Holiday tunes are blaring on the radio as I walk the aisles of every store. Parking lots become asphalt spaces of rage. Christmas tree lots have popped up everywhere. Lights twinkle strung in gaudy heaps on every outdoor yard item.
The holidays have arrived, and with them the numerous holiday party invites.
I love holiday parties. Hopefully good food. Free-flowing booze. The drunken shenanigans of friends, family, and coworkers. A working iPhone with camera and video is always good to have on hand. However, I always get a texted or emailed request from my hosts to supply a dessert.
I don't mind. I love being the bearer of sweets. It's the one time of year I don't hear, "That looks heavenly, but I'm on a diet" or "I can't possibly eat that, I've gained 5 pounds just looking at it!" In fact, I feel the need to bring something more than Christmas cookies or one of my normal go-to desserts.
These are the desserts that I will be taking with me to holiday parties this season.
See Also: 9 Tips for Making the Best Pie Ever
Bread Pudding: Bread pudding is one of the best and easiest recipes to make. Day old bread + custard base + citrus zest + nuts + dried fruit + bake + caramel sauce = perfect dessert. For parties, I bake them in mason jars or in cupcake cups, so that they are already individually portioned, and ready to be placed out on the buffet table.
Change it up, using day old cinnamon rolls, challah, or croissants to create a unique bread pudding. Throw in different types of booze to flavor. Make it your own unique dessert creation, and don't forget the whipped cream.
Bourbon Coconut Rice Pudding:
Rice pudding is one of those desserts that never really looks sexy. It is, however, delicious warm or chilled, and perfect for a party. Custardy and creamy, the rice is infused with fall spices and orange, the raisins are plump and juicy.
Put it in a trifle dish, topped with bourbon whipped cream and toasted coconut. Place them in mason jars or glass cups. Hate raisins? Go without or swap out the raisins for cherries or another favorite fruit.
The word "mincemeat" always gets a weird look or turned up nose. However, it is a traditional recipe we always have on our Christmas table in my family. And no, this isn't a Sweeny Todd mincemeat pie.
Mincemeat pie today is a rich pie of fruit and spices. There is still suet (raw beef or mutton fat) used in the mincemeat pie of today, though most are surprised when biting into the pie, that it is not chocked full of meat, and has a gooey filling. I feel like you are going to send me to AA after my first two recipes, but I also use a little Jack Daniels in my mincemeat.
Love it or hate it, it's a unique dessert that most are ready to try after a couple drinks.
I love the sharpness of tarts. While a pie is beautiful and more rustic chic in appearance, the tart is its refined cousin. There are so many filling options and funky ways to top the tart. You can revamp that pumpkin pie recipe and do it up in a tart shell for Christmas.
Perhaps a lemon meringue tart with a cool piping design and torching of the meringue. Tarts are pretty simple to whittle together and add a special touch to a holiday dessert table.
Marie-Helene's Apple Cake:
I have never tried this recipe, but have had a slice of a cake similar to this one, on a trip through Europe. Dorie Greenspan's recipe for a rustic apple cake encompasses a cake and a custard and a tart, but in one simple dessert. It looks almost too simple, but it can easily be punched up with a flavored whipped cream and a beautiful apple chip garnish.
Being asked to bring the dessert is one of the best requests you can get. Be creative and don't make it too hard on yourself. You still have a lot of parking lots to battle and presents to wrap before Christmas. Whatever dessert you take to those holiday parties this year, always drink responsibly and bring your camera phone.
Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.
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