Outlook readers compete for bragging rights and fabulous (not really) prizes in annual Christmas recipe contest

Santa’s catering staff worked overtime recently, baking holiday breads and creating candies to fuel a bunch of hungry newspaper writers and designers.

Wait. That should say, “highly qualified culinary judges.”

Over three days, more than a dozen wonderful people came to our front counter, bearing plates of goodies loaded with chocolate, a variety of nuts and fruit and an all-time classic fudge. The decorated table in the newsroom groaned from the caloric weight — as did newbie reporters, The Outlook’s Beverly Corbell and the Sandy Post’s Kylie Wray.

Our generous bakers came from Fairview, Damascus, Gresham, Troutdale and East County. We thank each and every one of you for taking the time to share your favorites with us.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Judy Bond, a Gresham resident and longtime volunteer at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, has entered The Outlook contest annually the past five years. The runaway winner in the Holiday Bread category was a Gresham resident who has taken top honors among Holiday Bread entries once before, with a Banana Bread folks still talk about.

Judy Bond’s Irish Black Ginger Loaf was adapted from a cake recipe so it could be baked in loaf pans. The combination of molasses, spices and a touch of freshly brewed coffee produced a rich, dark-colored bread that nearly melted in our mouths.

Bond is no stranger to The Outlook’s shameless pandering for holiday treats. She has entered the contest the past five years, but was taken off-guard when told she had won.

“What a surprise!” she said. “This is truly a surprise, because I wasn’t sure the recipe would work as a bread instead of a cake. But I’m glad it did.”

Second place in the breads category wasn’t really a bread, but it wowed the judges for its delicate taste and complementary buttercream frosting.

Vera’s Danish Puff Pastry was submitted by Steve Wallace, Vera’s son-in-law and husband of former caterer Cherie Wallace. One judge called the pastry “flaky and moist; lovely to peel away the layers.” Topped with a creamy almond buttercream frosting, the light, buttery pastry did not last long on the judging table.

Wallace will receive an autographed copy of Outlook columnist Sharon Nesbit’s collection of columns, “Sunny with Occasional Tirades.” For her first place entry and possible future submissions, Bond will receive an apron from the Troutdale General Store.

“When you like to bake, you like to share,” Bond said.

And we’re certainly glad she did.

Consider adding Judy Bond’s Irish Black Ginger Loaf to your holiday table.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Bonds Irish Black Ginger Loaf was the runaway winner in the Holiday Bread category. It was originally a cake recipe Bond altered so it could be baked in bread pans.

Feeding a sweet tooth with holiday candy

Ask anybody who has attempted to make candy and he or she will tell you taking the time to constantly stir a boiling pot of dissolving sugar will test your patience every time.

Damascus resident Gary Rankin, whose peanut brittle won the Holiday Candy category hands down, discovered a secret to make the process less painful.

“The key is a nice bottle of wine,” Rankin said, laughing. “You would be amazed how long you can stir something if you’re drinking a good glass of wine.” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Gary Rankin has been making his peanut brittle for more than 40 years, as a homemade gift for family and friends.

Rankin says he’s the “Peanut Brittle Guy” among friends and family. He stumbled across his recipe in a cookbook more than 40 years ago while looking for ideas for homemade Christmas gifts.

“I’ve been doing this every year,” he said. “People remind me not to forget them.”

The judges found Rankin’s peanut brittle to be the right ratio of peanuts to brittle, but a couple of the younger judges called the recipe “intimidating,” saying they lacked the patience for all that stirring. See Rankin’s suggestion of wine.

A very close second place for candy honors went to Fairview resident Teresa Bright, with her See’s Chocolate Fudge. Bright acquired the recipe ages ago, she said, after her aunt’s mother-in-law wrote to the chocolate company and asked for the recipe. Who knew the famed chocolatier would share?

We’re not sure if Bright subscribes to Rankin’s liquid reinforcement for the boiling process, but she did say that taking the time required is the difference between a creamy finished product and one not so creamy.

“The trick is bringing it to a boil and stirring it for as long as needed,” Bright said. “If you don’t, it will be grainy every time.”

For their contributions to the dental un-health of the newspaper’s employees, Rankin will receive an apron from the Troutdale General Store. A copy of Sharon Nesbit’s collections of columns, “Sunny with Occasional Tirades,” will be autographed for Bright.

To boil or not to boil? The choice is yours, but the wine sounds good.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Outlook judges found Rankin's peanut brittle to be the perfect ratio of peanuts to brittle and far too easy to pick up and eat.

2013 Outlook Readers Recipe Contest

The Outlook would like to thank all our readers who took the time to grace our office with their wonderful homemade goodies. Here are the recipes for the tasty breads and candies the judges sampled. It’s not too late to add a few of these to your holiday table!

