The Kitchen Prep: Thanksgiving Special Edition: Sweets!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Special Edition: Sweets!

Let's have a quick recap of the side dishes I've shared so far this week, shall we?

There's Sausage, Kale, & Butternut Squash Stuffing/Dressing...

Lemon-Scented Broccoli Souffle...

Provencal Potato Gratin...

... and Caramel Apple Sweet Potato Casserole.

But I know you're all, "Yeah, yeah, that's real nice and all. What about dessert? Give me the sugaaaaaaaaarrr!"

I've got you covered. Even those of you that aren't bakers. So, tie on your apron... and prepare for a sugar rush!

You know how sometimes people make things that nobody really likes {i.e. fruitcake} because it's tradition? Well, I sort of feel that way about pumpkin pie.

I know that is a sacrilege to some of you. But if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: I prefer to take my calories in the form of cheesecake.



I think I will make an exception for this Amaretto Pumpkin Pie with Almond Praline.


Boozy pie with cookies in the crust? SOLD.


I know some of you are already stepping quite outside of your comfort zone by cooking/baking anything at all. And I don't want to overwhelm you by throwing in something like pie... with homemade crust.

So settle down and check out these little babies:


Nutty Coconut Caramels.

Five ingredients. Done in under 10 minutes. Made in the microwave. Absolutely addictive. And perfect for sharing with your "nutty" family members.


Because let's face it... after all those fabulous sides you're making this year {and, oh yeah, the turkey}... who's going to have room for anything bigger than one of these caramels?

{Me... Oops. Did I just say that?}

I have one last thing to share that has become somewhat of a tradition in my family: Gourmet Caramel Apples.


I call them "gourmet" because I get pretty fancy with them and end up with apples that look like the ones that are sold for $12 a pop in chocolate shops & department stores... except mine cost a fraction of the price. These apples can be as involved or uninvolved as you'd like them to be: Cover them in chocolate, nuts, sprinkles or candy; make them fussy or messy; or coat them in caramel and call it a day. Whatever you do with them, I can assure you that eyes will light up when you bring them to the party.


I've given them as favors, arranged them in a gift basket, and have even made pretty tags and used them as place cards. They are always a hit.

No matter which dessert you choose to make this year, I just know it will put the perfect finishing touch on your Thanksgiving meal.

Wishing you & yours the most wonderful Thanksgiving. I am truly thankful for so many things... including you!



The Kitchen Prep

Amaretto Pumpkin Pie with Almond Praline
adapted from Food Network Magazine

For Crust:

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup crushed amaretti cookies {or any almond cookie} - about 10 cookies
1/4 ice cold water

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles grated cheese.

2. Slowly pour in cold water while continuing to process {about 1 tablespoon at a time} until a dough ball forms. {If dough becomes too wet, just add a little more flour.}

3. Press into pie dish, pushing up the sides. Poke dough with a fork, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until chilled.

For Filling:
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover chilled pie dough with foil, and fill with pie weights or dry beans to weigh down. Bake for about 25 minutes.
2. Remove foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth and incorporated.
4. Pour into pie crust and bake for about an hour or until the pie is mostly set. {It will still be slightly jiggly in the middle.} Cool completely.
For Praline:
Nonstick cooking spray, for baking mat
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
** Prepare a baking pan by lining with a silicone baking mat. Spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray. {You may be able to use parchment sprayed with non-stick cooking spray if you do not have baking mats, though I did not use this method.} You will need to move quickly once you are ready to pour the hot sugar onto the mat, so have everything ready.
1. In a heavy bottomed pot, cook sugar and 1 tablespoon water over medium high heat until it comes to a boil, swirling the pan every so often  instead of stirring.
2. When sugar turns honey brown, remove from heat and stir in sliced almonds and salt.
3. Pour onto prepared non-stick surface and spread with a spatula in as thin of a layer as possible.
4. Cool completely. Once cool, break into small pieces.
5. Sprinkle praline over pie before serving.

Nutty Coconut Caramels
adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

1 tablespoon butter
24 chewy caramels, such as Kraft
3/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup salted peanuts

1. Prepare an 8x8 inch pan by lining with foil {overlapping from pan for easy removal} and spraying lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a microwave safe bowl, combine all ingredients and microwave on high for 30 second intervals for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, stirring often to combine.

3. Press into baking pan and sprinkle with remaining coconut flakes.

4. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until set. Remove from pan using overlapping foil handles, and cut into squares.

5. Wrap in parchment or waxed paper if desired.

Gourmet Caramel Apples

4 large apples, your choice {I used Granny Smith & Honeycrisp}
1 bag wrapped caramels {such as Kraft}, unwrapped
Approximately 1 cup dark, milk, or semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Assorted toppings such as walnuts, almonds, sprinkles, candy, etc.

Other: Popsicle sticks or large lollipop sticks

1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Place unwrapped caramels in medium bowl. Microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, stopping every 45 seconds or so to stir. Remove when melted and smooth.

3. Skewer apples onto popsicle or lollipop sticks. Dip apples into caramel, rotating slowly until completely coated in caramel. Allow excess to drip into bowl and lightly scrape the bottom on the side of the bowl.

4. Place onto prepared pan and refrigerate to set, about 30 minutes.

5. Once caramel is set, place melted chocolate into a piping bag or zip-top plastic bag with the tip snipped. Drizzle caramel coated apples with desired amount of chocolate.

6. While chocolate is wet, sprinkle with desired toppings such as nuts or candy. Place back on baking sheet and refrigerate to allow chocolate to set, about 15-20 minutes.

7. At this point, you can continue to coat the apples with other drizzles or toppings as desired, repeating refrigeration process between coats.

8. When completely fully set, package in cellophane bags.


Sloane@ Life Food and Beer said...

The apples look amazing!! I would be so fat if I made all these sweets! I do not know enough people in Florida to bake a lot. My Husband does not eat sweets:(

Louise Roberts said...

Not special only super special! Almond is most favorite to me so I like any kinds of sweet dish with the touch of almond. It's healthier and highly enrich of food value. Thank you so very much for placing some awesome dishes for the special festivals to make these more special.
halal sweets

Take A Bite Out of Boca said...

Those coconut caramels sound so good!!! And easy!!! I think I may have to make them. Thanks for the recipe! Have a Happy Thanksgiving :)

Dianna Muscari said...

Thanks, Sloane! I definitely have to plan ahead & think about who I will share all these sugary goodies with... otherwise I'd be going up a dress size every week! ;) Hope you had a perfect first Thanksgiving as Mr. & Mrs.!

Dianna Muscari said...

Thanks, Louise! I love almonds, too, and they were delicious in this pie!

Dianna Muscari said...

Thanks Shaina! They are a super quick, super yummy treat! Let me know how you like them! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. :)

Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Um, so, I'm coming to your house for the next holiday, mmkay? I want all of this, especially those caramels!

Dianna M. said...

@Dorothy - Any time! ;) I think those caramels will be making another appearance soon... everyone who tried them couldn't get enough. And they are SO easy to make!

Joan Hayes said...

Just found you via Dorothy. I was about to be upset with her when at the top of the post you have "healthy" food, lol. Then I saw your caramels and your caramel apples (gorgeous!)Can't wait to try them. So glad to meet you!

Dianna M. said...

@Joan - Thanks so much for visiting! I do try to temper the bad with the good... everything in moderation, right? ;) Great meeting you, too!

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