Pavlova Wreath with Berries

Like clouds in edible form, pavlovas are delicate and ethereal, and can really rain on your parade if the circumstances allow. It’s a meringue allowed to form the backbone of a dessert, so you’ll want to treat it with care because it’ll respond in kind. Warm the eggs before beginning your recipe. Make sure the whites, mixing bowl and beaters are completely free of any oil/yolk. Start whipping the egg whites slowly, then gradually faster until stiff peaks form. And follow the directions for baking in the recipe. It can be a delicate balance, making sure it’s cooked through and dried without browning, but you’ll be rewarded with a scrumptious and impressive-looking dessert, which you then pile high with whipped cream, berries and jam. It’s beyond delicious, and my favorite of our Sweets Week desserts by far. Please visit Darcie’s blog for more about this dessert.

So this is it for the Advent Calendar — I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts Darcie and I have shared this month! We’ll be taking off for the holidays now, but plan to be back in the new year with more posts, probably of the healthy/nourishing variety. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, and Happy New Year! Catch you in 2017.

Pavlova Wreath Close-Up | Amy Roth Photo

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Pavlova Wreath with Berries

Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
This Pavlova Wreath with Berries is gorgeous and wintery with fresh flavors you can't get enough of.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint whipping cream (chilled)
  • powdered sugar (for dusting)

Pavlova

  • 4 extra-large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (white wine or distilled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Berries

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup Bonne Maman Four Fruits Preserves

Note

Pavlova base adapted from Ina Garten's recipe.

Directions

Pavlova
Preheat oven to 180°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, gradually add the sugar and beat until shiny, stiff peaks form. Sift the cornstarch over the egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla and gently fold together with a spatula.
Spoon large dollops of the meringue in a circle on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, spread slightly, forming a wreath shape with a shallow trough. Bake for approximately 1 hour. The merengue should remain very light in color. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven. The end result should be crisp and dry on the outside.
Berries
In a microwave safe bowl, heat the fruit preserves for about 30 seconds, until slightly thinned. Add half of the blackberries, crush with a fork and stir until combined.
When the base has cooled and you are ready to serve the dessert, whip the chilled cream.
To assemble the pavlova, place the base on a serving platter. Spread the whipped cream over the base. Top with the remaining berries, then drizzle with the fruit preserve sauce. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies

It never even occurred to me that someone might not like shortbread cookies. They’ve always been a favorite of mine for the reason I suppose a lot of people don’t like them — there isn’t a lot going on there, and the flavors aren’t bold. In fact, the primary flavor is butter, so you do have to use the good stuff. But Darcie came up with a fantastic spin on shortbread cookies with this recipe, adding macadamia nuts, chocolate ganache and — what really sets these apart — freeze dried raspberries crushed to bits. The flavors marry beautifully, and the raspberries give it an unexpected zing, plus make them look adorable and festive.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Macadamia Shortbread Cookies

Allergy Egg, Milk, Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly
Flavorful shortbread cookies? I know it sounds unusual, but adding macadamia nuts, chocolate ganache and freeze dried raspberries to the mix really takes this one over the top.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts (finely chopped)
  • 1 Large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache Icing

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries (crushed)

Directions

Cookies
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the flour and mix until just combined. Add the macadamia nuts to the mixture. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to roughly 1/4-1/2 inch thick, then cut into squares or desired shapes. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for about 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.
Ganache Icing
This is the a “cheat" method of making ganache, but I find it works well for cookie icing. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate and cream in 30 second intervals until melted, stirring between microwave sessions.
Dip one end of each cookie in the ganache, then sprinkle with raspberry powder. Place on wax paper and allow to cool and set. This is not a very hard icing when dry, so take care not to stack cookies on top of each other, or do so with caution.

Panettone Bread Pudding

Anyone who’s been around this blog for a while knows I’m a huge fan of bread pudding. It might’ve even been my first dessert-love, especially the way my grandma made it — just a touch sweet, with meringue on top, served with evaporated milk poured over the top. (Because you cannot separate a Cajun from their Pet Milk. Preach.)

