Set a dessert board with mini holiday treats

Bite-sized servings are perfect for intimate gatherings, allow larger groups to sample several sweets

    This is a holiday season unlike most we’ve had. Many people will be on their own, and even families that choose to gather together may be downsizing the crowd.
    There are many ways to downsize your main dishes for a smaller group, but it’s not always easy to reduce the size of a festive dessert.
    Mini-desserts may be the answer. These bite-sized treats are enough for dessert for a small group, but you can put out a tray of various types of these treats for a larger group — that way everyone gets to sample a few treats and select their favorites.
    It’s also an easy way to get the conversation going after the big meal — which goodies are the favorite? Why?
    You can find recipes that range from simple foods to more complex offerings, and flavor profiles that range from fruity to sweet with a complexity all their own.
    And think about the presentation. What would be prettier than a tray of goodies set out on the table?
    If you don’t feel like making an array of treats, you can always set out a variety of cookies, truffles, cupcakes and other sweets.
    After all, why should Santa be the only one who gets a tray of goodies?
    Following are some miniature desserts from

Mini Chocolate Snowball Cakes

For cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup warm water
For finishing:
3 cups shredded coconut
2-2/3 cups whipped topping or whipped cream

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar and sugar for four to five minutes, until light and fluffy.
    Add eggs one at a time, scraping the side of the bowl well after each is added. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
    In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add about half the flour mixture to the mixer, and mix on low speed to combine. Gradually add buttermilk and water and mix to combine. Add remaining flour mixture and mix to combine.
    Scoop batter into 16 even mounds on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Stagger the cakes, leaving at least two inches of space all around.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
    Trim the uneven edges from the cakes by pressing a three-inch circle cookie cutter or the rim of a large glass into the center of each cooled cake.
    Spread the coconut into an even layer on a large plate or baking sheet.
    Scoop 1/3 cup whipped topping or whipped cream onto one cake, then place another cake on top. Press down on the top cake until some of the filling comes out the sides. Use a spatula to spread this topping over the sides and top. Repeat with the remaining cakes and whipped cream.
    Roll cakes in the coconut to coat all over. Refrigerate until ready to serve. They will keep in the refrigerator, stored in an airtight container, for as long as a week.
    Makes eight cakes.


Cheater’s Mini Rhubarb Galettes

3 rounds of refrigerated pie dough
5 rhubarb stalks, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
Turbinado sugar, for finishing

    Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
    On a lightly floured surface, unroll one round of pie dough and flatten it. Cut into three even circles about 2-1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with the remaining pie dough.
    Transfer all nine circles of dough to two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cut rhubarb slices into pieces slightly shorter than the width of the rounds. Place four or five pieces side by side on top of each dough circle. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the rhubarb in each galette.
    Fold the perimeter of the dough up and over the rhubarb.
    In a small bowl, whisk egg with two tablespoons water. Lightly brush the egg wash evenly over the pie crusts. Sprinkle turbinado sugar generously around the edge.
    Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 22 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and very crisp. Let cool at least five minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    Makes nine galettes.


Churro Bites With Chocolate Sauce

For churros:
1/2 cup milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1-1/4 cups flour
3 large eggs
Vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For sauce:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

    In a medium saucepan, heat milk, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water over medium heat. When mixture comes to a simmer, add flour and stir about two minutes, until well combined.
    Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix on medium speed to combine. Transfer the batter to a piping bag or a gallon-size resealable plastic bag fitted with a large star tip.
     In a medium saucepot fitted with a thermometer, heat two inches of oil to about 350 degrees.
    Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl.
    Working in batches and being careful not to overcrowd the saucepot, pipe two-inch strips of churro batter directly into the oil and fry about four minutes, until golden brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer churros to a paper-towel-lined plate. While the churros are still warm, toss in the cinnamon sugar to coat.
    Place chocolate in a medium-size heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Pour hot cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 30 seconds, then stir until smooth.
    Serve churros immediately with chocolate sauce on the side for dipping.
    Makes six to eight servings.


