Bountiful buffet of sweet treats

December 24, 1997|By Linda Gassenheimer | Linda Gassenheimer,KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

The holiday party season is upon us, and there is no better way to entertain family and friends than with a dessert buffet. Whether it's afternoon or evening, a pretty table filled with cakes, cookies and other sweets is sure to create a festive mood. Better yet, the desserts I've selected can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated so that you can enjoy the party, too.

Cheesecake is always a winner, and the white-chocolate and raspberry topping I've added to this one brightens the table. It takes just a few minutes to blend the ingredients, and the cake can be made and frozen up to a month ahead.

The Pecan Caramel-Glazed Brownies are adapted from "Classic Home Desserts" by Richard Sax, a book filled with tempting recipes. They taste even better the second or third day, and freeze beautifully -- all the more reason to bake them in advance. Sax wrote that they make a good gift, wrapped individually or by the panful, so you may want to make an extra batch.

A colorful bowl of fresh fruit salad adds a light touch that complements the puddings and cakes. Tipsy Fruit Salad uses cut-up fruits from the supermarket or a salad bar to shorten your preparation time. You can easily put this together the day of the party.

The final recipe harks back to the delightful, Dickens-like Christmases my family enjoyed years ago in England, where many tables are still laden with Victorian sweets such as sugarplums. My children used to love to help make them and bring some to their teachers. Sugarplums can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Serve them on several small dishes on the buffet table.

If you like, finish your table with favorite store-bought chocolates and Christmas cookies. Add champagne, mulled wine or flavored coffees and tea, and you have a great party that's easy to plan, make and serve.

White-Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake

Makes 10 servings

vegetable oil spray

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs

2 ounces white chocolate

1 3/4 pound cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup fine granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces sour cream


3 tablespoons raspberry jam

4 ounces white chocolate

1 tablespoon whipping cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Mix butter and cookie crumbs together well and press into bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes, and set aside to cool.

Melt chocolate in the microwave (1 minute on half power, then 1 minute on high) or in the top of a double boiler. Set aside. Put a kettle of water on to boil. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Beat in melted white chocolate, vanilla and sour cream just until smooth. Spoon batter into prepared pan, and place inside a roasting pan. Set the roasting pan on the middle shelf of the oven and add enough boiling water to come 2 inches up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 250 degrees and bake 1 1/2 hours more. The top of the cake should be firm to the touch and cream-colored, not brown. Set the springform pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool completely.

For the topping, melt jam and strain it through a sieve. Melt chocolate as described above and stir in the cream. Spread chocolate mixture over the top of the cooled cake; drizzle on melted jam, swirling it with a small spoon. Refrigerate until hardened, and cover top of cake with plastic wrap. To freeze, loosen sides of springform pan, and wrap entire pan securely with foil.

Note: Using a water bath keeps this cheesecake moist. The relatively long, low-temperature baking keeps it from browning and cracking.

Per serving: 557 calories, 10 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrate, 44 grams fat, 67 percent calories from fat, 0.1 gram fiber, 174 mg cholesterol, 315 mg sodium.

Pecan Caramel-Glazed Brownies

Makes about 16 brownies

2 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 large eggs

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

24 caramels (7 to 8 ounces)

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. With an electric mixer at medium speed, mix the sugar, butter, eggs and cocoa just until blended. Lower the speed to slow and add the flour and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla; mix very briefly, just until the flour is partially blended in. Spread the batter evenly in the pan; scatter the chopped pecans over the top. Bake until the edges are dry and a toothpick inserted near the center emerges covered with moist crumbs, usually about 40 minutes. Do not overbake or the brownies will not be fudgy. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

When brownies are cool, melt the caramels in a heavy saucepan, stirring until smooth. Do not let them boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and the cream. While the caramel mixture is still warm, drizzle it over the top of the brownies. Let stand until cool.

Note: When measuring the flour, spoon it lightly into the cup and then level. Be sure to wait until the brownies are completely cooled before cutting.

Source: Adapted from "Classic Home Desserts" by Richard Sax, Chapters, $29.95

Per serving: 407 calories, 5 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrate, 26 grams fat, 53 percent calories from fat, 1.4 grams fiber, 90 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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