These are similar to making a warm chocolate cake, but refrigerate them overnight before popping them into the oven. It helps take some stress out of preparing the whole menu at once. Ramekins come in many different sizes, so you may find you have enough batter for six. The leftovers are great cold.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes without refrigeration
Serves: 4 to 6
For people who like their treats less sweet, this jewel-like spiced cake fills the bill. It keeps a week refrigerated.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 20 minutes plus cooling time
Serves: 6 with leftovers
Yule log is a memorable dessert for the holiday table, but forget the heavy chocolate kind; this lighter, more stylish one has a nut meringue and a mascarpone and passion-fruit filling. The nuts in the meringue are interchangeable, so although this is made with almonds, you could use hazelnuts or walnuts, if you prefer. The rich filling is mellowed by the brightness of the passion fruit and the tartness of the lime zest. You can surround it with Christmas decorations to make it look festive or sift icing sugar over both the tray and the dessert for a falling-snow effect.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 90 minutes
Serves: 8 - 10
Choose several different kinds of apples such as Pink Lady, McIntosh and Mutsu to give varying textures in the strudel. Use other nuts if hazelnuts are not your favourite.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour
4 cups peeled and chopped mixed apples
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup ground hazelnuts
2 tablespoon breadcrumbs
½ cup raisins
6 sheets phyllo
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoon granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
Combine apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a skillet. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until apples just begin to soften. Remove from heat and steep for 5 minutes to prevent discoloration.
Mix apple mixture with hazelnuts, breadcrumbs and raisins.
Lay one sheet of phyllo on counter. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat for other 5 layers. Place apples lengthwise on top. Roll lengthwise tucking short sides in. Brush with oil.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden. Serve dusted with icing sugar.
For the strudel, try a Loire Valley dessert wine or a late-harvest gewurztraminer, such as Carmel Shaal from Israel. – Beppi Crosariol
This classic pie is always a favourite with the family. If you’re using regular blueberries you will need 2 extra tablespoons of flour. Freeze the pie unbaked if you wish and bake from the frozen stage for about 1 hour 30 minutes. Organic vegetable shortening is available at health food stores and some supermarkets. If you cannot find it then use all butter or regular shortening. The organic shortening makes a wonderfully flaky crust.
Prep time: 20 minutes (pastry prep time is an additional 10 minutes)
Ready in: 1 hour 30 minutes (pastry is ready 55 minutes after chilling)
Serves: 4 with wonderful leftovers. (The pastry recipe makes enough for 2 9-inch single crust pies, or one 9- or 10-inch double crust or one single crust with a lattice topping.)
All-purpose flaky pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in 12 pieces
1/4 cup cold organic vegetable shortening, cut in 4 pieces
1/3 cup cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
6 cups wild blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon granulated sugar for sprinkling on pastry
Combine flour and salt in a bowl. With a pastry blender or fingers, cut in butter and vegetable shortening until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle over water and vinegar, a little at a time, tossing together with a fork until the pastry is moist enough to hold its shape when a little piece is pressed between the fingers.
Gather pastry into a ball. It should not feel sticky; divide into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten each slightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes or overnight.
Flour a board and a rolling pin. Roll out each portion as needed.
Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C). Roll out larger piece of pastry and line a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang.
Combine egg yolk and milk in a bowl. Reserve. Mix together berries, sugar, flour and lemon zest in a bowl.
Brush egg-milk glaze over pastry base to prevent leakage. Fill pastry case with berries. Dot with butter.
Roll out second half of the pastry into a 11-inch round and place on top of the pie. Crimp edges together decoratively or just seal together.
Brush pastry with remaining glaze and sprinkle a little sugar all over.
Place pie on middle shelf with a baking sheet underneath to catch any spill over and bake for 15 minutes.
Turn temperature down to 375 F (190 C) and cook for a further 35 to 40 minutes or until pastry is cooked and the berries are bubbling. Cool on wire rack.
This pastry is very rich but the lime zest cuts the richness and works well with the cherry flavour.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 45 minutes
Serves: 4 with leftovers for breakfast
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cubed unsalted butter
1/3 cup cubed block cream cheese
¼ cup cherry jam
1 tablespoon cherry pomegranate juice or cherry liqueur
1 cup pitted cherries, cut in half
3 ounces (84 grams) dark chocolate, about 70 per cent
6 whole cherries, stems on
Combine flour, sugar, zest and salt in a food processor.
Whirl to mix. Add butter and cream cheese. Pulse until it begins to come together, but not until it forms a ball.
Turn out onto a floured surface. Bring together and knead into a ball. Form into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough into a circle on a floured surface. Using a floured 4-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Bring remaining dough back together and re-roll if needed. You should have 6 circles.
