When Caroline Kelliher thinks of Christmas desserts she thinks of panettone, the fruit-studded traditional Italian Christmas bread.
"I like it so much because when I was in Italy, during the holidays it was served everywhere," said Kelliher, a pastry chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas. "They also put a scoop of ice cream on it and pour espresso on top. That’s probably why it’s my favorite. And if you have leftovers, it’s good either in bread pudding or as french toast."
Kevin Cauldwell, pastry chef at Sinatra at Encore, is another believer in gilding the panettone lily. He uses it to make a bread pudding and serves it with zabaglione ice cream.
"You can do all kinds of things with it," Cauldwell said. "It’s a very flavorful bread with candied fruit, very rich in butter and vanilla, and it’s got a significant aroma." His creation is softer than a classic bread pudding.
Cauldwell also is serving a pumpkin mousse bombe, sprayed with a thin coating of orange-colored white chocolate and served on a slice of pumpkin bread — "Mom’s recipe, of course."
When he reflects on holiday desserts, he said, he thinks of "really satisfying family-type flavors or home-style flavors, presented in a nice, clean and modern way."
Patrick Florendo, pastry chef at Botero, also at Encore, said his Christmas desserts are "all about a picture in my head that I think about — really cozy and warm."
Such as hot chocolate with marshmallows, which translated to warm brownies with peppermint ice cream. Or warm bread pudding, cranberries, eggnog ice cream, pumpkin-spice ice cream, gingerbread cookies.
"Tradition," Florendo said. "Very warm. Very family-oriented. Friends and family and what people have on their tables — taking them off the table and turning them into dessert."
Jeanne Forrest, owner of Layers Bakery in Henderson, said that while the homier appeal of pies is in demand at Thanksgiving, at Christmas people want something more elegant.
Among her Christmas specialties are a completely flourless chocolate mint truffle torte and a hazelnut zuccotto, which is vanilla spongecake soaked in a Chambord syrup, filled with shaved bittersweet chocolate, toasted hazelnuts and fresh-raspberry mousse, then coated in ganache.
Forrest honors tradition with her version of a classic French buche de Noel, which involves chocolate spongecake rolled up with white-chocolate coconut mousse, frosted with fresh whipped cream and decorated with sugared rosemary sprigs and meringue mushrooms.
"We sell out of them," Forrest said. "I have to turn people away."
And of course there are the English holiday dessert traditions, especially those from the Victorian era, which have become most familiar to Americans through tales such as "A Christmas Carol."
June LeMay, general manager of the Crown & Anchor, said the celebration stretches across two days — Christmas Day with immediate family members and Boxing Day on Dec. 26, when distant family members come to visit.
Traditional Christmas desserts, she said, include mince pies, jam tarts, lemon-curd tarts and coconut buns — all served with Christmas crackers, which are not a food but a sort of toy with two tabs that are pulled to produce a loud snap (or crack), and that open to yield trinkets, jokes and folded hats.
"Everyone wears a silly hat and tells a silly joke," LeMay said.
And eats Christmas pudding, which — as served at the Crown & Anchor on Christmas Day and Boxing Day — contains sultanas (golden raisins), raisins, currants and mixed fruit and a brandy sauce.
God bless us one and all.
32 egg yolks
4 cups sugar
6 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
12 1-ounce gelatin sheets
6 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar at high speed until pale in color. Add the pumpkin and spices. Slowly add the melted gelatin while mixing at medium speed. Fold in the whipped cream .
Spoon into desired serving dish with alternating layers of sliced pumpkin bread (recipe follows). Chill overnight.
Serves 10 to 12.
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Whip the sugar and eggs at high speed in a mixer. Slowly add the oil, orange juice, spices and salt.
Add the pumpkin. Slowly add the flour and baking soda until incorporated.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and fill three-quarters full. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour.
Makes 1 loaf.
— Recipe from Kevin Cauldwell, Sinatra, Wynn Las Vegas
21/2 ounces raisins
21/2 ounces golden raisins
5 ounces mixed candied peel
21/2 ounces blanched almonds, chopped
11/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
11/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons orange juice
4 teaspoons rum
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 1/3 cups bread flour
10 ounces milk
3/4 ounce active-dry yeast
4 ounces egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound butter, softened
To prepare the marinated fruit mixture, combine the raisins, peel, almonds, zest, juice, rum and nutmeg in a bowl. Cover and allow to marinate several hours or, refrigerated, overnight.
Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center.
Warm the milk to 100 degrees and mix with the yeast. Pour this mixture into the well in the flour. Sprinkle a little flour from the sides of the bowl on top of the yeast liquid. Cover bowl and allow to stand at room temperature until the flour starts to appear cracked on top and the mixture bubbles, approximately 45 minutes.
Add the egg yolks, salt and sugar to the flour mixture. Mix lightly to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size.
Drain the marinated fruit. Add the fruit and the butter to the dough until smooth and well incorporated. Put back into the bowl and let rise a second time at room temperature until doubled in size.
Use a cake tin about 6 inches in diameter (or divide dough into two, three or four equal parts and bake in smaller molds). Cut a double layer of parchment paper long enough to line the tin with an overlap of 1 inch, and about 9 inches tall. Place the paper in the buttered tin. Place on a baking sheet. Fold several layers of foil to form a stiff collar on the outside of the tin, the same height as the baking paper inside, and secure with string. Line the bottom of the tin with a double layer of paper cut in a 6-inch circle.