But over the years, I’ve fooled around with the basic recipe a lot, and come up with different variations — everything from a blueberry-heavy pudding to a bananas foster bread pudding that I wouldn’t kick out of bed. But this version with Panettone is maybe the simplest one, and certainly has a great holiday spin. And if you must top it with something other than Pet Milk, it does not suck with the warm spiced rum sauce I found at Bon Appetit. Good gawd! Outrageous doesn’t even begin to cover it.

See what Darcie had to say about this over at Gourmet Creative, and enjoy!

Panettone Bread Pudding

Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Breakfast, Dessert
Panettone Bread Pudding makes an everyday dessert extra-special for the holidays.

Ingredients

  • 1 Panettone bread loaf
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 12oz evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • zest of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons butter (chilled, cut into small dice)

Optional

  • 1 splash bourbon

Note

Since Panettone is such a moist bread, you’ll need to dry it out before proceeding with the recipe. If possible, a day before you make this, cut the bread into large cubes (about 1 1/2”) and let them rest on a baking sheet on the counter until you’re ready to prepare the bread pudding. Alternately, toast the bread cubes in a 200°F oven until they’re dried out a bit. Check for doneness every 10 minutes. Ideally, the bread cubes should be as dry as stale bread, but less dry than toast.

Delicious topped with Spiced Rum Sauce from Bon Appetit.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch square baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for bread. Add bread, tossing and pressing down so it absorbs the egg mixture evenly. Let soak for a 30 minutes, then spoon into prepared baking dish. If any of the bread cubes are still dry at this point, add a splash of milk and let it soak in a for a few minutes. Sprinkle butter cubes evenly over the surface of the bread pudding.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or pudding is evenly browned and puffy. Bread pudding will shrink as it cools.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Dump-It Cake

This cake. Oh, man. THIS CAKE. I really dislike baking, but love This Cake so much that I’ve made it many times over the course of this year — and no one ever knows it’s gluten-free! When something this special comes along, I just have to share it with you, and Sweets Week seemed like the perfect spot for it. The original recipe at the New York Times (by Amanda Hesser of Food52) is wonderful, I’ve no doubt, but I turned to Cup4Cup Flour to make it gluten-free, as I have so many times in the past. The selling point for this blend is that it can be substituted cup-for-cup (See what they did there?) for AP flour without any additions, but I keep coming back to it because those claims are actually true and it doesn’t have an odd taste the way so many other GF blends do.

I also incorporated quite a few suggestions from the comments section of the Times article, so I thought it would be easier to communicate everything to you in the form of a recipe here rather than a bunch of notes about substitutions you’d have to figure out on your own, so enjoy! I didn’t use the original frosting recipe because I found it much too heavy on the sour cream, but use it if you like that flavor, or try your favorite frosting, or just open up a container from the baking aisle of the grocery store – I promise I won’t tell a soul. And please let me (and the original poster) know what you think if you try it! Check out Darcie’s post here for more about this amazing, rich, delight of a cake.

Chocolate Cake Slice | Amy Roth Photo

 

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Allergy Egg, Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
This gluten-free chocolate cake is everything you want in any chocolate cake — rich, moist, and thoroughly chocolate-y.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar (plus more for dusting cake pans)
  • 5oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (plus more for greasing cake pans)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup brewed coffee (or 1 cup water + 1 teaspoon espresso powder)
  • 2 cups Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note

I adapted the original New York Times recipe to make this cake gluten-free, plus incorporated several of the helpful notes in the comments section.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drips as the cake bakes on the middle rack. In a 2- to 3-quart pot, mix together the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter, cocoa powder, and coffee. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and grease the paper as well. Use extra sugar to dust the pan as you would with flour; this results in a crispy exterior and adds a nice little bit of sweetness.
When the chocolate in the pot has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions, and without over-mixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice to blend. Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan, run knife around the edges of pan, then turn cakes over onto cake plate. Carefully remove parchment paper, then frost.

Espresso Mascarpone Semifreddo

Rather than a little snack, Darcie and I have decided to up the ante a little and give you a real dessert today. This is taken directly from my recipe for roasted pears with espresso mascarpone cream; I had leftover cream, froze it, and realized it made an incredible semifreddo. Topping it with chocolate sauce from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon just makes good sense.

Semifreddo 2 | Amy Roth Photo

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Espresso Mascarpone Semifreddo

Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Dessert
Misc Serve Cold
Espresso Mascarpone Semifreddo — what a luscious way to end any meal!

