The Holiday Confectionary Breakdown

By Isabella Howe

December 15, 2020

After what seems like an action-packed, stressful, and chaotic year we have made it to the last stretch of the year, and arguably the most enjoyable time of year, the holidays. The season of celebrations has arrived, and with every celebration, there is an accompanying feast. Dinner tables are a collection of mom’s crip rosemary turkey, dad’s roasted pomegranate Brussel sprouts, and grandpa’s sweet strawberry and rhubarb pies. There is finally an excuse to start excessively baking the hundreds of desserts that have been collecting dust in your Pinterest boards. If you aren’t already prepared with a collection of recipes, here is your archive for finding holiday dessert ideas and recipes.

It’s always necessary to have a good breakfast recipe under your belt in preparation for any surprise brunch gatherings. In an attempt to stay festive and in the theme of sweets, Half Baked Harvest has created the delicacy known as “Baked Cinnamon Creme Brulee French Toast with Raspberry Preserve”. This breakfast dish puts a spin on the simplicity of french toast and utilizes the tartness of the raspberry to subtly mute the sweetness of the sugary creme soaked toast. The ingredients and measurements necessary for this recipe include ¼ cup real maple syrup, ½ cup brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of melted butter, 8 large beaten eggs, 2 ½ cups of whole milk, 3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier (or any type of orange liqueur), 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 loaf of thickly sliced challah bread, 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1-ounce raspberry preserve, and whipped cream for serving. After greasing your 9×13 inch baking pan, combine maple syrup, brown sugar, and butter and spread that mixture on the bottom of the dish. Next whisk the eggs, milk, Grand Marnier, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until well combined. Dunk each slice of challah into the liquid allowing for a one minute soak, and then place it in the baking dish in a semi-organized manner. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the slices in the dish, then take this dish and cover it and place it in the fridge for any time past an hour. Once taken out place in a 375-degree oven and bake for 45-50 min or until french toast looks golden. While baking takes your raspberry preserve in a saucepan and dilute it with about ½ a cup of water, let simmer until warm. Best while served warm with a generous spread of both cream and raspberry preserve. 

I think it’s fitting to say that the holiday season can and should also be known as pie season. During the holiday season bakeries turn out dozens of pies in hopes of satisfying everyone’s demand for the quintessential holiday dessert. Though, arguably, after years of eating the classic buttery pie crust with the cinnamon-spiced apple filling, things can start to become quite monotonous. Though there are ways to still stay true to the tradition of pie while introducing a new take to the structure and flavor of it. The French dish Tarte Tatin is an upside-down apple tart made with caramelized apples laying on a bed of puff pastry. The Bon Appetit kitchen has created the recipe known as “Vanilla Bean Tarte Tatin” in which the following ingredients and measurements are necessary, 5 Pink lady or any other type of crisp peeled apples, ½ cup sugar, ½ of a split vanilla bean, 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry (about 14 oz). Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees, and slice your apples into three lobes with cuts as close to the core as possible. Take around half of the sugar and sprinkle it on a 9-inch skillet with the vanilla seeds. Cook on medium heat until sugar begins caramelizing and the mixture has reached a pale amber color. Next, add in the rest of the sugar into the caramel and continue cooking until the sauce is a deep amber color. Take the butter, vinegar, and salt and mix it into the caramel. Once done add the apples onto the skillet, cut side down, and cook until they have released some of their juices and have slightly shrunk (this should take about 5-8 minutes). Next, turn apples over and arrange them so they are close together and barely overlap, and take off the heat. Roll out the puff pastry and cut into a size that will snuggly fit the skillet. After draping over the apples, place the skillet into the heated oven and let bake for around 20-25 minutes, and the pastry has puffed and slightly browned. Serve warm on its own, or with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Regardless of our personal dietary requirements or restrictions, everyone deserves to enjoy a dessert at a dinner party. For those of us who refrain from foods that contain gluten, coconut flan is a delicious dessert choice that requires no form of alternative in order to be gluten-free. Flan is a common and traditional dessert for many countries including Spain, Brazil, France, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, etc. Once again created by the Bon Appetit chefs, this dessert is a sweet and creamy pudding-like dish that integrates the nutty and floral flavors of coconut with the custard flavor of the condensed milk exquisitely. This coconut flan requires the following ingredients and measurements, 1 cup of sugar, 3 large eggs (at room temperature), one 14 oz can of condensed milk, one 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk, ¾ cups of evaporated skim milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and ⅓ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes. Heat oven to 325 degrees and place a rack in the middle of the oven (this ensures the flan will bake evenly). Next, take a 10-inch glass pie dish and place it on top of a roasting pan. Take your sugar and place it in a saucepan with about ¼ cups of water and mix until sugar is dissolved (this should take about 3 minutes). It is important that while this mixture is heating that you occasionally swirl the pan and brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush (but do not stir) to prevent crystallization of the sugar. Continue doing this until the mixture reaches a deep amber color which should take 10-12 minutes. Do not wait, once done immediately pour the mixture into the pie dish and evenly coat the bottom with the thick mixture. Let this sit aside for around 10 minutes, and settle while you mix together and form the custard mixture. Take the eggs, condensed milk, coconut milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla and blend this together in a blender until it reaches a smooth liquid consistency. If there is a layer of thick foam remove with a spoon. Next, take this mixture and strain it through a cheesecloth or a clean dish towel. Pour liquid into the pie dish. Place the pie dish that is in the roasting pan into the oven and carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan surrounding the pie dish until the water comes up to about ½ way up the sides of the pan. Bake this until the flan is still a little jiggly but still set in the center and slightly gold. This should take around 50-55 minutes. Once cooled and ready to serve, run the knife around the pie dish’s circumference and flip the pan onto a plate to invert the flan. Garnish with coconut flakes. 

Baking is an activity that can be enjoyed when done as a family, with your friends, or simply by yourself. At times, if you let the process flow, it can become therapeutic. It allows for people to come together with the purpose of creating something delicious through the dynamic of collaboration. Why not try it this holiday season, even if the final product is not the tastiest, it will be enjoyable nonetheless.

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