A sweet idea: Skip dinner, serve desserts


When you want to have as much fun at your own party as your guests do, try a dessert party. Nearly everything can be done in advance, keeping last-minute preparations to a minimum and letting you enjoy your friends instead of fussing in the kitchen.

Chocolate Chunk-Hazelnut Cake With Pureed Raspberries and Whipped Cream

Yields 12 pieces


1 cup shelled hazelnuts

1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

6 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur

2 teaspoons powdered sugar


1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries in light syrup

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. For cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the hazelnuts in a small baking pan and toast in oven 10 minutes. Cool slightly before putting into a kitchen towel, close towel and rub together to remove the skins. Grind finely in a food processor.

2. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper; grease and flour the pan. Combine the chocolate and 1 tablespoon flour; combine the remaining 3 tablespoons flour and the baking powder. Set aside.

3. Cream butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add sugar and blend well. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and blend thoroughly. Beat in flour and liqueur until combined; then beat in the hazelnuts. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg whites into the batter. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into the pan, place on a baking sheet and bake in 350-degree oven 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool a few minutes in the pan.

5. Remove sides of cake pan; invert cake and remove pan bottom and parchment paper. (The bottom of the cake will look slightly under done.) Cool completely before wrapping well. (The cake can be frozen at this point; defrost at room temperature before serving.)

6. To prepare the raspberries: Puree the raspberries with the syrup in a food processor. Strain through a fine strainer, stirring with a spoon to force the puree through. Cover and refrigerate.

7. Just before serving, whip the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until thickened. Sift 2 teaspoons powdered sugar over the cake. Serve with a spoonful of the pureed raspberries and whipped cream on the side of each wedge of cake. (From "The TriBeCa Cookbook" by Mary Cleaver, Joy Simmen Hamburger and Mimi Shanley Taft)

Brownie Pie

Serves 12


1 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons cold water

vegetable cooking spray


1 cup hazelnuts

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. To prepare the crust: Blend together the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt. Add the butter, working until crumbly. Stir in the vanilla and water, making a dough that holds together when pressed.

2. Spray a 9-inch glass pie pan with cooking spray. Press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

3. To prepare the filling: Put the hazelnuts into a small baking pan and toast in a 350-degree oven 10 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cool slightly and put into a kitchen towel. Close the towel and rub together to remove the skins from the nuts. Chop nuts coarsely.

4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir to blend and cool slightly.

5. With an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until fluffy; beat in the vanilla and then the flour, salt and baking powder. Beat in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the nuts and pour into the crust.

6. Bake in a 325-degree oven 25-30 minutes, until just done in the center. Cool on a rack.

7. Just before serving, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Beat in the vanilla and powdered sugar until stiffened. Serve a dollop of the cream on each wedge of pie. (From "Great Desserts" by Mardee Haidin Regan)

Ginger Cheesecake

Serves 14


vegetable cooking spray

1 cup fine gingersnap crumbs

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

4 tablespoons melted margarine


2 pounds light cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup light sour cream

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger

1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel

1. To prepare the crust: Spray a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable cooking spray. With a fork, stir together the gingersnap crumbs, powdered sugar and margarine. Press into the bottom of the pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

2. To prepare the cheesecake: In a food processor or with an electric mixer combine half of the cream cheese with the sour cream, sugar and eggs, blending until smooth. Add the remaining cream cheese in small pieces, blending until smooth. Mix in the ginger root, candied ginger and orange peel.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes. The center of the cheesecake will still have a little shine. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours.

4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the sides of the pan. When cutting the cheesecake, wipe the blade between each cut.

Pear Crisp

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups red wine

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

6 whole cloves

4 medium-sized, ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced

1/2 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons diced candied orange peel or 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 1/2 cups fine gingersnap crumbs

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons melted margarine

1. In a large nonaluminum pan, combine the wine, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add the pears, cover with a circle of parchment paper, and simmer 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the pears to a plate. Boil the syrup 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves; reserve 1/2 cup syrup.

2 Combine the pears, raisins and orange peel. Combine the gingersnap crumbs, almonds, brown sugar, flour and 2 tablespoons melted margarine or butter; stir with a fork until combined well.

3. Spoon half of the pears into a baking dish and sprinkle with half of the crumbs. Pour 1/4 cup wine syrup over. Repeat the layers, using all of the crumbs; sprinkle 1 tablespoon melted margarine over the top.

4. Bake in a 350-degree oven 40 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Or cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a 300-degree oven, or in a microwave, just until heated through. (Adapted from "Italy in Small Bites" by Carol Field)

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