The Holidays are here! It’s my favorite time of year, and if your family is anything like mine, the holidays revolve around food and the party is always in the kitchen. In my family, our meals are set traditions and usually remain the same, except dessert. And as a pastry school graduate I love to try out new and complicated desserts for the holidays so my whole family can enjoy them, and I can show off what my fancy degree can do. But unlike me, most people don’t have the time or the will to make these kinds of desserts; isn’t that why they make boxed cakes and
pre-made pie fillings? Buuuuttt also like me most people want to impress their guests, and what better way to impress than making a beautiful and tasty dessert from scratch…or mostly scratch?
Personally I am so over the same old pumpkin pie, and if you are too then here is a list of some beautiful, delicious, and most importantly easy holiday desserts that are sure to impress your guests!
Apple Plum Tart
When making any dessert I always consider what fruits (or vegetables) are in season. This is very important because if the fruit you want to use is not in season, chances are the quality isn’t the best or you may not find it in the store at all. Fruits like apples, plums, pears, cranberries, bananas and citrus fruits are the best bets when adding fruit to your dessert during this season.
Prep time: 30 min
Bake time: 20 min
1 sheet puff pastry
2 small apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg for egg wash
a dash of confectionery or powdered sugar (for serving)
Optional: for extra flavor add lemon zest and/or cinnamon to each bowl of fruit with the sugar
1. Preheat oven to 415. Defrost 1 sheet of puff pastry for about 40 minutes until just soft. Don’t let puff pastry sheet get too warm and put it in the refrigerator if you’re not using it right away after 40 minutes of defrosting.
2. Core and peel apples, slice them thinly. Remove the pits from the plums, and slice them thinly.
3. In a bowl with apples, add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and let sliced apples sit for 5-10 minutes to get all juicy.
4. In a separate bowl, add 2 tablespoons brown sugar to sliced plums and let plums sit for 5-10 minutes to release their juices.
6. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl until well blended, then add a splash of
water.. Brush puff pastry sheet with egg wash, especially the edges. Line apple slices and plum slices (apple slice, plum slice, apple slice, plum slice and so on) in a straight line along the puff pastry sheet. Make sure not to fill the whole space of puff pastry, so that you have extra space around the edges for puff. You should have 3 rows as shown on the photo
7) Bake for 20 minutes until pastry puffs up along the edges. To serve, sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar.
*Suggestion: Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream*
This is one of my all time favorite desserts for many different reasons: you can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it, you can reduce the poaching liquid an use it as a sauce ( no waste!), and you can use different wines and spices to fit your needs. Now, you can either make this in a pot on the stove, or in your crock pot!
This recipe is focuses more on holiday flavors, but feel free to change the wines, spices, or whatever you like.
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 3-4 hrs
Pears (Bosc, Bartlett, or Anjou will work), and the amount depends on how many guests you have
2-3 Bottles of red wine, a sweet red like a port or sweet blend like a red moscato
1/2 c granulated sugar
2-3 Cinnamon sticks
Optional: whole nutmeg, whole clove (in small amount), star anise, vanilla bean or extract
1/4c- 1/3c granulated sugar (for reducing the poaching liquid later)
1.Carefully peel the pears as evenly as possible while keeping the stem on, for appearances. Cut off the bottoms so that the pear with sit upright on the plates. If you plan to slice the pears up and not serve them whole, cut the pears in half, remove the stem, and carefully scoop out the core, I suggest a small melon baller or small spoon.
2. Add the wine, sugar, and spices to the pot or crockpot (set on high), and cook it until the sugar dissolves. lower the heat if cooking on the stove to the lowest setting, and add the pears
3. Cook for 3-4 hours, depending on how many you cook, or until fork tender. The poaching liquid should NEVER reach a simmer but should remain hot. Poaching is all about steady heat cooking without rapid cooking. This way the liquid can penetrate the entire pear and turn it completely red.
5. Take the poaching liquid and put it in a pot with the remaining sugar. Bring it to a boil, then down to a simmer and cook until it is reduced by half, this can take a while, especially if you have a lot of liquid. consistency should be a thin syrup.
6. Pour into a bowl and cool over an ice bath if using immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
*Optional: serve with vanilla ice cream and reduction. Goes well with chocolate and chocolate sauce as well*
Lemon Mascarpone Tarts
What I really like about this dessert is that it is completely different from most holiday desserts, but it is a fresh palette cleanser in comparison to all the heavy food usually eaten during the holidays. But you can still add holiday flare by adding this cranberry compote on the top or even folding it into some whipped cream for the side!