Ingredients

  • 8oz heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8oz mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup sugar (increase to 1/3 cup if you'd like it sweeter)
  • 2 tablespoons espresso (chilled; increase to 3 tablespoons for more coffee flavor)

Note

This is pulled directly from my older recipe for Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream. Topping it with chocolate sauce from Thomas Keller's Bouchon just makes good sense.

Directions

Pour whipping cream into a small bowl. Slice vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into the cream, stirring to evenly distribute. Add bean to cream. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour, along with the bowl and beater of an electric stand mixer.
Pour cream through a fine mesh strainer into the chilled mixing bowl. Add mascarpone and espresso, and beat on medium speed until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium-high and with mixer running, sprinkle in sugar, beating until soft peaks form.
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and pour whipped cream into it, leveling it with a flexible spatula. Fold edges of plastic wrap up and over the cream and place the pan in the freezer for a few hours until frozen through.
Remove pan from freezer 30 minutes before serving. Cut into slices and top with chocolate sauce.

Sufganiyot

Hanukkah gets short shrift around here, even though we always got Ru and Otis in on the act in years past (much to their chagrin). Gil really only observes the high holidays, and our nieces live in the midwest, so Christmas is more of a thing with the NJ Roths. But since it’s the holiday of fried food — something I can definitely get behind with my own roots — we’d be remiss not to devote one day during Sweets Week to something appropriate for the season.

While latkes are understandably popular snacks associated with Hanukkah, sufganiyot captured my heart some time ago, as any jelly donut will. Darcie found a terrific recipe at Bon Appetit/Epicurious that turned out delicious, not-too-sweet sweets, just perfect to share with you today.

Bacon Pralines

I know, I know. It’s gimmicky. Been done to death. Horribly unhealthy, etc. And I’m really not one to indiscriminately add bacon to things — especially sweets — but it’s something I always suspected might be worth the indulgence, so I’m not sorry for this praline adulteration. Not one bit.

I used my dad’s recipe for pralines and simply swapped out a portion of the pecans for an equal amount of chopped, cooked bacon. The results were pretty much what you’d expect. But if you’re a purist, you can’t go wrong with the original recipe. Just serve a little bacon on the side.

Find Darcie’s post here, and let us know what you think if you decide to try these!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Bacon Pralines

Allergy Milk, Tree Nuts
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly
If you're looking for a dessert that's a little bit different, these bacon pralines will fit the bill. Deliciously.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 16 Large marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cup pecan halves (toasted)
  • 1/2 cup cooked bacon (finely chopped)

Note

If you'd prefer a regular praline to one loaded with bacon, simply remove the bacon and add another 1/2 cup of toasted pecan halves to the recipe, then sprinkle pralines with Maldon or other finishing salt just after you've spooned them onto the surface to cool.

Directions

Prepare your surface by covering a heat-safe area of your counter or a table with freezer paper. Spray paper well with cooking spray.
Cook sugar, butter, marshmallows, and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly until all ingredients are melted, then add pecans and bacon. Cook, stirring constantly, to soft ball stage, 240° F. Remove pot from burner, add vanilla extract and beat mixture vigorously with a spoon until it begins to thicken. This will ensure the pralines don't spread too much.
Drop mixture by tablespoon or two onto greased freezer paper. Cool to room temperature before serving.

 

Tapenade with Grilled Eggplant

Continuing that salty-savory theme from yesterday, Darcie and I have a flavorful, simple dish to finish up Small Bites Week here at the Advent Calendar. Mixed-olive tapenade is easy to whip up the day before a big party (in fact, it’s better if you do!) and you can throw the assembled appetizers together in a flash.

Tapenade can be mouth-puckeringly salty, which is fine in certain applications, but here you want something a bit mellower, so I take a two-pronged approach. Starting with the olives themselves, I err on the side of less salty, fruity varieties, like juicy Castelvetrano or Cerignola olives, both of which I always find at Fairway Market‘s amazing olive bar. If I’m using something a bit brinier, I’ll rinse and dry them before proceeding. And then, it’s really nice to add some nuts to the mix — just be sure they’re raw, or you’ll be defeating the purpose. I toast them lightly for flavor and find they really mellow out the tapenade and add a nice, smooth flavor, especially if you prepare this a day in advance.

