christmas desserts, truffles, cookies and baubles on a table

I can never decide which pudding to choose because I want them all. For that reason, I’m a big fan of the French concept of the “café gourmand”, where you get three or four miniature-sized desserts with your coffee.

When I am entertaining during the holidays, I take the same approach and offer a desserts buffet with lots of small puddings, so my guests can experience many different flavours without having to commit to one big treat.

Although I do not have to eat gluten-free food, I have many friends who do, I always provide a nice balance of desserts that everyone will enjoy. Here are three desserts you can make in advance of a party that all your guests will enjoy. And a bonus – all of these are really easy to make and would be perfect projects for your kids in the kitchen over the holidays!

Chocolate-orange crackle cookies

cookies

These cookies are reminiscent of one of my favourite Christmas chocolates (you know, the one in the shape of a certain fruit).

Makes around 50 little cookies

Ingredients

  • 120g almond meal/ground almonds
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 10g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Whites from 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 large orange

For the dipping ganache

  • ¼ cup/60ml whipping (35%) cream
  • 100g 70% cocoa chocolate, roughly chopped
  • Extra orange zest, for garnish

Heat oven to 150ºC/300ºF. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats. In a medium bowl mix the almond meal, sugar, cocoa powder and orange zest. In a separate metal bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.

Combine the dry ingredients into the egg whites. The mixture will have like a very thick consistency.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted and pipe out circles of the mixture around 1½ inches/4cm in diameter.

Wet a small piece of paper towel and smooth the tops of the cookies over.

Sprinkle the cookies with icing sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies crack on top but are still a little soft. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the dipping ganache. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over a medium heat, until nearly boiling. In a bowl, pour over the chocolate and allow to sit for a few minutes, then gently whisk to combine. Set aside.

Once cooled, you can dip half of each cookie in the chocolate ganache, sprinkle with a little orange zest if you like and then allow them to set. Serve as soon as they are hard, or keep in the fridge so they don’t melt.

Candy cane meringue drops

meringue

I like to offer something a little lighter at a holiday party, and meringues are the perfect “palate cleanser” between what can be a lot of other rich dishes – just enough sweetness to satisfy!

Makes around 60 meringues

Ingredients

  • Mini candy canes
  • Whites from 4 large eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • A few drops peppermint essence

Preheat the oven 100ºC/200ºF. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Crush the candy canes by putting them in a sealed bag and gently hitting them with a rolling pin.

In a large, clean glass or metal bowl, beat the egg whites and peppermint essence with an electric hand-held beater on medium speed until the mixture starts to form soft peaks.

Add the sifted cream of tartar and mix until thoroughly combined. Turn up the speed to high and add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is thick, glossy and forms stiff peaks.

Use a piping bag or teaspoons to drop small rounds of meringue onto the prepared baking trays. Sprinkle the tops of the meringues with the crushed candy cane (make sure to use the smaller crumbs so the meringue does not collapse under the melted candy when it bakes).

Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and allow to cool completely inside the oven. The meringues will keep in an airtight container for around 2 weeks.

Apricot & cherry “truffles”

truffles

There’s nothing like a truffle at Christmas but sometimes all that chocolate can be a bit much. Here’s a fruity version of a truffle that will please everyone – and it’s gluten-free, raw and vegan!

Makes around 30

Ingredients

  • 1 cup/85g shredded coconut
  • 200g slivered, chopped or sliced almonds (or a mix)
  • 250g dried apricots
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Method

Sprinkle the shredded coconut evenly over a large sheet pan.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, grind the nuts until you have a nice mix of larger chunks of nut and others, which are more powdery. Place in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the cherries and apricots in the food processor and pulverize until the fruit is well combined and starting to form a paste.

Add the coconut oil and continue to pulverize until the mix forms a sticky smooth paste. Add the fruit paste to the nut mix and, using your hands, mix both together.

Take tablespoon-sized chinks of the mix and roll it between your hands to form a smooth ball. Roll the “truffles” in the coconut, making sure to coat evenly.

Serve straight away, or store them in an airtight container in the fridge.


About the author

Mardi Michels

Mardi Michels lives in Toronto, is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog about culinary adventures near and far. As part of her job, she runs cooking classes twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She’s a founding member of Food Bloggers of Canada, a Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto and also teaches French pastry classes around Toronto. Follow Mardi on Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

Mardi Michels