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Cranberry and Orange-Cream Holiday Parfaits take on an elegant look when served in stemmed glassware. Photo by Sue Doeden

Holiday parfaits merge the old with the new

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In my house, as soon as the Thanksgiving dinner table has been cleared, the kitchen has been cleaned up and the leftovers are tucked away in the refrigerator, I go down to my basement and start hauling up several cookie tins that I've collected over the years. Then I pull out the cookie recipes that I make only once a year - at holiday time.

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I first check to be sure I have all the favorites that have been in the family for years. Then I go for the pile of recipes I've collected that sound as though they may be worthy of holiday status. And from that assortment, I choose just one or two to include in my lineup of holiday baking. Sometimes those newbies make it to the following year's holiday baking list.

Cranberry and Orange-Cream Holiday Parfaits are a little bit old and a little bit new. The cookies that are crumbled to form crunchy layers in the parfaits are made from a recipe that my mom always made. An easy, refrigerated slice-and-bake cookie, they are made from only a few ingredients. They melt in your mouth like a rich shortbread. The addition of oats gives them some texture. Once the dough is mixed up, it is formed into two logs and wrapped up tightly with waxed paper. Typically, the logs of cookie dough get rolled in colorful sprinkles before they get wrapped up in waxed paper and head to the refrigerator for a few hours, or sometimes a few days, until I get around to baking them.

This year, I've discovered a new way to have dessert and eat my cookies, too.

I decided to roll only one log of dough in colorful sprinkles and leave the other log plain. This unadorned roll of dough became a crunchy layer in Cranberry and Orange-Cream Holiday Parfaits. Smooth and decadent layers of orange-flavored whipped cream with tangy cream cheese and slices of jellied cranberry sauce are built upon cookie crumbles for stability. The result is a delicious dessert that can be prepared as quick as a wink. This easy and quick-to-make dessert takes on a touch of elegance when served in a stemmed glass.

The second log of bejeweled dough becomes pretty cookies that add flavor and beauty to any cookie tray.

If you want to be prepared for any last-minute dessert needs during the busy holiday season, bake a whole batch of the cookies without the ornamentation of sprinkles. Store the baked cookies in the freezer. If you keep cream cheese, whipping cream and a can of jellied cranberries in your refrigerator, you'll be well prepared to create an exquisite dessert. Your guests will appreciate its light, not-too-sweet deliciousness after a holiday-style dinner. And you just might discover that this dual-purpose cookie will find a permanent spot on your holiday baking list.

Let the baking begin!

Orange-Cream Holiday Parfaits

1 cup butter

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 (2.5-ounce) container decorating sprinkles

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 (16-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

Pecan halves for garnish

To make the cookies, beat butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Add flour and mix only until it is all incorporated into the butter mixture. Stir in oats. Shape dough into two logs, each about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Pour sprinkles onto a piece of waxed paper large enough to roll up one log of dough. Roll log in the sprinkles, pressing them lightly into the dough and covering the log completely. Wrap the log tightly in the waxed paper and refrigerate. Roll the remaining log tightly in waxed paper without the sprinkles. Chill the logs at least three hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice 1/4-inch-thick rounds from the logs. Place the cookie slices on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until bottoms are golden. Tops will remain quite light. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. You will have 5 to 6 dozen cookies.

When ready to make dessert, place cream cheese in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese until it is smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar, orange liqueur and orange zest and mix well. Add whipping cream and beat the mixture until it is smooth and peaks form when beaters are lifted from the mixture.

Crumble some of the plain cookies into chunks.

In a clear stemmed glass, custard cup or individual trifle dish, layer cookie crumbles, whipped cream mixture, more cookie crumbles, cranberry slice and more whipped cream mixture. Repeat layers if necessary, ending with whipped cream mixture on top. Garnish with pecan.

Refrigerate, covered, for a few hours before serving. Makes approximately 6 servings.

Tips from the cook

--I find the jellied cranberry sauce slices nicely when it is chilled. Store the can in the refrigerator until slicing time. Once the can is open, run a table knife around the inside of it to loosen the jellied cranberries. The jellied log will slide right out.

--One tablespoon orange juice with ¼ teaspoon orange extract can be used in place of the Grand Marnier.

--Purchased shortbread cookies can be used in this dessert.

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