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Desserts to End Your Holiday Meal

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Dessert is the perfect way to end a holiday meal. Cook up these easy recipes for Apple Pie, Gingerbread, and Peppermint Bark to create sweet treats that are sure to please the holiday palate.

Apple Pie

Preparation time: About 30 minutes

Cook time: About 1 hour

Yield: 6–8 servings

Pastry dough for a double-crust 9-inch pie

6 medium apples (tart is best), peeled, cored, and sliced about 1/2-inch thick

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Cover a 9-inch pie plate with a sheet of pastry dough, and set aside another sheet of pastry dough, about 11 inches in diameter, for the top crust.

  2. Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Combine with the apples, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a large bowl. Toss gently to coat the apples with the sugar and seasonings.

  3. Fill the uncooked pie shell with the apple mixture. Dot the butter over the filling in small pieces.

  4. Brush the rim of the bottom pie crust with water and fit the top crust over the apples. Trim off any excess dough and crimp the edges firmly with a fork.

  5. Prick the top crust several times with a fork to provide a vent for steam to escape. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° F and bake another 45 minutes or until the pie is brown and bubbly. Cool the pie for at least 20 minutes before serving.

For a shiny crust, use a pastry brush to brush the top pie crust lightly with milk or water (approximately 2 tablespoons of either) and then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over it.

Gingerbread

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Yield: 16 servings

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

2-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup dark molasses

1 cup boiling water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare an 8-x-8-x-2-inch baking pan by generously buttering it with 1 tablespoon of butter. Dust the pan with 1 tablespoon of flour and shake out the excess.

  2. Sift the 2-1/2 cups flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg together on a large piece of wax paper and then blend in the salt.

  3. Using a mixer, beat the 1/2 cup butter in a large mixing bowl until it's soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and continue to beat the mixture until it's well blended, about 2 more minutes. Stop a couple of times and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

  4. Blend in the eggs and the molasses, beating well, and then add the boiling water. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients from Step 2 in several small batches, beating to blend well after each addition.

  5. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

  6. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack. Cut the gingerbread into squares and store it tightly wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.


Peppermint Bark

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 2–3 minutes

Yield: About 32 servings

12 peppermint sticks, or about 2 dozen individual peppermint pieces

2 pounds white chocolate, chopped

  1. Line a 13-x-18-inch cookie sheet with wax paper or place a similar-size piece of wax paper on the counter.

  2. Crush the peppermint sticks or pieces in a blender or food processor or place them in a freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin or other heavy object to a fine consistency.

  3. In a microwaveable bowl, melt 2 pounds of white chocolate to a temperature of about 95° F.

    To do so, cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds and then every 15 seconds to stir and check with a chocolate thermometer. If you don't have a chocolate thermometer, note that the coating should feel just about the same as your body temperature.

  4. Remove the chocolate from the microwave and stir with a hard rubber spatula until smooth. With a small sifter, sift the peppermint into the white chocolate; put the larger pieces of peppermint aside. Stir the mixture to blend the peppermint.

  5. Using the spatula, spread the mixture about 1/4-inch thick on the prepared cookie sheet or countertop. Sprinkle the larger peppermint pieces over the entire sheet of bark and press lightly with an offset spatula to press the pieces into the white coating.

  6. Allow the bark to cool at room temperature; it should be firm enough to cut in about 15 minutes, but the time varies according to room temperature and humidity.

    If you prefer to break the bark into pieces, allow it to cool for 1 hour. Then break it into pieces by hand.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Taylor Hinton]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Taylor Hinton

Don't overheat the chocolate because you want the coating to be about 95 degrees F. You should be able to touch the coating to your lips and not burn yourself; the coating should feel just about the same as your body temperature.


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