ENTERTAINING DEC 2012

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Serving just one dessert is so 2011.
This year, make the most of everyone’s favorite course by offering guests an array of tiny treats.

 

Turkey or ham is the centerpiece of many a holiday meal, but the true main attraction comes at the end of the feast: dessert. Whether it’s pumpkin pie, Bûche de Noël, or Grandma’s famous gingersnaps, the final course is what everyone secretly (or not so secretly) saves space for.


And this year, you can be sure to deliver. Having just one dessert to indulge in is a thing of the past. Sweet little cupcakes? Mini macarons? Tiny pies? No one is immune to this cuteness. “Mini desserts are just adorable,” confesses Dani Cone, the baker behind Seattle’s High 5 Pies and author of “Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory and Adorable Recipes” (Andrews McMeel, 2011). “A mini pie bite bursting with colorful fruit, rustic crust and a crumb top? What could be better?”


Then there’s the flavor. Tiny treats like macarons, a delicious filled French pastry, “pack a lot of flavor in their small size,” says Ann E. McBride, co-author with Kathryn Gordon of “Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home” (Running Press, 2011). “So while you can easily eat a couple and enjoy variety, you’ll also be satisfied with just one.”
Still another bonus? “Bite-sized desserts are naturally portion-controlled,” notes Carole Bloom, author of 10 dessert cookbooks, including “Bite-Size Desserts” (Wiley, 2009). “And they’re easy to handle. There’s no need to cut or slice or decide what size piece you want.”


These features combine to make small sweets perfect for holiday gatherings. “I love small things at parties, because I hate eating standing up,” says Deb Perelman, the accomplished cook and blogger behindsmittenkitchen.com and “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” (Random House, 2012). “If it takes more than one bite, it’s on your chin.”

Shrink the size of your holiday desserts and offer a variety so everyone can manage a taste – or manage to taste them all.

 

Make it delicious
When serving an assortment, you can keep to the classics and experiment, too. Our experts recommend seasonal flavors such as pumpkin and maple, perhaps with caramel or butterscotch, for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, offer spicy selections with cinnamon, ginger or mint in addition to chocolate. Perhaps a chocolate peppermint or gingerbread cake ball (a luscious truffle made of crumbled cake and frosting), suggest Robin Ankeny and Charlotte Lyon of The Cake Ball Co., based in Dallas, and authors of “Cake Balls” (Running Press, 2012), or a rich bourbon-pumpkin buttercream macaron.


Fruits of the season also are great choices. “If you have a basic vanilla cake recipe or one with fruit, you can switch it up,” Perelman says. “If you use peaches in the summer, use apples or pears in the fall. I’m also a big fan of cranberries in baked goods. They have a nice flavor when you add sugar, and they go well with orange and citrus, too.”
It’s also an option to choose simpler flavors, such as basic birthday cake or brownie, and add festive decorations to dress up your treats for the holiday occasion, note Ankeny and Lyon.


In addition to varying flavors, consider your selections to be sure you’ll offer a range of colors, textures, and styles. “Plan to have an assortment of bite-size desserts on your menu, such as tartlets, cakes, cookies, and candies,” Bloom says.

 

Make it Beautiful
Almost as fun as cooking and baking mini desserts is finding fabulous ways to display them. A cake ball or two can nestle in a serving spoon or become cake pops with the help of lollipop sticks. Cone loves to make piepops, too. Anything on a stick will look great nestled into a bouquet in a vase or glass, and Bloom suggests creative plating with dishes of different shapes, sizes, and colors, and even using pieces of slate and granite or baskets. Setting small items in mini-cupcake papers will make them pretty and easy to pick up, adds Perelman. 


Macarons, with their varied colors and neat, round shape, can be displayed countless ways. “I love displaying pastel macarons on antique tiered cake or cookie platters,” McBride says. Line them up in multicolored rows like gems or stack them in a pyramid, she suggests. Or, make a delicious edible centerpiece for your sweets table by pinning macarons to a foam shape (or attaching them with a bit of frosting), such as a tree or large ball.


Desserts this delightful may not wait until the end of the meal to make their debut. A mini pie could greet each guest at their assigned seat, perhaps even wrapped to take home as a party favor, says Cone, adding: “Have fun with this! There are so many ways to display these treats, and they look great piled high – a true pie bounty!”

 

Make it Manageable
Now, in all honesty, is making a batch of petit-four-sized pies more labor intensive than a standard nine-incher or two? Probably. But creating tiny treats doesn’t have to mean chaining yourself to the stove for days at a time. “It just requires planning, and maybe a good piping bag,” Perelman says.

