I realize that I just posted a Christmas cookie recipe, but I've got sweets and desserts on the brain since this is my big "baking from scratch week" of the year. Also, after attending some holiday events this past weekend, I have a few pointers on keeping nut-free desserts "safe" once they leave your kitchen.
It doesn't make sense to spend time baking and cooking a special nut-free dessert, only to bring it to a holiday party and have it placed on a tray with walnut-laden cookies or peanut butter cupcakes. Once your "safe" option is served on a platter or dessert stand next to those other guys, it's no longer safe.
Recently my daughter spied some Fig Newtons and a few other "safe" packaged cookies at a holiday event. However, they were arranged on a plate with lots of other cookies of unknown origin. So the "safe" cookies were now rendered unsafe. Cross-contact with allergens is a big risk factor with all foods, but dessert trays are especially challenging since they are usually arranged for visual appeal and not "separation of allergens."
I suggest always bringing your own plate and serving utensils along with your homemade, nut-free dessert. Keep these items covered until it's time to serve (this is a great tip I got from Linda Coss!) and make sure that you offer the nut-allergic people the dessert first. That way, cross-contact risks are virtually eliminated.
Now, onto the holiday recipe. Since many people have e-mailed me asking for nut-free holiday dessert ideas, I've got another one for you-- I'm also going to try it this year. I like to collect vintage cookbooks and this is a recipe that I found in a 1964cookbook from "The Pirate House" restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. This dessert is relatively easy, charmingly old-fashioned, festive and nut-free though it does contain milk and egg.
Just to clear up any confusion on one of the dessert ingredients: Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers do contain coconut as an ingredient but this is a fruit, not a tree nut. I use coconut in recipes for my daughter with her allergy doctor's approval. Of course, if you have any questions about ingredients to avoid, please ask your doctor.
Here's the recipe! I hope you enjoy it.
Chocolate Peppermint Cream Mold
1 tablespoon gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 lb. peppermint candy (I use Bob's Candy Canes--from any supermarket)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (I use McCormick brand)
1 pint milk
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 pint heavy cream
10 chocolate wafer cookies (I use Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
Have ready an 8 x 8 inch square pan.
Soak gelatin in cold water. Add candy to milk. (If using flavoring, add after the custard is cool.) Make a custard by adding 3 tablespoons of sugar, cornstarch and beaten egg to milk mixture. Cook this over low heat, stirring constantly. Add gelatin; set aside to cool. Whip cream and add 3 tablespoons of sugar. Save one-half cup whipped cream for top of dessert. Fold rest of cream into cooled custard. Pour into square pan. Lay chocolate wafers on custard. Spread whipped cream on top of wafer cookies and sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top of the whipped cream. Cool in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Cut into squares to serve. Serves 8.