Holiday entertaining is often as frantic as it is fun, and finding ways to simplify the whole affair can go a long way to preserving your good spirits. For example, having a few easy but impressive desserts up your sleeve is a great stress-buster. They simplify cooking for a holiday crowd, and a well-constructed dessert is always welcome as a hostess gift or last-minute treat for an overlooked neighbor. Just slide the divider into your Flex Duo oven, let your dessert do its own thing, and prepare the rest of your meal independently in the other half of the oven.
Flourless Chocolate Cake: What You Need
Chocolate is never a bad choice, and a flourless chocolate cake is nearly ideal for holiday gatherings. It's rich, decadent, and as a bonus it's gluten-free. All you'll need for a 10-inch round cake is half pound each of butter and chocolate, a half-dozen eggs and a pinch of salt. If your chocolate is especially dark, intense and bittersweet, you might also need a bit of sugar or other sweetener.
Melting the Chocolate
Preparation couldn't be simpler. Chop or break the chocolate into a microwaveable bowl, cut the butter into chunks and add. Place the bowl in your microwave. Press the Soften/Melt button, then "1." Your microwave will heat the chocolate gently, beeping when you need to stir. At the end of the cycle, let the chocolate sit for a minute to finish melting.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Whisk yolks and sweetener into your chocolate mixture, then beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold them in. That's it; you're done. Pour the batter into a round or springform pan lined with parchment paper, and bake until it sets. Let the cake cool and firm up for a few minutes, then remove it from the pan and set it on a wire rack. Serve with a sauce or glaze, or simply dust it with confectioner's sugar.
Upcycle The Rolls: Go for Bread Puddng
One common result of successive holiday gatherings is leftover breads, ranging from dinner rolls and morning croissants to rich holiday breads. Turning them into an elegant, upscale bread pudding is a yummy solution. Forget the sodden stodge your granny served, modern bread pudding is a sophisticated treat for adults.
Dry the Bread
Start by cutting your leftover breads into crouton-sized cubes. Remove the crusts if they're tough and chewy, otherwise you can leave them on. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and dry them for an hour or two in a low oven. If you have a dual oven, you can do this in half of your oven, while using the other compartment for baking or roasting.
Give It a Nice Soak
Layer the dried croutons into a large baking dish and soak them in custard, using one to three eggs for every cup of milk or cream. Let your imagination run wild with add-ins: Pecans or almonds, white or dark chocolate, and fresh, dried or candied fruit are all good choices. For an extra-rich dessert, heat the custard mixture and melt white or dark chocolate into it.
Lush and Rich
Cover the baking dish, and use your refrigerator’s Power Cool feature to quickly reduce it to a food-safe temperature. Let it soak overnight, or at least for an hour or two, for the flavors to meld and the bread to soak up the custard. Drizzle it with rum, brandy or Bourbon at the last minute, if you wish, then bake it until the custard has nearly set. Serve chilled or warmed, with a suitable sauce.
Rustic Desserts: Free-Form Fruit Galette
Sometimes the simplest and most rustic desserts look the most elegant. That's certainly the case with galettes, open-faced fruit tarts shaped free-form and baked on a sheet pan. It looks best with fresh-made pastry, rough edges and all, but if you're crust-challenged don't be shy. Use a store-bought piecrust, and tear its edges artfully to create the right appearance. After all, this is about keeping things simple.
Dried Fruit Fun
For a super-seasonal filling, gather up all the raisins, almonds, figs, dried cranberries, candied citrus peel and other dried fruit and nuts you'd purchased for holiday baking. Soak the fruit in warm water or juice heavily spiked with rum, Bourbon or another aromatic liquor. Once they're plumped, drain them well and toss them with fresh orange zest, warm spices and halved or sliced nuts.
Fresh & Fruity
Alternatively, peel and slice your favorite fresh fruits. Apples, pears and cranberries are entirely appropriate for the holidays, but feel free to use whatever you like as long as it's ripe and sweet. Toss the fruit with sugar, spices, and a thickener, such as cake crumbs or cornstarch to soak up any excess juice. For berries, peaches or other really juicy options, line your crust with slices of pound cake.
Center your crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and mound the fresh or dried fruit into a flat dome in the middle. Fold the edges of the dough inward, encasing the filling carefully but leaving at least half of the tart's surface open. Brush the pastry with egg wash, and sprinkle it with coarse sugar, for an especially elegant appearance. Bake at 375-degrees Fahrenheit until the crust is golden and the fruit tender.
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