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Tastes of the holidays: Five festive desserts

The McCormick folks like to keep an eye on food trends, and they’ve recently identified five flavor pairings they expect to be big this holiday season.
If you’re looking for some fresh new dessert ideas, look no further.
“We’re putting a spin on holiday sweets this year,” said Kevan Vetter, excutive chef at McCormick. “By looking at timeless holiday flavors and the latest trends, such as nostalgic desserts, regional influences and restaurant-inspired small-bite indulgences, we have transformed celebratory favorites into contemporary seasonal treats.”
Here are the top flavor pairings according to the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2009: Holiday Edition:
– Ginger & Molasses ó The duo behind timeless gingerbread is cleverly reinvented from a childhood classic into contemporary goodies for all ages.
– Warm Spices & Pumpkin ó The aromatic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice unites with creamy pumpkin to inspire remakes of its namesake pie.
– Peppermint & Chocolate ó This refreshing yet sweet combination comes together in everything from a festive martini to a chocolate tart.
– Vanilla & Red Food Color ó The lush, alluring flavor of vanilla and the joyous hue of red transform the show-stopping qualities of red velvet cake into updated indulgences.
– Nutmeg & Rum ó The unforgettable essence of eggnog comes out of the punch bowl as inspired treats for breakfast and the dessert table.
Though the flavors may be familiar, updated recipes invigorate these classic pairings. Spicy and tangy Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Lemon Creme are a playful take on timeless gingerbread. Chocolate Tarts with Peppermint Creme are like tiny presents for the mouth, filled with cool mint and silky chocolate. And, packing all the warm flavors of the definitive holiday beverage into bite-sized treats, the essentials of eggnog converge as Eggnog Truffles.
Regionally and classically inspired Americana also pays a visit to holiday tables this season. Everyone will welcome Caramel Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars, a modern rendition of the classic pie. And, in need of no introduction, Red Velvet Cheesecake packs all the drama of the Southern centerpiece dessert in a decadent modern package.
McCormick also suggests these twists to old favorites ó as easy as a sprinkle of spice.
– Convert a traditional sugar cookie to a nutmeg spice cookie by adding ground nutmeg to the dough before baking. Top baked cookies with cream cheese frosting enhanced with a few drops of Rum Extract.
– Crush peppermint candies in a small bowl or food processor. Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a sauce pan, cool slightly and flavor with a few drops of Peppermint Extract. Dip one half of a large marshmallow into the melted mint chocolate and then in the peppermint pieces. Place on parchment to dry. Serve on a festive candy platter or float in a cup of hot cocoa.
– Transform vanilla milkshakes into a taste of the season. Add a generous spoonful of Pumpkin puree and a dash of Pumpkin Pie Spice to vanilla ice cream and milk to create a smooth ice cream treat.
The following recipes are courtesy of McCormick. For more recipes and tips, visit www.McCormick.com.
Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Lemon Creme
3 C. flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp.baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened, divided
3/4 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C. molasses
1 egg
1/4 C. granulated sugar
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow cream
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 C. crushed peppermint candies
Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Beat 3/4 cup of the butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies just begin to brown. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
Mix marshmallow cream, remaining 1/4 cup butter, cream cheese and extract in medium bowl until well blended. Place about 1 tablespoon filling on the flat side of 1 cookie. Top with a second cookie, pressing gently to spread the filling. Repeat with remaining cookies. Roll edge of cookies in crushed candy. Store whoopie pies between layers of wax paper in airtight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen.
Caramel Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
2 C. flour
2 C. rolled oats
1 1/2 C. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 C. canned pumpkin
7 ounces (1/2 of 14-ounce package) caramels, unwrapped
2 Tbsp. milk
Mix flour, oats, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add butter; stir until mixture is well blended and forms coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 (about 2 1/4 cups) for the topping. Add pumpkin to remaining mixture in bowl; stir until well blended. Press evenly into greased foil-lined 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Set aside.
Microwave caramels and milk in medium microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after every minute. Let stand 1 minute. Pour over pumpkin mixture in pan, spreading to within 1/2-inch of edges. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 24 bars.
Makes 2 dozen.
Chocolate Tarts with Peppermint Creme
2 packages (15 shells each) frozen mini phyllo shells
1/3 C. plus 3/4 C. heavy cream, divided
4 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into chunks
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. pure peppermint extract
Prepare phyllo shells as directed on package for crisp unfilled tarts. Cool completely.
Microwave 1/3 cup of the cream and chocolate in microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 minutes or until chocolate ganache starts to thicken. Spoon a heaping teaspoon ganache into each tart shell. Cool completely.
Beat cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and extract in medium bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add 1/2 of the whipped cream to cream cheese mixture; stir until well blended. Gently stir in remaining whipped cream.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon Peppermint Creme into each tart. Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 30 tarts.
Test Kitchen Tip: Mini phyllo shells are available in the frozen section of most supermarkets.
Flavor Variations: Creme filling may also be prepared with 1/2 teaspoon raspberry or orange extract.
Red Velvet Cheesecake
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
1 Tbsp. red food color
1 prepared chocolate crumb crust (6 ounces)
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating on low speed, just until blended.
Measure 1 cup batter into medium bowl. Stir in melted chocolate and food color. Pour into crust. Top with remaining (plain) cheesecake batter.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely on wire rack.
Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
Makes 8 servings.
Test Kitchen Tip: Drizzle cheesecake with chocolate or hot fudge dessert topping just before serving.
Eggnog Truffles
1 pound white baking chocolate, divided
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1/4 C. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon imitation rum extract
Ground nutmeg (for sprinkling)
Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate as directed on package. Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, nutmeg and extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Add melted chocolate; beat until well mixed. Cover. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.
Shape into 24 (about 3/4-inch) balls. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip.
Coat only 12 truffles at a time. Melt 4 ounces of the remaining chocolate in small microwavable bowl on MEDIUM, 1 1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Using a fork, dip 1 truffle at a time into the chocolate. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Sprinkle truffles with nutmeg. Repeat with remaining 4 ounces chocolate and remaining truffles.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until chocolate is set. Store truffles in refrigerator up to 1 week.
Makes 2 dozen.
Test Kitchen Tip: When dipping the truffles, do so in 2 batches (as directed above in Step 3) as the coldness of the truffles may cause the melted chocolate to harden.
 
 
 

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