OK, I know I probably should have gotten around to posting this sooner, before it was almost Christmas and you all still had Thanksgiving on the brain, but I am nothing if not the queen of procrastination. I am also the queen of stealing good ideas, so after years of hearing about people having pie parties the night before Thanksgiving in order to more fully enjoy the dessert portion of the holiday meal, I finally got my act together this year and had one of my own.
I’m not too big on pies, and I figured that most people would get their fill of them after Thanksgiving dinner, so instead I called my function a dessert party, and it was really just an excuse for me to bust out all the autumnal baked goods recipes that I’d had bookmarked for months but never made.
The party itself turned out to be quite fun, and, in my opinion, a perfect way to spend the night before Thanksgiving. It consisted of an assortment of friends and family dropping by to eat and mingle, with the Jazz game and baby Anna providing ample entertainment. On a cold, snowy night, our house felt warm and cozy as it was packed with people. This gathering might just have to become a tradition.
Of course I failed to take a single photo that night, including one of the dessert table. Luckily I found all of the recipes I made that night on the internet, so I’ve posted the links to the recipes (along with beautifully styled food photography that you sure won’t find on this site) and included my opinion of them, along with any changes/adjustments I made.
Pumpkin Brownies (via Smitten Kitchen and marthastewart.com)
I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but the original can be found on Martha Stewart’s site. The Smitten Kitchen version reduces the amount of sugar in the recipe, which I’m thinking is a mistake. As much as I normally like my desserts on the subtle side, this one could have used a little more sweetness.
Overall, though, these were very good. Moist, dense, and a great take on the pumpkin/chocolate combination. I did make them in a 9X13 pan instead of the recommended 9x9 (which I would suggest doing unless you like your brownies really thick) and if I were to make them again I would probably drop the final pumpkin layer onto the chocolate batter in big spoonfuls, then swirl in with a butter knife, rather than just pouring it on. I’m thinking I would get a better marbleized effect this way.
Pumpkin Bread Pudding (via foodnetwork.com)
Thing is, I love the flavor of pumpkin but hate the smooth, gooey texture of pumpkin pie. When I saw this dessert on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay I knew it would be a perfect nontraditional take on the flavor of the season. It turned out delicious.
I skipped the caramel apple sauce on this one, and, due to a stove burner that likes to lie about its temperature, curdled the freaking crème anglaise. After losing my mind a little over the fact that I had just wasted a ton of egg yolks and a pricey vanilla bean, I set about googling ways to remedy the situation. I read through a bunch of complex solutions that would have been impossible given the temperamental state of the aforementioned stove before coming across a suggestion to just throw the sauce in a blender. Miraculously enough, it worked. A few whirls in the blender turned a curdled mess into a sauce as silky and creamy as any crème anglaise I’ve ever had. Thank goodness for the internet.
Other changes: left the bread out to dry the night before instead of toasting it, omitted the bourbon.
Pumpkin Cheesecake (via Smitten Kitchen)
Ah, the dessert that took 5 years off my life. After baking this cheesecake for ten minutes longer than the recommended time, the thing still jiggled like crazy. I gave it ten minutes more, then spent the next few hours obsessing over whether or not it would set. Luckily it did, and ended up looking exactly like the photos on the website. Crisis averted.
This cheesecake was good in terms of flavor, but I think I would like the filling to be a little more dense. Or maybe I did just underbake the thing. Who knows. I left the bourbon out of this recipe as well.
Rustic Apple Tart (via marthastewart.com)
I’m always looking for new apple desserts and this one seemed like a good variation on the traditional pie. I actually never got to taste this tart, as it was gone before I had a chance to, but everyone that tried it said it was good. However, if I had found it earlier I think I would have tried the Pioneer Woman’s approach to this dessert, as it seems infinitely easier and results in no pieces being left without those delicious puffed edges. Leave it to Martha to make things complicated.
Pecan Chocolate Pie (via She Wears Many Hats)
This was a “filler” dessert that I quickly threw together because I had all the ingredients and wanted to add something more traditional to the spread. I’m not a huge fan of pecan pie, but those that are said this one was great. Although the recipe doesn’t state this, I would recommend covering the edges of the pie crust in tin foil for all but the last twenty or so minutes of baking time. Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed a pattern already, my version of this pie was bourbon-free.
Baked Brie with Red Pepper Jelly (via Our Best Bites)
Ok, so I know this isn’t a dessert but I wanted to provide something not completely sugary in case people weren’t in the mood for sweets. So I served this baked brie and a mound of blue cheese drizzled with honey (sounds weird but is so good) alongside some sliced fruit and crackers. My only complaint about baked brie is that, unless you keep it warm somehow, it congeals fairly quickly, so I might not serve it next time I have a party like this. But I did love the combination of brie and red pepper jelly, especially when eaten with pear slices.