Holiday Bread

Vera’s Danish Puff Pastry

Submitted by Gresham resident Steve Wallace.

1 cup flour

1 stick real butter (none of that fake margarine stuff)

2 tablespoons water

Mix above ingredients with an electric mixer until dough forms a ball. Press into a strip approximately 12 inches long and 3 inches wide — on an ungreased baking sheet.

Measure 1 cup flour into mixing bowl. In a saucepan, heat one stick of butter and 1 cup water to a rolling boil. Immediately pour over the flour in the mixing bowl and beat until smooth and mixture cools down just a little.

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating after each addition. Batter should be smooth and shiny. Spread over the dough strips on baking sheet.

Place in a 350 degree over for 50-60 minutes. Frost while warm with Almond Buttercream Frosting (see below) and sprinkle with toasted, sliced almonds and holiday sprinkles.

Almond Buttercream Frosting

1 stick real butter

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

Milk, cream or half-and-half as needed

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Add milk or cream as necessary to achieve desired spreading consistency.

Cranberry Date Bars

Submitted by Gresham resident and pie baker extraordinaire, retired chaplain Harold Fuller.

1 package cranberries (12 oz.)

1 package chopped dates (8 oz.)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, melted

Orange Glaze:

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

2-3 tablespoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine cranberries and dates in a sauce pan. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add vanilla; set aside.

In a bowl, add flour, oats, sugar, soda and salt. Stir in the melted butter.

Press half the dough into a 13x9-inch ungreased baking dish. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Remove from oven and spread cranberry mixture evenly over the crust. Add the remaining crumb mixture and pat down gently.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over the bars.

Yield: 48 bars.

Carrot Pudding Bread

Submitted by Gresham resident and past Outlook contest winner Mary Nelson.

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding and Pie Filling

4 eggs

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together.

Pour into two greased and floured 8x4-inch loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

Top with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

Blend 1 tablespoon butter with one package (3 oz.) cream cheese and 1 teaspoon grated orange rind. Add 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice. Frost cooled bread.

Zucchini Bread

Submitted by Gresham resident and past Outlook contest winner, Mary Nelson. This recipe belonged to Mary’s mother.

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups shredded zucchini

3 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix first six ingredients together until fluffy. Add dry ingredients.

Turn into two greased and floured 9x5-inch pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until done.

Rhubarb Bread

Submitted by Gresham resident, Ruth Vandenbos.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

(or 1/2 cup wheat germ and 2 cups white flour)

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, diced small

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Mix together the brown sugar, oil and egg. Add soda and buttermilk; mix well. Mix in flour and salt. Add rhubarb, vanilla and chopped nuts.

Bake for one to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

For topping, crumble together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of warm bread.

My Other Mother’s Date Nut Bread

Submitted by Troutdale resident Beth Lovcy. The recipe dates back to the 1960s or 70s, Lovcy said, and is named for the 90-year-old woman who gave Lovcy the recipe.

1 cup chopped dates

2 teaspoons baking soda (sprinkle over dates)

2 cups boiling water (pour over soda and dates)

In a separate bowl, mix together:

3 tablespoons shortening

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Alternate adding the liquid from the dates, with 3 1/2-4 cups flour into the egg mixture. When combined, add the dates and I cup chopped nuts.

Pour into two well-greased loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Good warm from the oven with butter or cream cheese.

Orange Nut Bread

Submitted by Troutdale resident Beth Lovcy.

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

3 cups Bisquick

1 1/4 cups orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon orange liquor, optional

3/4 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, except the nuts. Beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Batter may be slightly lumpy. Stir in nuts.

Pour into a well-greased loaf pan.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Can be served warm, at room temperature or toasted. Good topped with cream cheese or jam.

Sticky Buns

Submitted by East County resident Marge Zach.

Take your favorite bread dough, spread butter and cinnamon on it. Then roll it up and cut into even slices. Use nonstick spray to coat the inside of a loaf pan. Place dough slices in the pan.

For the topping, add 1 cup of brown sugar to 1 cup of whipping cream in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour over buns when they’re ready to go in the oven.

Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Jan’s Blue Ribbon Winning Pumpkin Bread

Submitted by Gresham resident Janis Warden, who received this recipe from a neighbor in California more than 35 years ago. Janis also recommends using fresh pumpkin when possible.

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 1/2-2 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

3/4 cup nuts

1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chocolate chips

Cream shortening and sugar. Add vanilla, egg, pumpkin and blend well. Add flour, nuts and chocolate chips.

Place in a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Janis notes raisins may be substituted for the chocolate chips and raw sugar can be sprinkled on top before baking.

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