Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Dessert with a Difference

Last week I posted 7 tips for a budget-wise Thanksgiving. This list included the following tip:

"Why not serve just one dessert, and does it have to be a pie? Could it be whole baked apples stuffed with raisins, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter? Or what about fresh, sliced pears sauteed in butter, brown sugar or honey, finished with a drizzle of cream? Even a simple platter of seasonal apples and pears with a selection of nuts and dried fruits is delicious and economical."

Today I thought I'd expand on a couple of the dessert ideas above and include one or two more.

I'll start with baked apples; keep in mind that children can be involved in the preparation of this simple, fun-to-make dessert and it's hard to go wrong stuffing yummy things into the center of cored apples.

Fancy Baked Apples
1) Prepare one apple per person. I picked up some organic Braeburn the other day for $1.99 lb. At this time of the year, there's really no need to pay more than that for organic apples since they're abundant in fall and well into winter and thus often on sale.
2) Wash apples, remove stem, and with a small, sharp knife hollow out the center of the apples, removing their cores and creating space enough for stuffing.
3) Into a bowl add, per apple, a heaped teaspoon of butter, a little less of brown sugar or honey or orange marmalade, and either some chopped raisins or cranberries, a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and or cloves, and a few finely chopped walnuts or almonds.
4) Bind ingredients with a fork so that the mixture sticks together. If it's too dry and crumbly, add a bit more butter.
5) Either with clean fingers or a teaspoon, take bits of the mixture and shove it into the center of the apple. Pack it in tightly. Now place the stuffed apples onto a baking dish and put a dob of butter on the top of each apple.
6) Moisten the bottom of the baking tray with a little water and cover the apples and tray with tin foil. Bake at 350 degrees until the apples are tender, about 30 minutes or so. The stuffing will have melted into the apple, and some stuffing will melt out onto the baking tray.
7) Remove apples from baking tray with a spatula, setting them on a serving platter.
8) If you wish, you can create a caramel-like sauce with the butter, sugar and honey that's on the bottom of the baking tray by first picking out any clumped, burnt sugar. Next put the tray over a low-heat hot plate and pour a little whipping cream or even sour cream onto the tray; gently stir.
9) If you have any brandy, add a glug if you wish, and turn up the heat as this will help evaporate the alcohol.

To Serve: Pour the creamy sauce from the pan over the platter of baked apples and place in the center of your table. You might like additional pouring cream with your baked apples or scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Sauteed Pears
1) Bosc Pears are firm and thus they're best for baking and sauteing. And they're in season now and so they're plentiful and thus often on sale.
2) Allow half-to-one pear per person. Wash and quarter each pear, removing the core and pips.
3) In a skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter and a half tablespoon of brown sugar per pear. Stir butter and sugar until they melt into one another. Add pear quarters, stir, and place lid on pan. Turn heat to low and allow pears to gently cook in the butter and sugar for about 10-15 minutes.
4) Keep an eye on the cooking process; you don't want the sugar to burn, rather you want the juice from the pears to mix into the butter and sugar thereby creating a delicious sauce.
5) At around the 10-minute mark, add some cream to the skillet and stir it into the pan juices, creating a caramel-like sauce.
6) You could also add either lemon or orange zest at this point or if you have any Grand Marnier or Cointreau, add a splash. Taste-test, and test the pears to make sure they're cooked through but not over-cooked.

To Serve: Spoon pear quarters into a serving bowl and coat with pan-made sauce. You might like to sprinkle the top with some toasted walnuts or toasted almonds or even some chopped chocolate.

Both the above recipes call for butter, brown sugar and cream. If you prefer not to use sugar, use honey, maple syrup or agave instead. If you don't want to add cream, try almond, hazelnut or coconut milk.

If you like my idea of a simple fruit-cum-sweetmeat platter, refer to the post I made back in August. There's a luscious picture of a platter of goodies that would present beautifully on a Thanksgiving table.

If you and your family are gluten-free, obviously a fruit dessert as detailed above would work or you might like to try the Orange and Almond Cake I posted back in April. This post includes a video of the cake which was at the center of my birthday celebration, however it's a fabulously light, flour-free and thus gfree dessert that would go well at the end of heavy Thanksgiving meal.

If you're game, why not try something different, economical and simple for Thanksgiving dessert. The apple, pear, and platter desserts above fit this option.

And for something a bit more fiddly and spendy, but light and gluten-free, you might like to try the last option, Orange and Almond Cake.

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