It’s the holidays. You need some yummy dessert options. Mix it up a bit: instead of a standard slice of chocolate cake, offer a selection of nibbles. Perhaps a dessert tasting menu? You could plate a trio of bites with a drizzle of caramel, pass small platters so guests can hand-pick their faves or display large, tempting platters on a nearby buffet.
Perhaps offer a selection of after dinner liquors? People love to pair dessert with espresso or port, Vin Santo or Grappa, sweet harvest wines, cognac, sherry and eggnog. Dessert is a time to linger, laugh a bit more, listen longer and soak up a few more lovely moments.
1. bread pudding ever the fan of using leftovers to make something amazing—here yesterday’s bread becomes your favorite dessert bite (see photo, above). Recipe also includes whiskey caramel sauce.
Having taught cooking classes for a number of years—and especially helping teams compete in iron chef events (think: race against time to produce 3 course meal plus dessert then plate for voting)—I became a big fan of puff pastry. Perhaps the best-kept secret of the quick-fix dessert world, puff pastry is a receptacle for any number and variety of last-minute fillings.
2. raisin apple empanadas thank you puff pastry: a few moments to create a sweet, fall filling then make puff pastry pockets and bake (great to make ahead, then pop sheet of empanadas in oven just in time for dessert). I make them bite size (see photo, above).
3. pies in jars are all the rage. I created a whole meal from jars once—a fantastic challenge—and I especially love individual pies baked in tiny jars. Use the empanada filling or a simple apple filling then add rum-soaked raisins. I buy pre-made pie crust when holidays are busy and I fail to have a pie crust stash in my freezer (a frequent fail, mind you). Cut circles of dough, line little jars, add filling and top. Prick and bake about 20-25 min at 375 until lightly browned and bubbly. Tiny scoops of vanilla ice cream might be a nice touch!
4. rum raisin shortbread cookies I love: that these are make-ahead. If you are lining a buffet with cookies and pastry bites, tiny cakes and pies, it will help to have as many desserts as possible already made. I like to have a log or two of shortbread-type cookies in my freezer. To bake: remove from freezer, let defrost a bit, then cut in rounds and line cookie sheet. I will warn you: these are a tad addictive.
5. vanilla rice pudding with raisin apple compote. I often make rice pudding for dessert and top it with a favorite compote, jam or sauce. It is the perfect warm gooey sweet creamy bite. I never have leftovers. You can use the same empanada filling, or poach raisins, apples, pears, other dried fruit together in some port wine with a little sugar and a tiny pinch of salt. Just simmer until syrupy. Taste to determine doneness.
A special raisin-studded thank you to California Raisins for hosting myself and a handful of other bloggers in Fresno this past summer. I readily toss my to-do list aside if ever invited to meet farmers. Which is what we did: met raisin farmers, saw their vineyards, learned about drying grapes both on the vine and on paper mats laid on the ground. In turn I promised to develop a few recipes with raisins (which just between you and I: I would have done anyway). This raisin dessert pile just seemed like an appropriate way to say thank you—an appropriate tribute to these nutrition-packed gems. The health factor alone should make you feel good about eating a few extra dessert bites!