An Elegant Dessert Tea for the Holidays

An Elegant Dessert Tea for the Holidays
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Just because the holidays are here, does not mean you have to halt your tea party traditions. Enjoy this wonderfully festive menu that will brighten your day and bring cheer to all of your guests.

The Setting:

Centerpieces of tangerines and oranges, with cinnamon sticks and fresh greens tucked in.

Candles, candles, candles.

Pots and pots of spiced cinnamon tea.

If ever there's a time to use your silver, this is it. The red cranberry tart looks particularly nice on a silver or white platter.

The Menu:

CREAMY MINTS: Sweet cheese mints, rolled in colored sugar, can be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled.

BAKED RUM PINEAPPLE: Sweet, warm and buttery, this delicious treat can be made ahead in stages and baked just as guests arrive.

PEPPERMINT SHORTBREAD: Rich and buttery cookies that can be made 1- week ahead of serving.

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO SHORTBREAD: You can make these 1-week ahead, but they may not last the week....

CHERRY BREAD PUDDINGS WITH MAPLE GLAZE: Individual bread puddings studded with cherries, these can be made 4 hours before serving.

CRANBERRY TART: The centerpiece for your party, it can be made 1 day before serving.

The Recipes:

Baked Rum Pineapple

Baked Pineapple is elegant and delicious, and simple to make. Perfect for serving at the holidays, or anytime you want to make a beautiful presentation. Everything can be made ready ahead of time, and popped in the oven just as guests arrive. This wonderful recipe comes from the equally wonderful book "Enchanted Evenings" by John Hadamuscin.

2 ripe medium pineapples (with the tops on)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 TBSP. butter, softened
1/3 cup dark rum

1 day ahead:

Combine the molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and rum to form a paste. Chill. Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before using.

2 hours before your party:

Cut the pineapples, including the leafy tops, into quarters. Cut the core off. Cut the pineapple off of the skin, and cut it into bit size slices. Return it to the shell.

Place the pineapples onto foil lined baking sheets and cover the leafy tops with foil. Brush the pineapple pieces with the rum mixture. Cover with plastic until baking.

To bake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the pineapple until glazed and brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Arrange on a platter with toothpicks, and serve warm.

TIP: Bake one pineapple at a time, because this is always eaten up quickly, and you will want to have more to serve later in the party.

Cherry Bread Puddings with Maple Glaze

Your guest will feel truly pampered when they are served their own tiny bread pudding, studded with cherries and topped with a sweet maple syrup glaze. And you can make them in your muffin pan. These little treats can be baked up to four hours ahead, or served warm from the oven. (Although, in testing these at home, I had no trouble finding takers for the "leftovers" even 2 days later!)


1 sweet French baguette, a day or two old
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
2 cups whole milk (do not use low fat)
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla


1/2 powdered sugar
3 TBSP. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Butter a 12-cup (non-stick) muffin pan. Slice the baguette into 24, 1/2 inch, slices. Place two slices in each muffin cup, trimming if needed to get them to sit flat in the cup. Sprinkle a few cherries around and between the slices. In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Cook on medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the milk starts to simmer (bubbles form on the side of the pan).

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs. SLOWLY add the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain the custard to remove any cooked egg particles and to ensure a smooth custard. If you have a large measuring cup, transfer the custard into it for easy pouring of the puddings.

Pour the custard over the bread in each muffin cup, filling the cups about half full. Pour a second time, letting the bread absorb the first pour briefly. Continue until all of the custard is evenly distributed over the 12 cups. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the bread is lightly browned.

While the puddings are baking, stir together the maple glaze and set aside.

Remove and let stand for 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently loosen the puddings and slide them out, inverting them onto a large plate. Top each with the glaze. Some of it will run off. Then remove the puddings to a serving platter and enjoy.

Cranberry Tart

This stunning red tart is the perfect centerpiece for a holiday tea. You can make the tart dough OR you can make a perfectly fine shell using a Pillsbury All-Ready Pie Crust. The filling is a snap to prepare, and you can make this 1-day before serving. Keep it chilled until 1/2 hour before your party.

