Round out the meal and make special memories with homemade desserts
What would the holidays be without homemade desserts? For many New Orleanians, the smell of cookies, cakes and pies baking is an integral part of their holiday traditions. Why not whip up some sweet treats and create some lasting memories with your family this holiday season? Of course, delicious desserts make wonderful gifts, so share your recipes and baked goods with your neighbors, family and friends. Get your pantry prepared early with all the proper ingredients. You may even want to begin baking now. Cookies and dough can be frozen and taken out just in time for heating and decorating. If you want homemade goodies but are short on time or skill, purchase some of the ingredients pre-made. Pie crusts, tart shells, ladyfingers and freshly whipped cream are all available in your local Whole Foods Market, Dorignac’s Food Center, Rouses or Langenstein’s. Happy baking!
Essential Ingredients for a Holiday Kitchen
Cake or pastry flour
Whole wheat flour
Brown sugar, light or dark
Decorating or coarse sugar
Unsweetened chocolate: Also called baking or bitter chocolate
Dark chocolate: Bittersweet chocolate, usually a little less sweet than semisweet, but can often be used interchangeably
Milk chocolate: Dark chocolate with milk solids added, making it creamier and mellower
White chocolate: Technically not chocolate but contains cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and lecithin
Chocolate chips: Contains less cocoa butter than chocolate bars
Unsweetened cocoa powder: Dutch process treated with an alkali, which neutralizes its acidity and gives a mellower flavor
Ground chocolate: Blend of cocoa, chocolate, sugar and vanilla
Baking Tips Using Other Ingredients
Butter: If you only have salted in the house, omit any salt that might be in the recipe.
Cream: Heavy cream will whip better than ultra-pasteurized cream.
Eggs: Use large eggs, unless otherwise noted.
Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract.
Salt: Use a fine-grain salt for baking.
Pecans: Delectable delights in season and ready for the picking.
Marshmallows: Readily available at your local grocer.
Cake Mix: A box of yellow, chocolate or white cake mix is great to have on hand.
Tips From Whole Foods
- If you are trying out a new recipe, do a test run before serving to family and friends.
- Have your ingredients prepped and ready before getting started.
- