. It has received many accolades," writes Susanne S. Harvey of Sewickley. "It's great served warm with ice cream." I loved the festive look and tangy taste of the cranberries, but probably would cut back a bit on the sugar.

-- Bob Batz Jr.p>

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease well a 10-inch pie plate. Spread dry cranberries over bottom of pie plate. Sprinkle with nuts and 1/2 cup sugar.

In small bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs well. Add 1 cup sugar and beat until well mixed.

Add flour and melted butter, beat well. Pour over cranberries.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

-- Susanne S. Harvey, Sewickley


PG tested

Squirrel Hill's Marci Woodruff brought this recipe from Rome. Our tasters loved it.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 1 1/4 pounds mixed nuts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake nuts on a cookie sheet until lightly golden -- about 10 minutes. Watch carefully: They will burn!

In a large bowl, combine rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss WARM nuts with the spiced butter and serve.

Serving warm is best, but room temperature works, too!

-- Marci Woodruff, Squirrel Hill


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