My Thanksgiving Dessert Menu

Thanksgiving snuck up on me like a ninja this year. There I was, enjoying Halloween and the next thing I knew, Thanksgiving was all up in my grill!

As I've mentioned before, my mom and I go to town on dessert making every Thanksgiving. We're focused, we're fierce and we know how to get desserts did. Before the holiday, we have a sit-down to discuss our dessert menu. It's fun to mull over which favorites to bring back and what new recipes we'd like to try out. This year, our dessert chat went well and we were happy with our final line-up. So, without further ado, here is this years Thanksgiving Dessert Menu:

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
This dessert is a must as it's a huge hit in my family. These bars are so approachable, just sitting there with their decadent dark chocolate chips and chewy peanut butter looking at you. They never make it to the actual dessert course because of their delicious factor, so we fondly refer to them as "appetizers."

Image courtesy of parentpretty.com

Pumpkin Roll Cake
It ain't a Thanksgiving without seasonal gourds, ammi right? This dessert has been one of our off and on regulars. It's creamy, nutty and of course, delightfully pumpkiny. It's a bit of a process to make so we tackle this the night before Thanksgiving. Note: Once completed, it looks like a weird orange log, but I assure you, it's darn tasty.

Image courtesy of bigflavorstinykitchen.com

Grandma Ople's Apple PIe
My mom discovered this recipe a few Thanksgivings ago and it's quickly become our go-to apple pie recipe. Sadly, Grandma O isn't a member of my family, but man do I wish she was because homegirl really nailed this recipe. It's actually more of a caramel apple pie as it's topped with a friendly layer of caramel that turns a classic apple pie into a bombtastic apple pie.

Ginger Molasses Cookies
Seasonal, easy, but most importantly, tastilicious. It's wise to have a few easy grab desserts to snack on while Aunt Bun is talking your ear off.

Chocolate Cake with Easy Fudge Frosting
For the chocolate fans in my family. Pair any simple chocolate cake with this AMAZING fudge frosting and you can't lose. We make sure to choose quality chocolate for both parts; it's the most important ingredient in chocolate desserts, in my humble opinion.

Image courtesy of The Cook's Alelier

Lemon Tart
This dessert is a new-comer that we're trying out for the first time. We thought another fruity number would be a good addition to the group. Also, I'm WELL overdue to make a tart after I idiotically proclaimed that this was going to be the "year of the tart!" Yeah, I haven't made a single tart since uttering that <hangs head in shame>.

Image courtesy of thekitchensinkrecipes.com

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Another Thanksgiving dessert must! Homemade ice cream is a tradition my uncle used to manage, but now my cousin and husband have taken on the task. This year we're going with Vanilla Bean for one of the flavs, simply because it's compatible with most of the above desserts.

Before you bake this week, here are a couple tips:
• If you're making more than a few desserts, plan ahead! Select your recipes and make your store run several days before (although, we're guilty of sending my dad on <multiple> store runs Thanksgiving morning).
• For your pie crust, use the refrigerated Pillsbury Pie Dough (found in the refrigerated section in grocery stores, near the yogurts usually). Rumor has it is that some pastry chefs claim that it tastes just as good as homemade dough. So make your life easy by using this!

• Some people are sticklers about not going rogue and only making traditional desserts for the holidays, but I think as long as you have a few seasonal items, it's OK to segue away from these (without drawing too much attention).

Good luck and god speed with your holiday baking friends!

The Perfect Ice Cream Sundae Bar

What should one do with a healthy amount of leftover salted caramel? Eat it by the spoonful (guilty), top an apple with it (apple bathed in caramel > yawn.com apple), OR create an ice cream sundae bar around it? YES. I was into this sundae bar concept because it sounded fun, interactive, pretty low effort and it happened to be Sunday as well. The beauty of it is that it's a no-fail dessert that you can dial up or down as much as you'd like. I decided to dial it up to 11 because that's what I do. I crafted two sundae bars- one for a Game of Thrones viewing party (sundaes and strong adult content go really well together) and one for a family get together (fun for the whole famn damily!) I am pleased to report that both were smashing successes.

