ANYONE READY FOR DESSERT?

CINNAMON PEANUT BUTTER TORTE

You’ve planned a delicious appetizer for your holiday gathering and decided the entrée will be a savory dish–a cherished old family favorite. You’ve added a few well-loved side dishes and everyone’s favorite roasted potatoes. Now, what to do for an awesome dessert that doesn’t take too much fussing, yet looks sensational?

Here’s what I noticed over the years after preparing and serving many a holiday dinner: The appetizers and entrée may be exceptional, and perhaps even lavish, but most likely it’s the dessert that everyone remembers. And it’s no surprise–sweet memories linger longer.

If you loved peanut butter since you were a kid and could never get enough of it, you’ll find this well-endowed peanut butter torte easy to ravish. This torte is deliriously rich in flavor, densely packed with peanut butter, and perfectly accented with cinnamon to bring out its sweetness. The list of ingredients in this dessert relies mostly on simple, whole foods, yet, the dessert gives the impression of a much more complex preparation.

The bonus for the host is that this tantalizing treat can be prepared several days ahead and left in the freezer until shortly before serving. That’s such a bonus for a crazy-busy holiday season when you really don’t have lots of time to spend on each course. I consider it a blessing when I can make the dessert well ahead and tuck it out of site until serving time.

CINNAMON PEANUT BUTTER TORTE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Crust

1 1/2 cups whole almonds

1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries

4 to 5 tablespoons water

 

Filling

1 1/3 cups pitted dates, snipped in half

1 cup smooth or chunky unsalted peanut butter

3/4 cup well-mashed firm tofu

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/4 cup organic sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Garnish

2 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries

1 tablespoon coarsely ground dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

6 to 8 sprigs fresh min

TO MAKE THE CRUST, cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper 2 inches larger. Snap the collar back onto the base, and cut off the excess paper with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan and set aside.

Put the almonds into the food processor and process until they become a coarse, slightly chunky meal.

Add the cranberries and water and pulse and process until the cranberries are broken down into tiny bits and the mixture holds together when gently pressed. You may have to stop occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the crust mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and press the mixture firmly with the back of a spoon to distribute it evenly. Set aside and wash and dry the work bowl.

TO MAKE THE FILLING, put the dates, peanut butter, tofu, soy milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in the food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Transfer the filling to the springform pan, and use a rubber spatula to spread the filling evenly over the crust.

Sprinkle the cranberries and peanuts over top and gently press them into the surface. If desired, sprinkle them in a design of your choosing. Freeze the torte until firm, about 8 to 12 hours. Remove it from the freezer about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the torte. Place the pan on a large serving platter. Carefully lift off the collar. Decorate the platter with the mint and cut the torte into wedges.

 

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A HOMESPUN DESSERT–DELICIOUS AND FESTIVE!!!

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingHAZELNUT-CRANBERRY BREAD PUDDING

To some, an old-fashioned bread pudding may not seem special enough to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. But they haven’t tasted THIS delicious bread pudding. Admittedly, it’s still a simple dessert, but with the addition of fresh cranberries and fresh pears, spiced to the max and sweetened just right to take the tart edge off the cranberries, it will taste just as elegant as any fussy dessert.

Add a ladle full of rich, creamy Crème Anglaise to each serving and who wouldn’t love this dessert that’s a bit old-fashioned, but never outdated.

And with plenty of servings for a large gathering, this colorful, homespun dessert delivers Vegan Holidays lowrespleasing bursts of juicy, divinely sweet and tart flavors with each delicious spoonful. Credit the blend of tasty fruits that are so special to this cold-weather season. Many people think of bread pudding as comfort food–I call it just plain delicious! And it just so happens to be one of the tasty recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook, a cookbook packed with autumn and winter recipes perfect to carry you through the whole holiday season.

This dessert is a good keeper, so you can actually prepare it as much as two days ahead and keep it refrigerated until shortly before you’re ready to serve.

To spoil your guests completely, bring the bread pudding to room temperature and gently warm in a 350-degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. Warming the bread pudding has a magical way of elevating the fruity flavors.

