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Vail Simply Seasonal column: Deceptively simple showstoppers

Sue Barhamnewsroom@vaildaily.comVAIL CO, Colorado
Pumpkin cheesecake with coffee
Getty Images/Comstock Images | Comstock Images

For those who love to entertain, half the fun is in the planning. And when it comes to the holidays, the savvy entertainer knows the key to success is planning a few menu items that can be made ahead. Many desserts fall into this category as they benefit from the melding of their flavors overnight. Cheesecake or bread pudding are good choices to ready the day before. Try a pumpkin version, to complement the holidays. Pumpkin cheesecake with a spicy gingersnap crust makes a stunning presentation on a holiday dessert buffet. A fluffy pumpkin bread pudding, baked in pretty crockery puts a decorative spin on a homespun favorite. Bill Fitzgerald, pastry chef at Cima Restaurant, shares tips on the classic Thanksgiving dessert – pies. “Making the dough for your crust a few days ahead is a real time saver,” he said, “it can be refrigerated for a few days, or frozen for longer. Then just bring it to room temperature, roll it out and continue with your pie recipe.”For the novice or expert holiday host, here are a couple of sure winners for the finale of your gathering. Or, if you a fortunate enough to be invited as a guest, offer to bring the dessert – one of these deceptively simple showstoppers.Pumpkin Cheesecake1 1/2 cups gingersnaps (or vanilla wafers)3/4 cup pecans2 ounces butter, melted2 Tablespoons brown sugar, packed24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed2 teaspoons cinnamon1 teaspoon nutmeg1/4 teaspoon cloves1 Tablespoon vanilla3 eggsGarnish:Whipped CreamPreheat oven to 350. Using food processor, grind gingersnaps and pecans to crumb size. Transfer to bowl and add melted butter and 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, mixing until moist clumps form. Press evenly into 9″ springform pan to cover bottom and 1″ up the sides. Refrigerate crust while preparing filling. Beat cream cheese in mixer until smooth. Add pumpkin and blend well. Add 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla mixing to combine. Add eggs mixing in, one by one. Pour batter into crust. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is softly set. Chill overnight before serving. Garnish with whipped cream.Deep dish pecan pieCrust:2 1/4 cups flour1/2 teaspoon salt4 ounces butter3 ounces vegetable shortening1/4 cup ice waterFilling:3 cups pecan halves and pieces, toasted8 eggs4 egg yolks2 Tablespoons vanilla1/2 teaspoon salt2 cups brown sugar4 Tablespoons butter, melted3 cups light corn syrupGarnish:whipped cream or vanilla ice cream Make the crust: Combine flour and salt in food processor. Add butter and shortening in small pieces. Pulse to combine, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With processor running on low speed, drizzle in water, just until dough forms a ball. Remove from machine. Divide dough in half. Knead briefly till smooth and shape each piece to a flat disc. Wrap each in plastic and chill till firm. Preheat oven to 375. Roll each piece out to one inch larger than inverted 9” pie plate. Carefully place dough in plate and decoratively crimp edges. Use a fork to prick bottom and sides of dough. Place aluminum foil on dough then add pie weights or dried beans. Bake 10 minutes, till dough just starts to brown. Remove weights and foil and allow to cool before adding filling. Combine eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and salt, blending to combine. Whisk in brown sugar and butter. Whisk in corn syrup. Divide pecans between two prepared pie crusts, spreading evenly. Pour filling over pecans in two pie pans. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for approximately one hour or until center is softly set. Allow to completely cool before cutting. Garnish with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes two 9-inch pies.Sue Barham is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Cima, opening this month in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. The newest restaurant concept from internationally acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, Cima is a contemporary Latin kitchen, featuring bold, vibrant flavors with Latino roots, fresh ingredients and global cooking techniques. http://www.richardsandoval.com


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