Punch down the dough and round into a smooth ball. Place in the prepared cake tin and press down lightly with your knuckles. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume.
Cut a cross in the top of the dough and brush with melted butter.
Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until lightly colored. Place a piece of butter (about 4 teaspoons) in the center of the cross and continue to bake for 1 hour. Cover top of panettone with foil when golden, in order to prevent excessive browning.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue baking until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 13/4 to 2 hours total.
Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Once cool, dust with confectioners’ sugar.
— Recipe from "Professional Baking" by Wayne Gisslen
CHOCOLATE SPOON BREAD
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup good-quality cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 whole eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat chocolate and butter together in microwave or double boiler until melted. Stir to combine and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and set aside. In bowl of mixer or using a hand mixer, beat eggs and vanilla on high until thick and pale, about 6 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add sugar. Continue mixing until mixture is light and fluffy.
With mixer on the lowest setting, stir in chocolate and butter mixture. Fold in dry ingredients by hand until just combined.
Spoon batter into a buttered 8-inch cast-iron skillet. Bake about 22 to 24 minutes, until center is set and a pick inserted comes out clean.
Serve warm with your favorite ice cream or fresh whipped cream and berries.
Note: For a special presentation, you can use individual buttered ceramic ramekins or other small oven-safe dishes.
Makes 10 6-ounce servings.
— Recipe from Jeanne Forrest, Layers bakery
PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING
6 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups granulated sugar
1 large classic panettone
24 egg yolks
2 tablespoons dry marsala wine
Combine milk, cream and sugar and bring to a boil.
Dice the panettone into 1-inch cubes.
Temper the egg yolks with a small amount of hot milk and whisk into the remaining hot liquid. Heat over low flame for 1 minute, or until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and pass through a fine-mesh strainer.
Pour two-thirds of the mixture over the diced panettone and mix until thoroughly soaked.
Add the marsala to the remaining third of the mixture and chill on ice until cool enough to use for zabaglione ice cream. (Follow ice cream-maker manufacturer’s instructions to make the ice cream.)
Brush individual ramekins or a large ramekin with butter and coat with granulated sugar. Spoon in the panettone mixture, leaving about 1/4 inch space at top.
Place in a shallow baking dish and fill baking dish with warm water to about half-way up the ramekin.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm with the zabaglione ice cream.
Serves 10 to 12.
— Recipe from Kevin Cauldwell, Sinatra, Wynn Las Vegas
WARM FUDGE BROWNIES WITH
PEPPERMINT CANDY CANE ICE CREAM
11 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound dark chocolate
13/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream (recipe follows)
In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate and whisk until fully melted. In another double boiler, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla until fully incorporated.
Transfer egg mixture to mixer bowl. Using whisk attachment, whip until double in volume. Carefully fold in chocolate mixture.
Fold in dry ingredients along with the walnuts and chopped chocolate. Grease a shallow baking dish and pour in batter. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into square portions.
Peppermint candy cane ice cream:
1 quart half-and-half
1 cup sugar
12 egg yolks
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes
Additional crushed candy canes for garnish
Fudge sauce (optional)
In a large sauce pot, combine half-and-half and sugar and bring to a boil. Carefully temper in egg yolks and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Cool immediately to prevent eggs from cooking. Add peppermint extract. Let mixture rest for 2 hours.
Spin in ice cream machine (according to manufacturer’s instructions) and fold in crushed candy canes. Freeze and reserve.
To serve, gently warm brownies in oven. Serve in deep bowls with a healthy scoop of ice cream. Garnish with more crushed candy canes. Can be served with fudge sauce.
— Recipe from Patrick Florendo, Botero, Wynn Las Vegas
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (a mixture of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander and cloves)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
14 tablespoons butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 tablespoon marmalade
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
13/4 pounds mixed dried fruits
31/2 ounces chopped mixed peel
5 ounces candied cherries, halved
31/2 ounces blanched almonds, chopped
To decorate the cake:
7 ounces marzipan
1 to 2 tablespoons apricot jam, warmed
3 egg whites
1 pound, 5 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted
11/2 teaspoons liquid glycerine (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-inch round or 7-inch square cake pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the molasses, marmalade and vanilla until light and fluffy. Mix the eggs into the mixture a little at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour mixture with the last amount.
Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, peel, cherries and almonds. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and make a slight hollow in the center.
Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer. If not ready, bake for up to another hour, testing every 20 minutes, until the skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Once cool, make a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3 to 4 tablespoons of brandy. Let the brandy soak into the cake.
Store the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, holes side up.
Optional: For a rich and moist cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake.
To decorate the cake, place it on a foil board or cake plate. Dust your hands and the work surface with a little confectioners’ sugar and knead the marzipan until soft. Roll out half of the marzipan to fit the top of the cake and roll out the rest in strips to fit around the sides of the cake.
Brush the cake all over with the warmed apricot jam and then place the marzipan on top and around the cake. Cover the cake with a clean towel and leave in a cool place for at least one day.
To make the icing, lightly whisk the egg whites, adding the sugar at intervals. Beat well until the icing reaches soft peaks. Add the glycerine, if using, and the lemon juice.
Spread the icing all over the cake, either flat iced, using a clean ruler, or by forming soft peaks. Decorate with Christmas ornaments.
— Recipe from the BBC
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@review journal.com or 702-383-0474.