Make it SMALL & SWEET

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The More the Merrier

Whether you love all-out Christmas extravagance or prefer a simpler celebration, our guide to celebrating the season offers essential tips for every size gathering.

6 Essential Rules to Hosting a Holiday Party on a Budget

Not a natural in the host or hostess role?
Actress and entertaining expert Tori Spelling reveals how even a novice can personalize a holiday party without breaking the bank

 

Think you need a big budget in order to throw a great holiday party?
Think again. Tori Spelling, star of the original version of the TV series, “Beverly Hills, 90210” and author of “celebraTORI: Unleashing Your Inner Party Planner to Entertain Friends and Family,” (Simon & Schuster, 2012), says that you can throw an upscale party on any budget.


“Let’s say you have a few hundred dollars budgeted, you can still do a knockout of a party,” she says. “Just utilize the four Fs: food, flowers, fun cocktails and favors!  It will always cost you less if you prepare the food rather than have a restaurant or caterer make it.”
She suggests a more affordable interactive food bar, such as a Thanksgiving- or Christmas-themed taco bar or a fun gourmet winter salad bar. “Lots of toppings in fun mismatched bowls looks great and festive, too,” she says.


For flowers, visit your local flower mart instead of hiring a florist.  “Great glass or silver serving pieces can double as vases and even small color glass tumblers look great holding one stem. Put clusters of them down the middle of a table or go totally DIY and buy very inexpensive mums or carnations and make flower balls to set out on tables or hang.”


Forgo buying special serving pieces or even investing in costly paper goods. Instead, use glassware, plates and serving pieces you already have. “If you still need pieces, borrow from family or friends or hit your local Goodwill or yard sale,” she says.
The biggest budget buster is alcohol, so Spelling says to just choose one or two fun signature drinks (named for the host or theme of party) and just serve that. “Guests will love the personal touch and you’ll appreciate not having to spend a lot of money on various alcohols,” Spelling says.


When it comes to favors, she always likes her guests to take a piece of the experience. “They don’t have to cost much at all,” she says. “For a holiday-themed spa party, I made homemade scrubs in Mason jars from elements in my kitchen and put labels on them thanking the guests for attending! If you made standout cookies at the party, make sure they each go home with a small bundle of them tied with twine and placed in a cute bag or box with a personal tag. It can be that simple! Personal details equal a party that feels like a million bucks!”


Most importantly, enjoy your hard work. “Parties equal passion,” she says. “If you’re throwing a party you are putting your all into it and it can be exhausting. Find that one moment during the party to step back and take in your accomplishment. Parties are not easy but successful ones are the ones planned with love. Realize how much fun your guests are having. Pat yourself on the back, discreetly of course  – that’s the moment you’ll start to relax!”

 

6 Key Tips
for Holiday Entertaining:


Inspiration Meets Execution
Everyone needs some reason to throw a party. At the holidays, the occasion is built in. Whether it’s an actual holiday, a winter birthday or an anniversary or a simple season like a winter wonderland, once you have your inspiration you can personalize it with details and execute it.


Budget, budget, budget
Set your budget before you start planning. Then make lines for food, beverage, decor and serving pieces (use your own glasses and dishware and mismatch them) and leave a little wiggle room knowing that small details and needs will always come up.


The Venue is Where It’s At
To be budget-friendly, throw your party at home! Whether it’s in your living room or outside in your yard or on your deck, it will save so much money not having to rent space. And visualize the space into the party venue of your dreams. Grab some strong arms (hubby alert) and move the furniture out of the space so you can create a bar and a food and dessert table (the three pinnacles of a party). Or move your living room furniture outside for an outdoor party! I love bringing the inside out for a party! Create a cozy, chic living-room atmosphere in your backyard. Guests will love it and you don’t have to rent furniture.


Set Date and Time and Invite!
Once you know what type of party you will have and where it will be, then decide on a date and time and get to the invitations. Remember that invitations are the first impression people get for your party, so make them personal! Even handwritten invite notes for an intimate get-together gain kudos from guests and set the tone. If, for time sake, you must email invites, try to send a personal email with a personal picture. There are now many apps online which help you create pics and fonts to make something personal.


Great Guest List
Don’t just invite everyone in your contact list. Be discerning depending on the guest of honor and the type of party you are throwing. Always invite people who will add positive energy to your party and make sure everyone invited knows at least one other guest there!


Let Them Eat Cake!
I truly believe that a small or large dessert table is the focal point and conversation piece of any party. Sweets make the world go round and it’s a great opportunity to personalize and decorate a great table.

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