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Christmas morning, with the aromas of cinnamon, butter and bacon mingling with the cool morning breezes and the fragrance of pine. It is a special time, a quiet time, I think, to be treasured, no matter your relationship to the holiday.

If little kids are part of your morning, it will be shaped by early-morning footsteps, the crinkling of gift wrap and squeals of delight.

If not, you may linger in bed a tad longer than usual, sipping tea or coffee, reading the paper and enjoying the silence, uninterrupted by annoying phone calls and a need to rush off to the next obligation.

My preference is to enjoy a pot of homemade chai tea as I make a favorite cinnamon coffee cake and fry some bacon to go along with it.

It's a once-a-year indulgence that neither induces guilt no matter how much butter I slather on the cake nor makes me want to repeat it, except a year from now.

It's a lovely indulgence but not an addictive one.

When the coffee cake is ready and the bacon sufficiently crisp, I'll pour a glass of sparkling wine and savor it all slowly, before heading to the nearby coast so the puppies can sniff the shoreline to their hearts' content.

Whatever it is you are doing or not doing today, Happy Christmas. I hope it is a delicious day, full of love.


In "Cooking for Comfort" (Simon & Schuster, 2003), journalist Marian Burros offers several of her mother's recipes, including this one.

It is so similar to one that I loved when I was a little girl that I couldn't resist making a small change by adding butter to the filling and topping, which is how I remember it.

Coffee cake should, especially on Christmas Day, be served with good butter alongside.

<strong>Marian Burros' Mother's Sour Cream Coffee Cake</strong>

<em> Makes 8 to 12 servings</em>

<strong><em> For filling and topping:</em></strong>

1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

<em><strong> For cake:</strong></em>

— Butter, for the pan

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

Put the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon into a medium bowl and mix with a fork. Add the butter and mix again. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the inside of a 9-inch spring form or tube pan. Put the butter into a bowl and use an electric mixer to whip it until it is light in color. Add the sugar and continue mixing until very pale and fluffy.

Sift the flour and re-measure it, using just 2 1/2 cups. Sift it again with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

With the electric mixer on low, add about a quarter of the eggs, followed by about a quarter of the dry ingredients. Continue, alternating eggs and dry ingredients, until all have been incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix quickly but thoroughly.

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Spoon half the batter into the buttered pan. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the surface of the batter. Add the remaining batter, agitate the pan gently to even it out and top with the remaining nut mixture.

Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, set the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and serve warm.


In "Morning Food" (Ten Speed Press, 1990), Margaret Fox writes lovingly of the popular dishes served at her iconic Cafe Beaujolais, where I enjoyed many delicious breakfasts (and dinners) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In this recipe, she uses yogurt instead of sour cream to create an almost-traditional coffee cake. It's great slathered with butter, but if you happen to have some yogurt cheese on hand, that's good, too.

<strong>Margaret Fox's Yogurt Coffee Cake</strong>

<em> Makes 12 servings</em>

— Butter, for the pan

1 1/3 cups whole milk yogurt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, sifted

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup chocolate chips, white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips, optional

1/2 cups chopped nuts of choice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the inside of a 9-inch by 13-inch pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt and soda and set it aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture; blend well. Quickly stir in the yogurt mixture.

Pour the batter into the pan. If using chocolate or other chips, scatter them on top and press them lightly into the batter. Working quickly, toss together the nuts, cinnamon and brown sugar and scatter it evenly over the top of the batter.

Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack, remove from the pan and serve warm.


For years, I've made a steamed persimmon pudding inspired by Marion Cunningham's recipe in "The Breakfast Book" (Knopf, 1987) for the holidays. These delicious muffins, also from the book, have the same wonderful depth of flavor but cook much more quickly, making them ideal for Christmas morning. It is easy to make the persimmon puree, especially if you have a tree nearby. But even if you don't, ripe Hachiya persimmons practically puree themselves. All you need to do is scoop the flesh out of the skin and mash it with a fork; it takes seconds, not minutes.

<strong>Marion Cunningham's Persimmon Muffins</strong>

<em> Makes 18 muffins</em>

— Butter, for the muffin tins

1 cup pureed Hachiya persimmons

1 teaspoon baking soda

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons bourbon, optional

1 cup walnut pieces

3/4 cup currents

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rub the inside of 18 muffin tins with butter.

Put the pureed persimmons into a small bowl and stir in the baking soda. Set aside.

Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat vigorously, slowly adding the sugar, until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour, salt and cinnamon, along with the persimmon mixture and beat until well blended. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and bourbon, if using.

Fold in the walnuts and currants.

Fill each muffin tin three-quarters full. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until a straw comes out clean when inserted into the center of a muffin.

Remove the muffin tins from the oven, cool for a few minutes and transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool a bit more.

Serve warm, with butter alongside if you like.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>

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