Christmas and dessert – need I say more? Didn’t think so!
Made for ‘happier holidays,’ a dessert’s table is what I have in mind to fuel a festive evening get-together and one tastier way to end a fab meal. Being sure to create something for everyone, here’s what I include: artisan-inspired chocolate bark, coconut macaroons, buttery shortbread and gingerbread cookies, and orange-raspberry trifle. Clearly baking up plentiful of all that is flavourful and delectable, nothing spells out “holly” and “jolly” more than a sweet buffet of treats. And, if getting on Santa’s ‘nice list’ is your aim, I got you covered!
Let’s bake! Starting with a trusted basic shortbread recipe, I double up the ‘necessities’ – flour, salt, sugar, butter and vanilla – and divide the cookie dough. Humble as-is in its original form, the possibilities are endless when it comes to enhancing shortbread. Letting your imagination run wild, simply take any shortbread instruction and add dried fruits and/or nuts of choice. As for my interpretation on a classic, I prepare the following: crystallized ginger stars, pistachio and dried cranberries, nutty almond rounds, fragrant earl grey discs, and lemon and lavender.
Pursuing a bright Christmas, the citrus and perfumed profiles found in the lemon and lavender duo remains a surprisingly good pairing. Vibrant and earthy, this combination was so tempting that they didn’t last to see the day – “picture day,” that is!
Sorry, but not sorry?! Really, I wish I saved at least one example of this ‘beauty’ to display, but lesson learned: cookie monsters exist, and doubling up batches are a must. Ultimately falling short of quantity, there’s no doubt there’s something good to be said about melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies enhanced by tea or flowers. Definitely worth remaking, just be mindful that a little goes a long way when using matcha, finely processed hibiscus tea or other varied floral blends.
Moving on to the next, gingerbread is an all-time wintry favourite. Preferring a naked cookie over a decorated one – no icing, sprinkles or dragées – simplicity found in an undressed molasses and spice cookie is truly my kind of wonderful. Appreciating the nuanced taste of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, this cookie dough is a breeze to make and just as easy to roll out. Better yet, my “go-to” recipe – courtesy of Martha Stewart – yields delightfully soft gingerbread cookies that will remain such even post baking and cooling periods.
Warm spiced cookies and classic shortbread complete, I pay homage to a white Christmas with the making coconut macaroons. Love it or not, luckily I do! So much so, in fact, that I take a plain recipe and transform these snowy mounds with chocolate. Using milk, dark or white chocolate, melt premium quality of your preferred cocoa over a double-boiler and let magic happen: drizzle, coat, dip and set. This two-bite cookie is so simple to make, and easier to alter that if you only have time to make one cookie, I recommend coconut macaroons.
Saving the best for last, homemade trifle is the proper way to end a triumphant meal. F.Y.I.: you can bake two loaves of orange pound cake in advance and assemble this showstopping dessert the day of – ‘et voilà,’ you’re well on your way to a stress-free holiday dessert. Adhering to Ina Garten’s recipe for this indulgence, I get my ingredients and layer flavours via raspberry jam, orange custard, fresh berries, and sweetened whipped cream. Well worth the time and effort, sharing good food with good company goes hand in hand. On that note, Happy Christmas to you and yours – and to all good eats, cheers!
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