- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Once cooler weather sets in, baking becomes the pleasurable experience we can again indulge in. Making a delectable butter-and-sugar-filled dessert is gratifying because it satisfies all the senses.

A beckoning aroma fills the kitchen. It’s followed by the eye-appealing glance at the dish in the oven. There’s touch as you gently prod the food to assure that it’s thoroughly done before you remove it from the oven. And how about sound? Can you hear something while it’s baking?

The best reason to bake is for the taste of it. Nothing is as delectable as cookies, cake or pudding warm from the oven. That’s why I like to launch my personal baking season with shortbread: a delicious, attractive and fragrant cookie. Shortbread is so versatile I can make dozens of versions and never repeat the flavors.

Sweet potato pudding

1 small sweet potato

1 cup half-and-half

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

2 egg yolks

Pierce sweet potato with fork tines. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes or until very tender. Remove from oven and set aside until potato is cool enough to peel.

Peel and mash potato in a medium bowl. Add half-and-half, salt, cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, egg and egg yolks and stir well. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Spoon mixture through a wire sieve. Pour potato mixture into 2 8-ounce custard cups.

Place cups in a small baking dish and pour enough hot water into baking dish to come 1 inch up the outside of custard cups.

Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted in custard comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature 30 minutes. Serve warm or chill 2 hours before serving. Makes 2 servings.

Brown sugar ginger shortbread

cup unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

1/4 cup pecans

Cream butter, brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a large bowl at medium speed of electric mixer. Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Stir in crystallized ginger and pecans by hand. Roll dough into 20 balls, about 1 level tablespoon each.

Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet and flatten to 1/3-inch thickness. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 25 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned. Remove from oven. Cool 5 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Makes 20 cookies.

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