Here's the lowdown on how to create the perfect sundae bar:

Ice Cream: Several pints, several flavors. Definitely get Vanilla and Chocolate at the very least. My personal sundae favorite: Mint Chocolate Chip. Want to make your own? We loved the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream my hubs made. Recipe below.
Hot Fudge & Caramel Sauce: You've gotta have a hot situation for your ice cream to sit in and get drizzled upon. It's a must for a sundae. Along with Salted Caramel Sauce, I made Hot Fudge Sauce (both recipes below). Feeling lazy? Snag one of these and these. I won't judge.
Toppings: Chopped roasted peanuts, Mini Chocolate ChipsMini Butterscotch Chips (mini is my pref, but regular-sized is cool too), Rainbow or Chocolate Sprinkles.
•Baked Good: A Chocolate Chip Cookie or Brownie provide a lovely base or topper to your sundae.
Whipped Cream: One pint with 4 T sugar should be enough to heavily dollop your finished masterpiece. Beat cream until soft peaks form.
Maraschino Cherries: Optional. I'm a sucker for these, but some say they are terrible for you <shrugs and pops cherry in mouth>.

Pro Tip: My mom told me when she was a waitress back in the day, her insider tip for making pretty sundaes was to first spread the sauce all along the inside walls of the glass with the back of a spoon. It looks fancier and gives you a better sundae eating experience. She also mentioned that it gives you the illusion of having more sauce than you actually do. Sneaky sneaky. Thanks madre!

Hot Fudge Sauce
Recipe from browneyedbaker.com
Yield: 2 heaping cups

Ingredients
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder Pro Tip: How to know if it's Dutch? If it doesn't say those exact words on the package, look for "processed with Alkali" in the ingredients.
¼ teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided in half. Pro Tip: I tried both Ghirardelli & Scharffen Berger and preferred the latter simply because it was richer.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
1.  In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt and half of the chocolate to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low (enough to maintain a low simmer), and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate, the butter, and the vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes before using (it will thicken as it cools). Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute until it's pourable but still thick.

Salted Caramel Sauce
Recipe from ringfingertanline.com
Yield: 2 heaping cups

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, warmed
3 tsp fleur de sel (Pro Tip: I only used 2 tsp which was plenty salty)

Directions
1.  Combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. This is the only time you can stir the sugar. If you stir it while it's cooking, it turns to rock candy. Place the saucepan over medium to low heat until the sugars start to dissolve, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sugar starts to caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes (Pro Tip: this took me more like 9 mins). Do not stir while this is happening. You've got to watch the pot, because it goes from caramel to burnt really quickly. And be careful, the mixture is extremely hot!
2.  Turn off the heat and stand back to avoid splattering. Slowly add the cream. Don't panic - the cream will bubble violently, and the caramel will solidify. Just give it more time to liquefy again-trust me!
3.  Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Pro Tip: if your caramel is too liquidity (mine was 5/6 times I've made this), simmer over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes. It's not a bad idea to do this regardless for 5 mins, just to be safe.
4.  Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits. Stir in salt. Pro Tip: I transferred mine to a container after 2 hrs, it was cool enough.

Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Recipe from Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book
Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract OR 1 vanilla bean, scraped

Directions
1.  Whip the eggs and sugar together with a whisk until fluffy (but not firm).
2.  Add the rest of the ingredients into the eggs and sugar. Whisk together until well mixed.
3.  Place in ice cream maker and follow it's directions to make.
4.  Best if stored in a separate flat container

Pro Tip: Make sure your ice cream maker container has been in the freezer for at least 24 hours or else the ice cream won't get cold enough and fully form.

Happy 4th of July! Now go do something 'Merican, like make an ice cream sundae....