The holiday season inevitably means two things: big family gatherings and food-centric parties. While Thanksgiving feasts focus on the turkey and Christmas celebrations might revolve around a holiday roast, everyone knows the real shining star: dessert.
What better way for a pastry student to show off newly acquired skills than stunning holiday treats? Impress your family with these creative creations:
Mini orange mince pies
Mince pies are a traditional holiday treat familiar to many. This classic recipe from BBC Good Food is perfect to create tiny delectable bites for your family to finish their meals.
First, make your filling: Combine chopped mixed fruit, chopped almonds, zest of one lemon, lemon juice, orange juice, brandy, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Set aside this mixture to let everything soak together and the flavors combine.
While your filling is resting, combine butter and flour until the mixture looks crumbly. Then, mix in sugar, orange zest and cold water. Ball up your dough and set on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out until it’s about one-quarter inch thick. Cut small circles to fit into your mini muffin tin.
Now, fill your pastries. Don’t overfill the cups; it could ooze out if you do, detracting from the visual presentation. With your remaining dough, cut out star shapes to fit across the pies. Bake at 320 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar for a wintry, snowy look.
Chocolate-hazelnut and almond biscotti
After dinner isn’t the only time people enjoy pastries during the holidays (or any time of year, for that matter). Greet your guests with hot tea or coffee and fresh biscotti in the morning with this chocolate-hazelnut biscotti recipe from Epicurious:
First, toast hazelnuts, then grind a portion of them up in a food processor. Then, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Beat until thoroughly combined, then begin beating in the flour mixture. When well mixed, stir in ground toasted hazelnuts, whole toasted hazelnuts and chocolate chips.
Form the dough into logs. They should be 14 inches long and 2.5 inches wide – make as many logs as your dough allows. Bake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 minutes, or until the logs are firm when pressed gently.
After 35 minutes, take the baking sheet out of the oven but don’t turn it off – you’re not done yet! Let the biscotti logs cool on the sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer them to a cutting board. Using a serrated or bread knife, cut the biscotti crosswise into half-inch-thick slices. Arrange them on the baking sheet (you may need to prepare a second baking sheet for this step). Put your biscotti back into the oven for another 15 minutes, or until firm.
Add some variety to your biscotti tray or jar by mixing in a new flavor. Try this almond biscotti recipe from Real Simple:
First, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together sugar, butter and almond extract. Then, beat in your eggs one at a time. Add your flour mixture, then mix until just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix. Refrigerate your dough for about 30-60 minutes.
Then, bake just as you did with the chocolate-hazelnut biscotti, removing them from the oven after about 20-30 minutes, cooling for 15 minutes, then slicing them and baking them again. Remove when the biscotti are crisp.