Grease a 6-cup muffin tin. Fit circle into each muffin cup. Prick the base and freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F while pastry is chilling.; Bake tart shells for 15 to 20 minutes or until pastry is pale gold. Cool.
Combine cherry jam and juice in a small pot. Stir over medium-low heat, 2 to 3 minutes or until well thickened. Toss in cherries and coat them with glaze.
Melt chocolate in a heavy pot over low heat stirring occasionally or until just melted. Stir until smooth. Dip whole cherries in chocolate and set on a plate. When tart shells are cool, brush remaining chocolate over each base. Divide cherry mixture among shells. Top each with chocolate-dipped cherry.
A lemony cheesecake with a strawberry topping is the perfect end to a dinner. It also freezes well. Make the cheesecake a few days ahead but don’t top with the strawberries until a few hours before.
After baking, it remains in a turned off oven to prevent cracking. I used biscotti but any kind of cracker or cookie crust is fine. Ginger cookie crusts are another favourite of mine.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Ready time: Overnight, including chilling time
½ cup melted butter
1½ cups biscotti crumbs
1 pound (500 grams) block-style cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
¼ cup lemon juice
Enough strawberries to top the cake (at least 12)
White chocolate drizzle:
½ cup grated white chocolate
Line a 9 ½-inch (23 cm) springform pan with parchment paper.
Brush 1 tablespoon melted butter over parchment and sides of the pan. Stir together biscotti and remaining butter in a bowl. Pat biscotti mixture into bottom and slightly up the sides of prepared pan. Chill crust in refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Beat cream cheese in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters until softened. Add sugar and beat for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in mascarpone until as smooth as possible. Then beat in flour, vanilla, lemon rind and juice.
Spoon the filling into chilled base and smooth top.
Place cake on a baking sheet and bake in centre of oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until firm on the sides and a little softer in the centre. The cake rises like a soufflé but falls back as it cools. Leave oven door ajar, turn off heat, and let cake sit in oven for 1 hour.
Place strawberries in circles (or other presentations of your choice) once the cake has cooled. I like to cut the berries in half and casually arrange them over the top of the cake.
Keep 1 tablespoon chocolate separate. Melt the remaining chocolate on low heat in a heavy pot, stirring constantly. As soon as it is just melted, remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate. This lowers the heat immediately.
Using a squeeze bottle or the tines of a fork, drizzle chocolate over strawberries
This easy strudel is a satisfying finale for a meal. To prevent the phyllo from drying out, keep it covered as you work.
Servings: 6 with leftovers
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours, including cooling time
6 dried apricots
½ cup raisins
½ cup port
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 Cortland or Pink Lady apples, unpeeled, coarsely grated
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
6 leaves phyllo dough
⅓ cup butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
Place apricots, prunes, raisins and port in a small pot over medium-high heat.
Bring to a boil, simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until fruit is plump and soft, and port is almost gone. Let stand 5 minutes to cool.
Drain the fruit and place in a mini chop or food processor. Process until well combined but slightly chunky. Combine dried fruit mixture with walnuts, apples, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lay phyllo on counter and cover with tea towel. Remove first sheet, brush with butter. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over the phyllo. Top with second sheet, butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with remaining sheets.
Place apple mixture about 2 inches from the long edge and 1 inch from short edge. Fold in short sides and roll phyllo into a strudel shape. Carefully transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush outside of pastry with butter and cut 3 slits on top.
Bake for 25 minutes or until top is browned and mixture is cooked. Cool and serve at room temperature.
The strudel would be lovely with a glass of the port used to simmer the fruit. But a late-harvest dessert wine from Canada, a German spätlese riesling or oloroso sherry won’t lose the match. Beppi Crosariol
This dessert tastes a bit like sticky toffee pudding but is much easier to make. Cut like a cake and serve with whipped or ice cream or on its own. It's terrific with a cup of tea. I find the easiest way to cut dates is with scissors.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Ready In: 2½ hours
4 ounces (125 g) walnuts, chopped (about 1 cup)
8 ounces (250 g) pitted chopped Medjool dates, (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 ounces (60 g) coarsely grated dark chocolate
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 300 F
Line the bottom of a 9 by 5 loaf pan with parchment paper and butter sides. Reserve.
Combine walnuts, dates and ¼ cup sugar in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped and well combined. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
Beat eggs with remaining ¼ of sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in walnut mixture, grated chocolate and orange rind. Spoon into prepared baking pan and bake for 50 minutes or until cake is puffed and dry to the touch. A cake tester will show that it is still slightly moist in the middle. Cool on rack for 10 minutes.
Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over warm cake.
Cool, remove from pan, slice and serve with whipped cream.