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?