MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - December 6, 2010) -  (Family Features) The holidays are filled with time-honored traditions -- and none of them are sweeter than the celebratory memories you bake each year in your kitchen. Here are some foolproof tips to make sure this year's baking goes off without a hitch.

  • Adding nuts to your baked desserts can take them from ordinary to extraordinary. Toasting the nuts first will intensify their flavors -- just spread chopped or whole nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350º F for five to 10 minutes or until golden and fragrant; stir them once during cooking to ensure even toasting. As an added bonus, toasted nuts are less likely to sink to the bottom of your cakes or breads.

  • If your recipe calls for "one cup chopped nuts," be sure to chop the nuts before measuring them. On the other hand, if it calls for "one cup nuts, chopped," measure first, then chop.

  • Love a decadent chocolate cake, but hate the white residue left by the flour you dusted the pan with? Next time, use cocoa powder. Not only will it look beautiful, but it will add another layer of decadent chocolate flavor.

  • Add some quick elegance to cookies, cakes or just about any other dessert with some chocolate morsels and a plastic bag. Just melt the morsels, put them in the baggie and then snip off a corner of the bag. You can drizzle the chocolate directly onto your desserts, or create swirls and curlycues on wax paper, chill until solid, and then place wherever you want to add visual interest.

  • Here's a foolproof method to avoid getting crumbs in the icing when you're decorating cakes: Once they've cooled, cover your cake layers in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour before icing.

  • Making a pie or pastry? Add some extra flavor to your crust by very finely grinding up some nuts in your food processor and mixing them into your flour.

  • Ensure your cupcakes or muffins are all uniform in size by scooping batter into prepared pans with an ice cream scoop.

These chocolate layer crumb bars are a must have during the holidays. They also make great gifts, either hand delivered or packaged creatively and shipped.

Chocolate Layer Crumb Bars


Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Beat butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in flour, sugar and salt until crumbly. With floured fingers, press 2 cups crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared baking pan; reserve remaining mixture.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Combine 1 cup chunks and sweetened condensed milk in small, heavy-duty saucepan. Warm over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Spread over hot crust.

Stir in walnuts and remaining chunks into reserved crumb mixture; sprinkle over chocolate filling. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Need more holiday recipes and ideas? Step into our kitchen at diamondnuts.com, select your favorite ingredients and discover more recipes for a Simply Delicious Holiday and download a coupon for Diamond® Nuts.