Bite-Size Almond Raspberry Spoon Cakes

1/4 cup neutral oil such as vegetable or coconut
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons yogurt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
20 to 25 raspberries
Confectioners’ sugar

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then arrange 20 to 25 spoons on the baking sheet with at least 1/4 inch between them. Lightly grease the bowls of the spoons with nonstick spray.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, egg white, yogurt, vanilla extract and almond extract.
    Add the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt, then mix to combine. Use a spoon to scoop the batter into the bowls of the spoons, filling them about three-quarters full.
    Press a raspberry into the center of the batter in each spoon. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cakes puff up around the raspberry and appear set.
    Cool completely. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
    Makes 20 to 25 bites.


Chocolate-Stuffed Brownie Bites

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
24 small milk chocolate candies

    Heat a medium pot of water over medium-low heat. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cocoa powder, vegetable oil and chocolate. Place bowl over the pot of simmering water and stir until the butter and chocolate are melted and mixture is evenly combined.
    Remove bowl from the heat and whisk in sugar and light brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk to combine, then whisk in the vanilla.
    Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Spoon batter into the 24 greased cavities of a mini-muffin tin that’s been lightly greased, filling them just under the top edge of the pan. Press a piece of milk chocolate into the center of each.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until the brownies are shiny and set. Cool 15 minutes before unmolding from the pans.
    Makes 35 servings.


No-Bake Mini Mason Jar Spiced Cheesecakes

12-ounce package gingersnap cookies
16 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup red currant jelly
1-1/2 cups whipped cream

    In the bowl of a food processor, pulse cookies about two minutes, until they are fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl and wipe out the processor.
    Place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and heavy cream in the bowl of the food processor and process about three minutes, until smooth and combined.
    Arrange eight four-ounce mason jars or small serving cups on a baking sheet. Place three tablespoons gingersnap crumbs in each jar. Divide cheesecake mixture evenly among the jars. Chill 30 to 35 minutes, until set.
    Remove jars from the refrigerator and top each with two tablespoons red currant jelly, a dollop of whipped cream and some of the remaining gingersnap crumbs.
    Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap for as long as two days.
    Makes eight servings.


Mini Mason Jar Apple Pies

For filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or McIntosh apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For assembly:
2 packages store-bought pie dough
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1-1/2 teaspoons turbinado sugar

    In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples and sauté about five minutes, until nearly tender. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla extract and sauté for about two minutes. Cool to room temperature.
    On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough until it is flat and slightly thinner than it originally was. Cut dough into six three-inch circles and six two-inch circles.
    Place a three-inch circle into a 1/4-pint mason jar, pressing it firmly to the base and sides and taking care not to poke holes in it. Trim any excess from the top edge with a paring knife. Repeat with the remaining three-inch circles and five more jars.
    Scoop cooled filling into the pastry-lined jars, mounding it about 1/2 inch over the top rim. Place the two-inch rounds over the filling and tuck the edges under so they meet the edge of the jar. Crimp edges with your fingers or a fork, then chill pies for 10 minutes.
    Whisk egg and water together to combine. Use a pastry brush to brush egg wash over each pie top, then sprinkle the top of each with 1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar. Cut small vents into the top of each pie with a paring knife.
    Place jars on a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pies are golden brown. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
    Makes six mini pies.


Mini No-Bake Gingersnap Icebox Cakes

1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for finishing
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
36 thin gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup caramel sauce

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip heavy cream with confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract to medium peaks.
    Arrange six cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet that will fit in your refrigerator. Top a cookie with one tablespoon whipped cream. Place another cookie on top and press lightly until the cream nearly reaches the edge. Top with another tablespoon whipped cream and another cookie. Continue layering in this way until you have six, six-cookie stacks.
    Top the sixth cookie of each stack with two tablespoons whipped cream and a pinch of cinnamon.
    Transfer baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill for at least 90 minutes and as long as overnight. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
    To serve, garnish each stack with two teaspoons caramel sauce.
    Makes six cakes.




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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