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This is the season for graduations, showers and a host of other occasions – all reasons to have a spring get together with friends and family.  To entertain with elegance, not extravagance, host a dessert party. People will love you for giving them the chance to be just a bit indulgent. A dessert buffet works well in the late afternoon or as an after dinner event. You can easily make the buffet smaller or larger simply by subtracting or adding desserts.

Keep the setting simple: Let single-flower arrangements and the beautiful desserts displayed at interesting levels in plain sight put the focus on what the guests really came for – a good time. Set up the buffet table―minus the desserts and beverages―the night before.

Before setting out your dessert spread, keep these table tips in mind.

  • If you have a cake stand, use it. The height will add visual impact to the table and will offer a bit of extra space on the crowded buffet table.
  • Set out dishes of your favorite chocolates or chocolate-covered nuts.
  • Place the plates at the far end of the table, the desserts in the middle and the beverages, cutlery and napkins at the other end of the buffet table.
  • Depending on how many guests you’ve invited, you may or may not have enough “real” dessert-sized plates, beverage glasses and wine goblets. Disposable serveware is perfectly okay. You could also borrow some plates and glasses from friends—that’s okay too. It’s not essential that all the glasses and plates match
  • You can never have too many cocktail napkins, both on the buffet and on end tables.

Beverages and Desserts 

There’s no need to offer a full bar – regular and decaffeinated coffee, several kinds of tea and a sparkling wine and a fruity white wine are more than enough.

Select desserts with contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. Mix sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, add a pleasing spice or highlight a big, bold taste — like dark chocolate!

Make one showstopping dessert to dazzle your guests and let the others play minor, but still important, roles.

It’s smart to provide some lighter sweets to go along with the decadent ones — for example, a fresh fruit platter. Cookies are always a big hit — especially if children are present.

Plan as many make-ahead desserts as will work well on your menu. All of the desserts below can be made well in advance of your party.

Preslice cakes, pies and tarts, but do not separate the slices. Arrange cookies in baskets, plates or unique decorative containers.

party time 1

Honey Cheesecake

To keep the cheesecake from cracking, run a knife between the crust and pan a few minutes after removing it from the oven. The cheesecake will cool and condense without sticking to the pan’s sides.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup finely ground walnuts
  • 1/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds light cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup regular evaporated milk (not low-fat) (you may also use heavy cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh berries

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Brush the inside of 8 or 9 inch springform pan with melted butter.

Mix walnuts and cookie crumbs in small bowl; spread evenly in the pan, coating the bottom and sides.

Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup honey with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, scraping down bowl’s sides occasionally, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in milk and vanilla. Beat in flour, cinnamon and salt.

Pour into the crumb covered pan.

Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly browned and a little puffed. Cheesecake will jiggle in the center but will set as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and garnish with fresh berries.

party time 2

Hazelnut Truffles

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 (6-ounce) package white chocolate baking squares
  • 2 (2-ounce) chocolate candy coating squares

Directions

Bake hazelnuts in a shallow pan at 350°F, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream in a 2-cup glass measuring cup at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until chips melt, stirring twice. Stir in liqueur.

Pour into a wax paper-lined 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan; freeze 2 hours or until firm to touch.

Shape 1/2 teaspoon chocolate mixture around each hazelnut, coating completely and place on wax paper.

Microwave white chocolate baking squares in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring twice.

spring party 1

Truffle Mold

 

Coat plastic candy molds with a thin layer of white chocolate using a small paintbrush; let stand 1 hour or until firm. Place coated hazelnuts in molds; brush with remaining white chocolate, sealing to edges of molds. Let stand at room temperature 1 1/2 hours or until firm.

Invert molds; tap firmly on cutting board to remove candy.

Microwave coating in a 1-cup glass measuring cup 1 minute or until melted, stirring once. Pour into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag; drizzle over truffles. Let stand until firm.

spring party 2

 

Lemon-Coconut Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low-speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest and 1/2 cup coconut.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).

To make glaze:

Whisk together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and fresh lemon juice, adding an additional 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, for desired consistency

Spoon Lemon Glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.

Watermelon Salad. Moreton's House 712 Greenwood, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5923. W: 919 967 2185 C: 919 260 7465 www.nealsdeli.com A100527_F&W_NealsDeli_Sept_2010

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime

Lightly salting the watermelon brings out its flavor.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon chunks (1 inch), from a 6-pound melon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • Salt

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon chunks with the lime juice and cayenne. Fold in the mint leaves. Season lightly with salt and chill until serving time.

MAKE AHEAD The watermelon salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fold in the torn mint leaves just before serving.

party time 5

Bourbon-Brownie Petit Fours

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bourbon 
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Milk Chocolate Frosting/Semisweet Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • One 5 3/4 ounce package milk chocolate chips
  • 16 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt and stir butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together bourbon and coffee granules; set aside.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in vanilla and bourbon mixture.

In a small bowl stir together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut off the edges of brownie and save for another use.

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

For Milk Chocolate Frosting:

Transfer 1/2 cup of the hot cream to a small bowl. Add milk chocolate chips (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

For Semisweet Chocolate Glaze:

Add semisweet chocolate chips to the remaining hot cream in the saucepan, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

When ready to glaze petits fours, reheat Semisweet Chocolate Glaze over medium-low heat to reach pouring consistency, stirring constantly.

For petits fours:

Cut brownies into 1- to 1-1/2-inch squares. Coat petits fours with Semisweet Chocolate Glaze.

For Milk Chocolate Rosettes:

Beat the reserved cooled milk chocolate mixture with an electric mixer about 30 seconds or until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes in the center of each petit four.

spring party 7

Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies

Yield: about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup snipped dried red cherries (6 ounces)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour. Stir in oats and dried cherries.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

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