Dessert comes sooner or later during holiday meals, and even though everyone has eaten their fill, there always seems to be room for that dessert. Many people want to keep things traditional, with pies made of pumpkin, apple or sometimes even mincemeat (increasingly rare these days). Here is a collection of recipes that are a bit on the light (not necessarily diet) side, for those who want dessert but just haven’t much room left in their tummies. Any of these recipes can be increased to suit the number of your dinner guests.
Easy pumpkin pie pudding
1 3/4 cups cold skim milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling mix)
1 package (1-oz.) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1. Stir milk and instant pudding together until smooth.
2. Stir in pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice until smooth.
3. Chill pudding before serving. Makes 4 servings.
* Homemade pumpkin pie pudding
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 3/4 cups 1 percent low-fat milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Dash of salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Combine milk and egg, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
2. Combine pumpkin and the next 4 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a bowl, stirring well. Slowly add pumpkin mixture to milk mixture, whisking constantly. Place pan over low heat, and cook for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly (do not boil). Divide pudding evenly among 4 dessert bowls, and cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap. Chill.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil, and coat foil with cooking spray. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, walnuts, and a dash of salt in a small nonstick skillet; cook over low heat until sugar dissolves and is golden (about 3 minutes), stirring frequently to coat nuts. Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet, and cool completely. Coarsely chop nuts.
4. Place cream in a bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons whipped cream and about 1 tablespoon nuts. Makes 4 servings.
Maple gingerbread pots de creme
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 3/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash ground cloves, optional
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1. Preheat oven to 300. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
2. Combine half-and-half and remaining ingredients in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until mixture reaches 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Reduce temperature to medium, and cook until mixture thickens slightly (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
3. Divide mixture evenly among 8 (4-ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a 13-by-9-inch metal baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until center barely moves when ramekins are touched. Remove the ramekins from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill 4 hours. Makes 8 servings.
1/4 cup lemon curd
2 1/2 tablespoons Limoncello (lemon-flavored liqueur)
2 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream
4 vanilla meringue cookies, crushed (about 1/2 cup)
1. Combine curd and liqueur in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk to blend. Add ice cream to curd mixture; stir to blend. Spoon 1/2 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 bowls; top each with 1 crushed meringue cookie. Makes 4 servings.
Mini lemon meringue pies
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch fine salt
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon sour cream
* Lemon filling:
1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 large eggs)
/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch fine salt
1 (6-cup) standard non-stick muffin tin
1. For crust: Beat the butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and continue to beat until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the egg yolk. Add half the flour, beating until just crumbly. Scrape down the bowl again; add the remaining flour and then the sour cream or yogurt, beating just until the dough is evenly moistened. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly to bring it all together. Roll the dough between 2 floured sheets of waxed or parchment paper into a circle about 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Cut out 6 (4 1/2-inch) rounds using an inverted bowl or round cookie cutter. Place rounds in the muffin tins and, using a small shot glass or your fingers, press into the corners and about halfway up the sides for a snug fit. Freeze dough in the muffin tins for 30 minutes.
3. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325. Spray the outside of 6 standard muffin liners with cooking spray and place in the crusts. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crusts until just brown around the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 1 minute; then carefully remove the muffin liners and baking beans. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake until crusts are cooked through and evenly browned (see photo), about 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool slightly. Then carefully remove crusts from the muffin tin and cool completely on a rack.
4. For lemon filling: Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and yolks in a nonreactive saucepan. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture is smooth and sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add the lemon and lime juice and zest and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is as thick as sour cream and is just about to simmer, 3 to 4 minutes. (Take care to stir into the sides of the pot so that all curd thickens evenly.)
5. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Whisk in the butter a little at a time, until smooth. Stir occasionally until cooled. (Setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice will speed this up.). Fill each tartlet with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cool lemon filling.
6. For meringue: Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan that can hold a standard mixer's bowl above the water. Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl by hand. Set the bowl above the boiling water and continue whisking until the mixture is hot to the touch (135 degrees) and the sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the whites at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to high and continue to beat to make a stiff, cool meringue, about 10 minutes. Dollop or pipe on top of the filling. Just before serving, preheat the broiler to high. Set the pies on a baking sheet, and place under the broiler until the meringue is evenly toasted, about 2 minutes. (Alternatively, brown meringue with a kitchen blowtorch.) Makes 6 servings.
Notes: The crusts can be made, baked and frozen up to 2 weeks. The curd can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. The meringue can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated.