Holiday baking time! We’ve got apples and walnuts, pecans and caramel, pumpkin and cinnamon and cranberries aplenty, but, as with all good traditional things, we’ve come to expect the unexpected. Here are a few of our favorite alternative desserts for Practice Thanksgiving. It’s the same as regular Thanksgiving, but with way fewer people to share with — and almost none of the kvetching.
Recipe: Pear-Cranberry Strudel
Cookbook author Jenny McCoy became a strudel connoisseur during a trip to Vienna with her mother: “Every morning began with a strong kaffee and a strudel. The afternoon snack included another kaffee and a strudel. And, of course, each evening ended with a kaffee and a strudel. My recipe, unlike the traditional Austrian version, calls for the use of phyllo dough instead of strudel dough, a much more manageable method for making this homemade pastry, but just as good.”
Recipe: Pumpkin Baklava
This Thanksgiving, we’re taking the traditional baklava recipe and swapping out the nuts for pumpkin puree. Store-bought phyllo dough makes this recipe fuss-free and much less intimidating than it looks. Spice the pumpkin with nutmeg, cinnamon and clove for an extra kick.
Recipe: Pecan And Pear Upside-Down Cake
If you’re looking for a go-to dessert recipe for chilly months, chef and cookbook author Diana Henry’s pecan and pear upside-down cake is simple, delicious and perfectly seasonal.
Jessica Cutter, a former pastry chef for Emeril, shared the recipe for this twist on New Orleans’s most well-known dessert. Over the years, it’s been adapted by adding cashews as a crunchy topping.
This recipe is healthy and simple — the perfect dessert for when you’re craving something sweet but can’t afford the extra calories. Apples are baked with a bit of spice-heavy butter and served whole. Of course, you can pair these gems with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I find them to be super-satisfying even without the indulgence.
Recipe: Roasted Fig And Raspberry Tart
This is a quick, fuss-free, easily adaptable dessert, perfect to serve at a summer dinner party. The toasted almond and salt-kissed crust, maple roasted figs, and fresh raspberries topped with organic whipped cream makes for an all-around hit. Most of the ingredients here can be found in a well-stocked pantry, so all you need to do is pick up some fruit or roast what you have on hand, and this tart comes together in a flash. When figs are not available, try making it with roasted pears, or roast summer fruits like nectarines, peaches, or apricots — they all go well with raspberries and taste great with the almond crust.
There’s something about the patterns that emerge on this delicate cake that make you feel like you’ve been transported to your grandmother’s kitchen in the 1950s. This is an all‑in-one cake — caramel topping, pecan filling, and delicious cake that cook all at once! Guests will be convinced that you slaved over this Bundt cake, but it’s really an easy recipe. Once you pop it in the oven, your work is done.
Authors Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore both grew up near a famous local apple orchard and have fond memories of picking the apples, then rushing home to bake apple cakes and pies. Even if you don’t pick them off the tree, be sure to bake this cake on a fall day. It will fill the kitchen with a sweet and spicy aroma, and you will enjoy a wonderful old-fashioned apple cake.
Recipe: Caramel Cake
Ask any Southern baker: Caramel cake can reduce a fully grown adult to tears — and we don’t mean happy tears, either. It’s the icing, a challenge that makes fiddly pastries seem like a walk in Washington Park. Caramel icing is made from little more than cooked sugar and milk, but when it comes time to spread it over the cake layers, it has to be just the right temperature — warm enough to be pourable, but cool enough that when you work it around the cake with an icing spatula, it sets in place.