If you take the bread pudding directly from the refrigerator, put it in a cold oven. Set the temperature at 350 degrees F. and check the pudding in 15 to 20 minutes to see if it’s gently warmed through. ALTERNATIVELY, you can simply serve the desert at room temperature.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingHAZELNUT-CRANBERRY BREAD PUDDING

 Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Bread Pudding

3/4 cup whole blanched hazelnuts or slivered almonds (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)

8 slices whole wheat bread

1 pound fresh cranberries

3 large Bosc or Anjou pears, cored, and sliced

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticksHazelnut Cranberry Bread Pudding

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup vanilla or plain soymilk

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Crème Anglaise

2 cups unsweetened soymilk

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

Fresh mint sprigs

TO MAKE THE BREAD PUDDING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingPour the hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break them into coarse pieces. Set aside. If using slivered almonds, measure them and set aside.

Break the bread into 1-inch pieces and put them in a very large bowl. Add the cranberries and pears.

Combine the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes to create a syrup. Let cool and add it to the bread mixture.

Add the raisins, soymilk, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.

Spoon the bread mixture into the prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and stir the mixture to break up the cranberries. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts, cover with the foil, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

TO MAKE THE CRÈME ANGLAISE, combine the soymilk, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and decrease the heat to medium.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir until smooth. Stir the paste into the simmering soymilk mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Stir gently before using. Tightly covered and refrigerated, Crème Anglaise will keep for 5 days. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

TO SERVE, spoon the bread pudding into dessert dishes and ladle a generous spoonful of the Crème Anglaise over each serving. The finishing touch is a small sprig of mint to make it look extra special. Pass the remainder of the sauce at the table.

 

A COMPOTE THAT MAKES SWEET MEMORIES!

Pear Walnut Compote/Choco WafersPEAR CRANBERRY COMPOTE WITH CHOCO-WAFERS

Holiday meals, whether at home or at my grandmother’s, always concluded with a small bowl of stewed dried fruits cooked until soft and perfectly sweetened and pleasantly laced with cinnamon. It certainly wasn’t a fancy dessert, and it’s  probably one of the most unpretentious desserts one can offer guests at the end of a special celebration. Yet, the memories continue to bring sweet thoughts. When I close my eyes, I can almost taste those dried prunes, apricots, pears, and raisins and remember fondly the definitive spicy aroma of cinnamon that made me appreciate this simple homespun dessert.

Because the compote was sweet and generously spiced with cinnamon, I remembered this dessert fondly and as a kid, I always looked forward to it. It became one of those tiny little treasures I knew Grandma would bring to the table without fail.

I thought it might be lovely to pass on those memories to others with a compote that’s just as easy to make, but with something special in addition that would elevate it to become a truly elegant treat. So I began with fresh pears and fresh cranberries rather than dried and spiced it with just enough cinnamon to add that nostalgic holiday aroma. But it was still just a simple compote. What else could I do to make it really zing?

Vegan Holidays lowresVoila! Homemade Choco-Wafers turned this delicious, unpretentious compote into an elegant, alluring dessert with a built-in convenience factor. These delicious little wafers can be made several days ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve. They actually keep well for up to three months in the fridge. I might also mention this is one of the delicious holiday desserts in my Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook!

The compote can be prepared two days ahead and tucked into the fridge until dessert time. But, to make this dessert extra special and give your guests that pampered feeling, bring it to room temperature on serving day and gently warm it at 350 degrees F. for about 10 to 15 minutes just before serving.

At serving time, spoon the compote into little dessert dishes and tuck two Homemade Choco-Wafers into the dish so they stand tall. Sometimes I place the wafers on the sides and sometimes in the center. Maybe you’ll come up with an even more dramatic way of presenting this dessert–there’s plenty of room for creativity!

