Snow and frigid climes are still blowing in many parts of the country. In some regions it’s just a little colder than usual. Some call these the dark days. No better time for a little end-of-winter cheer to lift our spirits as we wait for spring.
Pick a Friday night and invite people in for dessert. It doesn’t have to be as fancy or orchestrated as what I did here. You set the tone. If you’re not inclined to bake, buy a store-bought cake (cheese cakes are great), brew some decaf coffee, and open a bottle of dessert wine or champagne. For an easy and appealing cookie tray, buy Archway Dutch Cocoa Cookies from the cookie aisle, arrange them on a platter, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and punctuate with fresh strawberries.
Hint: This is a great way for you to show a little hospitality if you aren’t inclined to fuss over the prep. Just because you don’t make the food yourself or set a fancy table, doesn’t mean you can’t invite a few friends in for chat and sustenance. Who doesn’t love dessert? It’s a nice winter way to reacquaint with friends or get to know new ones.
The posting here is a re-post from last February. The idea was a hit so I thought I’d share it again.
[From February 2011, includes Creamy Apple Cheese Tart recipe]
When Rich Moss, director of admissions at The Heights where our 11-year-old son goes to school, asked me if my husband Bill and I would host the headmaster and prospective parents this month, I immediately said “Of course. I’ll do whatever you need!”
At the same time I said yes, I began to scheme. I am thinking… how many people and what does he want? You see, extending the welcome is easy for me; however, our home, a Victorian-style, is designed with small rooms and cozy nooks and crannies. It is perfect for our small family and fine for wandering/mingling parties.
However, Rich’s get-together seemed like it called for one room where everyone could eat, listen, and engage in questions and answers.
I asked Rich about the format. He suggested, “Just have some coffee, whatever you are comfortable with.”
“Coffee-Schmoffee!” No way were we just having coffee! I can’t pass up the chance to use my imagination and have some fun in the process. Thus, “A Wintertime Dessert” was born. I figured I could use the dining room table as large as possible and use the adjoining bar with seating that connects to the kitchen. It would be cozy depending on the final numbers, but it would work. Guests would have plenty of space for dessert without a lot of serving and removing plates.The acoustics were good so everyone would be able to hear and feel part of the discussion.
Low lighting set the mood with small white candles placed in crystal, shimmering holders with a low centerpiece using white roses, magnolia leaves, and ivory and pale mint-colored crystals. All this was accompanied by ivory linens, stemware in various shapes and sizes, and fine china. (The china story is another blog for another day.)
A visit to the sommelier helped me choose the dessert wines. I described my desserts and he suggested a champagne, a Bordeaux table wine (Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet), and a port. The port was my favorite. Even though the Bordeaux came highly recommended for the desserts, it did not taste good to me…too much like cooking wine. I should have known and followed my gut when he suggested it. On the evening of the event, Bill and I exchanged covert glances when we both sipped the Bordeaux and knew to steer the guests toward the other two choices.
The menu: my own apple/cheese tart creation, strawberries, cream, and “Outrageous Chocolate Cookies” along with the wine and/or coffee and tea.
As the guests arrived, large snowflakes began to fall…a perfect backdrop for this February get-together. Everyone stayed much longer than the event was planned for. It is with great pleasure that I fuss and make it look like I didn’t. All the pre-planning is worth it and a dessert party is perfect for an occasion like this. The hosts can also relax because with the right preparation it is easy to pull off.
I should mention that I also invited the children of the parents. That made it easier for people to come rather than get babysitters. The children were treated to their own kids-type desserts in the basement family room along with an older sibling I paid to supervise them. Their parents were able to relax and really listen and ask questions without feeling rushed to get home. (Hey…three of the four families decided to attend the school after that night and subsequent meetings with the school!) I would say “A Wintertime Dessert” was a success!
A dessert party without chocolate would miss the mark. I have many chocolate recipes but I was in the market for something new, so I turned to the Internet and found just the thing. When I read the ingredients, I could taste it! So, this cookie won the day. The recipe is from MarthaStewart.com and aptly called Outrageous Chocolate Cookies.
A dessert party — I’m sticking with it!
Creamy Apple Cheese Tart
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 5 (approx) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Prepare the topping first so it is ready to go when you have the rest done. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and toss with apples.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, not melted
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Blend in flour and cinnamon. Spread the soft dough in a 9-inch spring form pan (removable bottom). I like to use one with fluted sides. Use fingers to make sure dough is evenly spread on bottom and up sides, 1/4 inch from the top.
- 8 oz softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together cheese and sugar, add egg and vanilla. Mix and pour into the crust.
Arrange apples over filling. Bake at 450 degree for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Cool before removing outer ring from pan.
I like to serve with a dollop of whipped cream on the side with a fresh berry or two.