You can serve this on crackers, but I encourage you to try the grilled Japanese eggplant rounds. They really complement the tapenade and turn it into a whole appetizer, rather than just a spread.  Let us know what you think if you try it!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Tapenade-Eggplant Bites | Amy Roth Photo

Tapenade with Grilled Eggplant

Ingredients

Grilled Eggplant

  • 2 Japanese eggplants (sliced 1/2)
  • olive oil (for brushing eggplant slices)

Tapenade

  • 2 cups pitted olives
  • 1/2 cup pistachios (toasted)
  • 1/2 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1 anchovy fillet (rinsed and dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons brined capers (rinsed and dried)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch fresh thyme (chopped)

Tapenade (Optional)

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • grana padano (shaved, for garnish)

Note

If the olives you’re using are especially salty, rinse and dry them before proceeding. I like a hefty proportion of green olives in this mix, and used a combination of Castelvetrano and Liguria for this preparation.

Directions

Grilled Eggplant
Brush cut sides of eggplant with a little olive oil. Grill on outdoor grill at medium heat or in a grill pan on a burner set to medium-high heat until cooked through.
Tapenade
Place all tapenade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in one-second increments until blended. Process less for a chunkier texture and more for a creamier one. Add a little extra olive oil if you prefer it thinner.
To serve, spoon a tiny scoop of tapenade onto a grilled eggplant round and top with a piece of shaved grana padano, if desired.

 

Tuna Tartare

After a few weeks of indulging in near-daily holiday sweets and rich goodies (an occupational hazard, if nothing else), I start to crave simple, clean foods with salty profiles. It’s when tuna tartare and the like step right into the spotlight, and they don’t leave until well after the new year.

Darcie’s recipe hits all the right notes — salty and nutty, with a little hit of acidity. I could eat this every day, and probably will once we’ve settled back into a normal routine. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Tuna Tartare | Amy Roth Photo

Tuna Tartare

Allergy Fish, Soy, Wheat
Meal type Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish, Starter
Misc Serve Cold

Ingredients

  • 1 Large tuna steak (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives (plus more for garnish)
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (plus more for garnish)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • endive leaves (for serving)

Note

Make this gluten-free by replacing the soy sauce with gluten-free tamari.

Directions

Tuna is easiest to chop while at least slightly frozen, so partially thaw hard-frozen tuna or freeze fresh tuna for about 1 hour until firm. Cut the tuna into slices, then finely dice.
Mix the rest of the ingredients together, then pour over the tuna and stir to coat. Try not to over-handle or over-mix the fish. Allow to sit briefly prior to serving, but not too long because the citrus will cook the tuna.
Rinse and trim the endive leaves, then top with the tuna tartare, garnish and serve.

Pimiento Cheese

Now this post is near and dear to my heart. I doubt you’ll find many southern families that don’t have a bowl of pimiento cheese in their fridge from time to time. It’s just one of those things we love without question or hesitation. While Darcie is a yankee-girl, we forgive her that failing because she spent some time in New Orleans, where she developed a love of pimiento cheese, among other staples. (I kid, I kid; we’ll always hold it against her.)

Darcie’s recipe is brilliant because it replaces most of the mayo that standard recipes call for (which is a completely insane amount, generally speaking) with cream cheese, so it’s a lot creamier and less greasy. The fat content still isn’t all that great, but this isn’t exactly a salad; use lowfat cream cheese if you must. I’ll look the other way, but may lift my eyebrow of judgement slightly.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Pimiento Cheese

Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Appetizer
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
If Southerners know anything, it's how to make food that'll keep you coming back for more. Count this Pimiento Cheese as one of those foods.

Ingredients

  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 8oz cheddar cheese (freshly grated)
  • 4oz jar pimiento peppers (drained, juice reserved)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pimiento pepper juice
  • 1 tablespoon chives (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (such as Lowry's)

Optional

  • hot sauce or cayenne pepper (to taste)

Directions

Using an electric hand mixer, blend the cream cheese, mayonnaise, dijon, pimento juice and seasoned salt until creamy. Fold in the remaining ingredients, refrigerate and allow to sit for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to come together.
Serve in hollowed out mini peppers or with crackers. Also makes a great grilled cheese sandwich or burger topping.