Pear & Walnut Compote:Choco Wafers2 copyPEAR CRANBERRY COMPOTE WITH CHOCO-WAFERS

Yield: about 6 servings

Choco-Wafers

1 cup walnutsPear Walnut Compote/Choco Wafers

1 cup pitted dates, snipped in half

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons golden raisins

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Compote

2 fresh Anjou or Bosc pears, cored, quartered, and sliced

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 cup black raisins

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons coarsely ground toasted, walnut, almonds, or hazelnuts, for garnish

  1. TO MAKE THE CHOCO-WAFERS, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put all the wafer ingredients in a food processor. Process until all the ingredients are well incorporated, the nuts are broken down to a fine, but slightly textured meal, and the mixture reaches a very thick, finely mashed, firm consistency, stopping occasionally to scrape down the workbowl.
  3. Spoon the wafer mixture into the prepared baking sheet and use the back of the spoon to form it into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle approximately 8 inches by 9 inches.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the wafer is set and almost dry to the touch but still soft. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. It will firm as it cools. When cool, cut into 2 or 3-inch squares and set aside until ready to serve or put the squares in a ziplock bag and refrigerate.
  5. TO MAKE THE COMPOTE, combine the pears, cranberries, brown sugar, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla, and water in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately, decrease the heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes, or until the pears are softened.
  6. To thicken the juice in the pan, combine the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a small cup or bowl and stir until smooth. Stir the paste into the simmering compote a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, or until thickened to desired consistency.
  7. To serve, spoon the compote into small dessert dishes and garnish each with the walnuts, if desired. Tuck 2 wafers into the center or sides of the compote.

Can You Make Apple Crisp Blush?

HOLIDAY READY APPLE CRISP

A venerable, time-honored dessert as homespun as they come, this old-fashioned apple crisp spruces up for the holiday with a blush of cranberries and a touch of citrus zest.

applecrispWhile the name “apple crisp” may evoke a ho-hum response when you tell guests what’s for dessert, you’ll find them nodding and mmmmm-ing after they’ve taken the first taste. Honest, it’s a winner! Thank the cranberries and blow a sweet kiss to the dried apricots for making this apple crisp zing and dance with exceptional flavor. This yummy dessert is one ofVegan Holidays highres the special gems in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook.

When you take the baked crisp out of the oven, it doesn’t look especially enticing–all brown and lumpy. So, if you’re dishing it out at the table, try putting the pan on a colorful placemat or napkin and toss a few fresh cranberries over the top. Each time I make the crisp, I play a little more with garnishing.

applecrisp2Truthfully, how it looks may seem unimportant to some people who are much more interested in how it tastes. But when I bring a dish to the table looking like a knockout, I know it stirs excitement and anticipation–and this little flavor-infused dessert really delivers.

After a large, festive meal guests will welcome this dessert. Because it’s mostly fruit, it’s lighter than a cake, sweetly satisfying, and leaves everyone with a smile.

It’s so easy to prepare you might even convince the family to pitch in and help put it together while you prepare another dish. And, taking part in the dinner or dessert preps has a special reward for the host–it makes the participants so much more appreciative.

I like to make the crisp a day or two ahead and warm it a bit before serving. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and pop it into to warm for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also serve it room temperature. If you’re an ice cream nut, you might include an indulgent scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream on top.

HOLIDAY READY APPLE CRISP

Yield: 6 generous servings

Filling

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and sliced

1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup Turkish apricots, snipped into quarters

1/2 teaspoon orange or lemon zest (optional)

1/3 to 1/2 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

ToppingHoliday Ready Apple Crisp copy

3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready an 8-inch square baking dish.

  1. TO MAKE THE FILLING, combine the apples, cranberries, raisins, Turkish apricots, and orange zest in a large bowl and toss together.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the organic sugar, flour, and cinnamon, mix well, and add to the apple mixture. Mix thoroughly until well combined and spoon the fruits into the baking, dish. Set aside and prepare the topping.
  3. TO MAKE THE TOPPING, combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the margarine and use a pastry blender or your hands to work it into the topping mixture.
  4. Sprinkle the topping loosely over the apple mixture, forming a crumbly, uneven, lumpy topping. Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the apples are soft when gently pierced with a fork. Cool 15 minutes and serve warm or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note:

If you prefer your apple desserts a little more toward the tart side, use the 1/3 cup measurement of organic sugar. Those with a die-hard sweet tooth will be happier with 1/2 cup of organic sugar.