Celebrate! Holiday Desserts

 

Photo by Robert Levin. Tableware courtesy of Party Rental, Ltd., Greenwich, and Aux Delices Foods by Debra Ponzek, Greenwich; fabric wall covering courtesy of The Barn, Bridgeport.

Aux Delices Foods by Debra Ponzek, a caterer and event planner in Greenwich and Darien, created this divine dessert spread. Ponzek was executive chef at Montrachet Restaurant in New York City before setting up shop in Connecticut with husband and partner Greg Addonizio in 1995 (she’s since written three cookbooks). Executive Pastry Chef Cyril Chaminade, who collaborated with her on the menu, is a native of Paris who was pastry chef at the late great Payard Patisserie & Bistro in New York.
 

Holiday Home-Style Chocolate Cake

1½ cup sugar
2¼ cups sifted flour
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup butter, softened
1½ tsp. baking powder
4½  T. cocoa powder
¼  tsp. salt
1½ cup strong, hot coffee
1½  tsp. baking soda
2 medium eggs, slightly beaten
1½ tsp. vanilla
Vegetable spray
Parchment paper circles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together the sugar, flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt.
3. Using a paddle attachment on low speed, add the shortening and butter and mix until the batter has the consistency of cornmeal.
4. Combine the baking soda and the coffee (this will foam up, so use a larger measuring cup to combine). On medium speed, add the coffee mixture to the flour mixture. Add the eggs and the vanilla, and mix well.  
5. Pour into two cake pans prepared with vegetable spray and lined with parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes.  
6. Remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool. Frost one cake, top with second cake and use spatula to spread frosting over top and sides. Decorate with holiday designs (shown here with white chocolate fans and silver, gold and pearl dragees). Serves 10-12.
 

Vanilla Frosting

1 lb. confectioners’  sugar
½ cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 T. milk

1. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer.
2. Add the milk and vanilla and mix at medium speed until creamy.
 

Passion Fruit Tartelettes

Pâte Sucrée:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. heavy cream
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup raspberry jam

1. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter and mix until coarse and sandy.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, cream and vanilla together.
3. Add to the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until combined.
4. Turn out onto a clean work surface and form into a ball.
5. Divide dough into 6 equal balls.
6. Slightly press down and chill for 4 hours.
7. Roll out each ball to fit a 3-inch tartelette shell, lightly press dough into shells and refrigerate 20 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
9. Weigh shells with weights or dried beans on parchment paper and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Allow to cool.
11. Spread the jam in the bottom of each shell and reserve in refrigerator.

Passion Fruit Filling:

1 cup butter
1 cup passion fruit juice, unsweetened*
¾ cup sugar, divided*
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 eggs
2 tsp. cornstarch
1. In a medium-size heavy pot, combine the butter, juice, half the sugar and the vanilla.
2. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. When mixture comes to a boil, remove from the heat.
4. In a standing mixer bowl, with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, rest of sugar and cornstarch; beat on high until pale in color.
5. With mixer on low, slowly ladle some of the passion fruit mixture into egg mixture.
6. After adding a couple of cups, slowly pour the rest of the mixture into the mixer.
7. Pour mixture back into pot; bring to a boil.
8. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
9. Pour filling into the cooled shells, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until set.
10. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Makes  six 3-inch tartelettes.
*If substituting lemon juice for passion fruit juice, increase sugar to one cup.  
 

Cranberry Poached Pears

6 cups cranberry juice
4 cups frozen cranberries
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp.  ground cloves
3 whole star anise
2 cups dry sherry
8 ripe Anjou pears, peeled

1. In large heavy pot, combine all ingredients except pears. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until cranberries have softened. Mash cranberries against the side of the pot with a fork or whisk, releasing the juices.
2. Add the pears and cover pears with a medium-sized plate to keep them submerged in the liquid. Cook over low heat for about 25 minutes, or until the pears are soft. Do not boil the pears.
3. Let pears sit in the liquid 30 minutes more.
4. Remove the pears and reduce the remaining liquid over high heat, until about 4 cups of the liquid remain.
5. Strain the sauce and serve warm, or at room temperature, with the pears (may also serve the pears with vanilla ice cream). Serves 8.
 

Celebrate! Holiday Desserts

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