We’ve all been there before: you ring the bell; the relatives open the door. “Happy Thanksgiving!” they cry, as all eyes turn toward the pumpkin pie you offer with outstretched arms. Faces fall, and you just know your hosts are thinking, Not another one! They graciously receive your pumpkin pie and place it among four others.
No one wants to be the fifth-pumpkin-pie guy. That’s why this year I’m reworking my Thanksgiving dessert repertoire. From straightforward to show-stopper, there are plenty of alternative desserts that taste just as sweet. For example, there’s Cranberry Walnut Tart, a trusty little number that comes together much like a pecan pie. Just press the crust into a fluted tart pan with removable bottom, pre-bake, and plop in the filling, a heady mix of brown sugar, corn syrup, cranberries and walnuts. The cranberries and nuts rise to the top during baking, offering tart and earthy counterpoints to the sticky sweet filling. For a more vibrant variation, try Cranberry Eggnog Tart (above), topped with slick cranberry jam. The truly ambitious can make a candied-orange and cranberry compote accompaniment.
What about chocolate? It’s often crowded out of a holiday pie lineup. Bring it back to the table in Twelve-Layer Mocha Cake. This cake is like an elegant cousin of tiramisù, dressed up for the holiday in its coffee and mocha buttercream best. With a chocolate curl on top, when it’s good it’s very, very good—and it can never be bad.
In my cookbook, a trifle is no simple thing. Why wait for Santa’s sleigh when you can enjoy a stunning Almond Sherry Christmas Trifle right away? The best part is you’ll be enjoying an apéritif on the couch while the turkey tenders run around like you-know-whats. This trifle is always best when made ahead, which gives the cake layers (and you) time to soak up the Sherry.
What are you bringing for Thanksgiving dessert?
A beautiful thing happens when flour is cut with fat: the pastry is born, and with it, a variable array of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The tart, marked by its crisp, crimped edges, is often reinterpreted. Fold the crust free of form and it becomes a galette, or build it top to bottom for an upside-down tarte tatin. Each remains a buttery vessel for showcasing fresh fruits, savory vegetables, or rich cheeses. Crumbs will fall.
- Yummy Supper’s Spinach Galette with Wild Mushrooms amplifies the earthiness of fresh mushrooms and peppery spinach with a heaping cup of salty Parmesan (pictured above).
- Cook Republic’s Sour Cream Tart tops a thick layer of creamy, tangy ricotta and sour cream with roasted eggplant, sweet potato, and Spanish onion for a savory twist on the custard-filled pastry.
- Willow Bird Baking’s Sweet Potato and Chorizo Hand Tarts combines smoky sausage, cumin-scented black beans, and sweet potatoes in a savory, adult-friendly take on Pop Tarts.
- With a little mustard and a lot of butter, Delicious Shot pulls off a unique crust that can stand up to the richness of her Onion and Goat Cheese Tart.
- An Edible Mosaic’s Belgian Endive Tarte Tatin finds this bitter-turned-caramelized chicory playing a game of hide and seek under a blanket of puff pastry.
- Feasting at Home grabs the poppy seeds and ditches the cookie-cutter tart shell for a Rustic Strawberry Galette with Seeded Rye Crust brimming with ripe, red berries and a bit of balsamic vinegar.
- Drizzle and Dip’s Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart oozes gooey caramel sauce beneath a thick layer of honey-scented chocolate ganache.
From savory Italian soups to vinaigrette-tossed leafy green salads, farro adds a distinctive nutty flavor to any dish. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with this versatile, spelt-like grain in my own kitchen, whether showcasing it in a recipe or simply replacing plain white rice for this healthier alternative. Farro is an ancient Italian strain of wheat, and it’s no wonder I’ve found it to pair well with so many Italian ingredients. Minestra di Farro, or Tuscan Farro and Bean Soup, is a silky pureed-bean soup made unique with the chewy texture of this grain.
Farro takes center stage for vegetarian main dishes, such as Savory Farro Tart, where it is bound together with fresh ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, parsley, and a touch of nutmeg. In Mushroom and Farro Pie, it is combined with cremini mushrooms and ricotta, and then wrapped in a flaky puff pastry crust baked to a deep golden brown.
What’s your favorite way to use farro?