When I was 26, I started to have Dessert for Dinner parties. I’d heard of someone who got rid of their sweet tooth by eating honey until “sweet” seemed disgusting and I thought I’d try out a similar strategy on my own sweet tooth. Instead, I just discovered Dessert for Dinner as a lifestyle preference.
I’m not alone in thinking dessert menus should be elevated to normal menu status. Last year’s James Beard awards for restaurant reviews included this review of Per Se – a dessert restaurant in New York.
My contribution here is less a refined meal menu and more pointing out that you can make a fully stocked dessert buffet that isn’t cloyingly sweet. Cheese plates, for example, are totally dessert – and also totally an appetizer. Served with not-too-sweet cocktails or wine, I’d say a balanced buffet of desserts is a full party menu. See below for some ideas for balancing out your favorite sugary indulgences with some dessert variety:
- Cheese plate
- Fruit plate
- Fresh Roasted Nuts
- Chocolate bread with butter
- Red Wine Cookies
- English Tea Cookies (see my recipe below)
- Brioche or Plain Croissants or Warm Popovers (or all three. . . )
- Very Dark Chocolate – Even better if you can find chocolates with a range of cocoa percentages from 65% up
- Fruit Sushi
- Asian Style Bean Paste Cookies (When I make these, I actually invent the recipe as I go along – why on earth I do that when I’ve never actually had an authentic Asian style bean paste cookie is beyond me. I cook up black beans with maple syrup and cloves and a splash of cider, then mash them and wrap them in pie pastry dough and cook them. You’re probably better off using actual recipes)
- Gingersnaps or biscotti with Almond Butter
- Winter Squash Custard – you can cut back the sugar pretty far in a winter squash custard from the original recipe and still get something that’s dessert, depending on how sweet your squash is. For example, in this recipe post the author mentions a sugar-less kabocha squash dessert (although her actual recipe has a relatively high sugar content).
- Pie Crust Chips (These are just what they sound like, make your favorite pie crust recipe, roll it out flat, cut into tortilla chip type shapes, brush with melted butter and bake until crispy, you could also add 2 Tb of sugar to the dough or sprinkle some on top. . . maybe have a little maple or vanilla Greek yogurt for a dip)
- Kettle Corn (I’m a kettle corn snob, though, I’ll only go for the stuff from Morse Farm just up the road – made with real maple syrup. This item really can be any popcorn you pop up with a sweet-savory dusting)
- Champagne Jello. It just needs to be said. I’ll take any opportunity to add Martha Stewart’s champagne jello to a menu, and one day the world will agree.
English Tea Biscuit Recipe:
1 bag Hershey’s miniature milk chocolate bars (do NOT be tempted to use classy chocolate)
1 cup white flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Mix together the flours and baking powder. Cut in the butter (I use a food processor) until fully incorporated. Mix in confectioners’ sugar and enough milk to make a stiff dough. Knead until smooth, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Roll dough out into about 1/4 inch thickness (not too thin). Press the Hershey’s bars into the dough and cut out rectangles leaving a 1/4 inch border around the chocolate (if you’re much better at guesstimating shapes than I am, you could reverse the order on that).
Cook at 350-degrees about 15 minutes, until just starting to brown on edges. Let sit briefly out of the oven then transfer to cooling racks.