Prep time: 30 min
Bake time: 15 min
2 2/3 cups butter cookie crumbs (about 1 1/2 [7.5-oz.] packages butter cookies)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 egg yolks
1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese
Toppings: fresh berries like blackberries, sliced peaches or plums, fresh mint or thyme sprigs, whipped cream, or compote
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together first 4 ingredients; firmly press crumb mixture on bottom and up sides of 6 (3 3/4-inch) round tart pans with removable bottoms (about 6 Tbsp. per pan). Place tart pans on a baking sheet, and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack completely (about 30 minutes).
2. Whisk together sweetened condensed milk and next 3 ingredients until well blended; whisk in mascarpone cheese just until blended. Spoon mixture into prepared tart shells.
3. Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes or until almost set. (The centers will not be firm but will set up as they chill.) Cool completely on wire rack (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 4 hours. Arrange berries and fruit decoratively over tarts just before serving.
Note: We tested with Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Cookies.
White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake
If you ask most people, they would say cheesecake is one of their favorite desserts, and is very popular to serve to guests. I mean, who doesn’t like biting into the creamy, smooth, and thick deliciousness that is cheesecake?The best part is that it comes in so many different flavors that you can make your cheesecake your own! Here is a little chocolate and cranberries to put people in the holiday spirit.
Prep time: 30 min
Bake time: 45 min
1 (12-oz.) package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 package Oreo cookie crumbs, with creme removed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
24 oz (3-8oz packages) Cream cheese
3/4 c + 2 tbsp Eggs, whole
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Lemon juice
1 cup White chocolate, melted
Optional: 2 tbsp amaretto liqueur
Optional: Fresh mint leaves
1. Prepare Topping: Bring first 2 ingredients and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Boil, stirring often, 6 to 8 minutes or until mixture thickens to a syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat, and stir in jam. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 8 hours.
2. Meanwhile, prepare Piecrust: Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse cookies in a food processor 8 to 10 times or until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir together crumb mixture, melted butter, and 1/3 cup sugar; firmly press on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 10-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 30 minutes). Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
3. Prepare Filling: Microwave white chocolate 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.
4. Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer with paddle attachment for until creamy and smooth, batter must be smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and white chocolate mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared crust.
Bake at 325° for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 2 hours). Cover and chill 8 hours. Spoon topping over pie before serving
Mocha Cream Pie
Chocolate cream pie was my first go-to when I asked my parents if we could forego the pumpkin pie for a different dessert. Don’t get me wrong, pumpkin pie is great, but we eat sweet potato soufflé with a buttery sweet pecan crust on the top at dinner, which tastes similar to pumpkin pie but is so much better. So instead of having the same thing twice, I decided for something chocolatey! This recipe just elevates the traditional chocolate cream pie with a little coffee!
Prep time: 10 min Rest time: 4 hrs or overnight
Bake time: 10 min
1 whole pie crust, baked and cooled (or you can use oreo or graham cracker crust)
3/4 cup Granulated sugar
4 Eggs, yolks
1/4 cup Cornstarch
3/4 cup Granulated sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
3 cups Whole Milk
1-2 tbsp Instant coffee
6 +1/2 ounces Bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tbsp Butter
Ice bath for cooling down cream
Whipped cream and chocolate shavings, for serving
Bake off the crust based off the directions from the packaging, or follow the oreo cookie crust recipe from the white chocolate cranberry cheesecake
Prepare all the ingredients, in a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar until smooth. It is important that there are no lumps for cornstarch because your cream will be lumpy then.
In a sauce pot on the stove bring the milk, sugar, instant coffee, and salt to a scald. Scald is the stage right before simmer. This is where the milk gets hot, but there is no chance of the milk getting too hot and bubbling over the pot. turn the heat on low.
Now that the milk is hot, you will begin to “temper” the milk into the egg mixture. This is where you slowly add the hot milk into the eggs while constantly whisking the eggs so they do not curdle. Doing this with a ladle will help. Once the egg mixture has reached the same consistency and temperature as the milk, add it all back into the sauce pot, and immediately begin whisking.
Turn the heat to medium and cook the cream until it starts to bubble and thicken, while constantly whisking. Once you reach this stage you will whisk vigorously for about 1 minute. The cream should be thick and resemble pudding. Immediately turn off the heat and transfer into another bowl. Add the chocolate, butter, and vanilla, and whisk in until smooth.
Put the bowl in the ice bath to cool down and prevent the eggs from curdling.
Add the the pie crust, and smooth out. Pile high with whipped cream and chocolate shavings
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I hope these recipes help get you through the holidays! I will be posting some more of my favorites. Stay safe everybody!