Holiday Desserts

Bring more joy to your holiday with delicious festive treats.

By Victoria von Biel


holiday dessert recipes: maple poached pear tartMaple Poached Pear Tarts

‘Seckel’ and ‘Forelle’ pears are smaller than normal, so they are perfect for this simple but elegant tart.

  • 6 small ‘Seckle’ or ‘Forelle’ pears, peeled, stems intact, bottoms trimmed if needed so pears can stand erect
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • Juice and 3 strips of peel from ½ lemon (use a vegetable peeler)
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 package puff pastry (I used all-butter Dufour brand pastry)


Fit the pears into a small saucepan that holds them snugly. Mix together the water, maple syrup, lemon juice, lemon peel, vanilla, and salt. Pour over the pears. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer until the pears are tender (do not overcook—you want the pears to hold their shape). Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the syrup. Discard the lemon peel and vanilla bean.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the pastry slightly and cut out 6 4-inch squares. Position the squares in the holes of a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan (the dough will fit in the bottom of the cup and not come all the way up the sides). Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately push down the center of the pastry, which will have puffed during baking. Cool on a rack.

Remove the cooled pastry from the muffin cups. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the syrup and place one in each pastry case. Put each pear on a small dessert plate.

Boil the poaching liquid until it is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then drizzle syrup over the pear tarts.

Pear Tart Image: (cc) Stu Spivack/Flickr

recipe: mini caramel pumpkin ice cream pies

Mini Caramel-Pumpkin Ice Cream Pies with Gingersnap Pecan “Crust”

This is a super-easy and delicious take on the standard pumpkin pie. The “crust” contains no butter, but you certainly won’t miss it. For those with a real sweet tooth, replace the pumpkin puree and spice with 3/4 cup organic pumpkin pie filling, which contains sugar and spices.

  • 10 purchased gingersnap cookies (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1 pint caramel ice cream, softened (salted daramel or dulce de leche work well)
  • 3/4 cup organic pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon liqueur, such as Amaretto or Frangelico (optional)


In a food processor or blender, grind the cookies and nuts until fairly fine. Divide among six small ramekins so you have at least a ¼-inch layer of crumbs.

In a large bowl, stir the ice cream so it is smooth. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and liqueur, if using. Swirl the pumpkin spice mixture through the ice cream. Divide among the ramekins (you may not need the entire amount). Sprinkle leftover crumbs over the top of each tart. Freeze for at least 1 hour, or until the filling is frozen.

Serves 6

Cherry-chocolate lollipop pies recipeCherry-Chocolate Lollipop Pies

These are simply adorable. While they’re certainly not health food, you can feel a little bit better about these treats because they contain tart cherries, which have recently been elevated to superfood status because of their high antioxidant content and the fact that they contain anti-inflammatory compounds. And of course, a little bit of chocolate never hurt anyone.

  • Piecrust for a 9-inch double-crust pie (either homemade or purchased)
  • 24 bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 24 cherries from a 24-ounce jar of sour cherries in syrup (I used Marco Polo brand), drained
  • 8 teaspoons raspberry jelly
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 9 lollipop sticks (available at craft stores such as Michaels)
  • Raw sugar (or colored sugar)


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 16 circles from pie dough. Reserve the remaining dough for another use.

Insert one chocolate chip into each of the sour cherries. Spread 1 teaspoon raspberry jelly in the center of 8 of the dough circles. Place 3 chocolate-stuffed cherries on top of the jelly. Place a lollipop stick horizontally so the top is in center of the tart. Brush the edges of the 8 cherry-topped circles with egg white. Top with the remaining dough circles; use a fork or a spare lollipop stick to seal the edges. Brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake on a parchment-lined sheet until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on racks.

How to make apple-cranberry pot pie.Apple-Cranberry Pot Pies

This sweet-tart take on apple pie has only one crust, so it’s a little less calorie-laden. If you have any leftover cranberry sauce, this is a great way to use it.

  • 1 20-ounce can apple pie filling (or make your own)
  • ½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce (homemade or purchased)
  • Puff pastry
  • 1 egg white, beaten slightly


Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix together the apple pie filling and cranberry sauce. Fill 6 ramekins with apple-cranberry mixture.

Roll out the puff pastry slightly. Cut out 6 4-inch squares. Position each square over a ramekin so the points hang over the edge. Brush with egg white.

Bake until golden and puffed, about 20 minutes.

Image: (cc) whitneyinchicago/flickr