One 10-inch tart shell, baked and cooled. [recipe follows]
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
Two 12 ounce packages of fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup red currant jelly
2 TBSP. Kirsch or Brandy

Rinse and drain the cranberries and remove any blemished berries. In a small bowl, soften the gelatin in the cold water. In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, jelly and Kirsch (or brandy) and cook over LOW heat for 10 minutes, just until the cranberries are softened.

Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in the gelatin and cool completely. Pour into the tart shell and chill until firm. Keep chilled until 1/2 hour before serving.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. vanilla

To prepare the dough:

In the bowl of a mixer combine the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into pieces, and mix it into the flour on low speed, until the butter is the size of small peas. Combine the eggs and vanilla and add to the dough with the mixer running. Stop mixing just when the dough begins to come together. Knead gently into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour. Remove for 20 minutes before rolling.

Roll out into a 14 inch round, and line a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, making sure the sides are thick enough to stand up. Chill for 30 minutes. Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (dry beans). Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment, and bake 5 - 10 minutes more, until the bottom of the tart shell is browned. Cool.

Creamy Mints

A perfect holiday treat, these sweet cheese mints can be tinted to match your theme by rolling them in colored sugar crystals. Make these the night before, and keep chilled until half an hour before serving.

2 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. pure peppermint extract
1/2 cup colored (cookie decorating) sugar

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the powdered sugar, cream cheese and the peppermint extract. Beat until combined.

Roll the cheese into 1-inch balls and dip into the colored sugar.

Place on a wax paper lined tray and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until 1/2 hour before serving.

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Rich and deep in chocolate mocha flavor, these cookies are always a hit. The dough can be made ahead and frozen, and baked as needed. The cookies look very plain, but the taste is wonderful.

1 and 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 and 1/2-tsp. instant espresso powder
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine flour, cocoa and espresso powder. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until blended.

Remove dough and divide into three portions. Place each on a piece of parchment paper and roll into a long log shape, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll up in the parchment and chill at least 1 hour until firm. If freezing, wrap tightly in a second layer of plastic wrap and secure the ends.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working with one roll of dough at a time, slice the cookies into 1/8-inch thick rounds, rolling the log slightly between slices to prevent the sides from getting flat.

Place close together on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. This is a thin cookie, so do not over bake. Remove to racks to cool.

Keeps up to two weeks in an airtight container. Makes 3 - 4 dozen cookies.

Peppermint Shortbread

Be sure to have copies of this recipe ready when you serve this shortbread. It is always a hit, with adults and children alike. This recipe is from the delightful book " Along the Garden Path" by Bill and Sylvia Varney. The shortbread keeps very well and can be made a week ahead. My little girls like these made in miniature number shapes for their birthdays. Don't skip the fresh peppermint. It's the secret to the great taste of the shortbread.

12 TBSP. unsalted butter, softened
9 TBSP. sugar
1 1/2 TBSP. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. peppermint extract
1 TBSP. finely chopped fresh peppermint leaves
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups flour

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and extracts. Add the flour on low speed. Stir in the peppermint leaves and salt.

Divide dough into three portions. Place on plastic wrap and roll into cylinders 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm. (1 hour)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough and slice into 1/4" thick slices. Rotate the cylinder to keep it round. Keep the slices even and thin. They do not spread much, so you can place them close together on the sheet. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until the bottom edges are just barely brown. Remove to rack to cool.

For cut out cookies, divide dough into three portions and place on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place another sheet on top and pat or roll the dough out into a very thin sheet. Chill the sheets of dough until firm, about 30 minutes. Remove and cut quickly with miniature cookie cutters. Bake 8 minutes - watch these little cookies can brown very quickly. Remove immediately to rack and cool.

For square cookies, shape logs with flat sides and chill and slice as above.

This dough can be made and frozen unbaked. Thaw slightly in refrigerator before baking.

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About The Author

Renee is the owner and author of a Renee's Tea Party, a website full of wonderful recipes and tea party menus. She is also a wife and mom, as well as a gracious hostess. (updated 2009 - website no longer available)

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