The holidays are upon us, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! In my house, we dance, eat, sing and be merry, and we love to go a little crazy with the festive extras.
For me, entertaining loved ones in fun, delicious elegance is the whole point of the holiday season. Allow me to share with you a few easy tips for creating your own sweet table that you can be proud to show off!
1. Pick your colour palette and/or theme.
Yes, the general theme is of course the holidays but here is where you get to be inventive! What does the season mean to you? What do you most look forward to about this time of year? The standard red and green shades can be made new by the introduction of less-traditional tones to spice them up. I like to take one main color and mix and match different shades and textures for a very eye-pleasing effect.
2. Use what you have at home
It isn’t always necessary to go out and buy everything new. Yes, we aim to be stylish and cutting-edge, but there is definitely something to be said for the fine skill of re-purposing old decorations, platters, jars, etc. If food will not be directly touching the item, don’t be afraid to paint it to match your color palette!
3. Ribbon, paper & flowers make ALL the difference!
Yes, it is all about the desserts but a crafty host wants to give their treats a table that is like a glamorous miniature party! Scour craft stores for coordinating ribbons and strings to tie around jars, and pretty papers to line platters and trays. Mismatched trays can still look great together if they are lined in the same coloured paper, or tied with matching ribbons. Sometimes, just to be extra sweet, I skip the paper and instead make a layer of colored sugar to lay my treats on. And, never underestimate style and beauty a floral arrangement brings to a table! The secret is in the details.
4. Don’t be afraid to outsource
In a perfect world, we’d never run out of time to bake but this is the busiest time of year! Don’t consider it cheating if you make some things and buy or order the others. If given enough notice, most bakeries will customize colours and flavours to match your theme and décor.
5. Candy is a must!
It’s not just about the baked goods . . . candy is an important part of the sweet table too! Bulk food stores tend to have the best selection, and you can buy as much or as little as you need. I like to put out little paper bags and scoops so my guests can take some treats home with them.
6. Choose a focal point to the table
As a general rule, the tallest item on the table is the centrepiece. Tiered cakes, floral arrangements, tall candy jars and macaron/cupcake towers all make excellent focal points, and from there you can strategically display the rest of your treats around it.
7. Get the kids involved
The holidays are about family time, and creating lasting memories that turn into family traditions. Obviously, small kids shouldn`t operate the oven but there are lots of things they can help out with, like pressing cookie cutters, spoon-mixing batter, or decorating gingerbread houses. Unsteady little hands can ice cupcakes and cookies to look surprisingly abstract-chic.
8. Have fun!
The most important message I can pass on is to make it fun! In my house, we blast music and get very jolly while we’re baking and decorating. If you aren’t having fun, you’re missing the whole point!
Open-faced French Macarons
Ingredients: (makes 30 half-shells)
90g ground almonds
135g powdered sugar
75g egg whites
50g granulated sugar
Food colouring of your choice
Sift ground almonds & powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl. Measure egg whites into another clean mixing bowl.
Using a whisk attachment, start whipping egg whites at medium speed and slowly add the granulated sugar.
Gradually increase speed and continue to whisk the whites until they form a glossy stiff meringue, and the sugar is dissolved. Add food colouring and mix just until nicely blended. Adding the dry ingredients just a little bit at a time, carefully fold the meringue and gently blend. *Careful not to over-mix!
Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a 10mm tip. Onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, pipe small rounds. Since they will spread in baking, it is best to keep them under 3cm in diameter. Let rest on baking sheet for 15-30 minutes before baking at 160 C for about 12 minutes.
Let cool on cooling rack, then remove from parchment paper. Cookies should come off easily if they are cooked enough.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
150g whipping cream
150g dark chocolate (64% min. cocoa content)
Weigh chocolate into a medium-sized bowl. Cut into small pieces.
Weigh whipping cream into saucepan, bring to a boil, then pour heated cream over dark chocolate in several stages, making sure it is smooth and well-incorporated every time. Refrigerate for about 40 minutes or until texture is workable.
White Chocolate Ganache
45 g cream
100 g white chocolate
pinch of fleur de sel
Once mixed, the method is the same as for chocolate ganache. For variety and different flavor, it can be folded into Greek yogurt or mascarpone after the ganache is cool but still soft, the amount of yogurt or cheese depends on your taste preference. For example, start with 100 g of yogurt and add more if you prefer.
You can garnish with berries, figs, pomegranate seeds, kiwi, your favorite nuts and a chunk of your favorite chocolate.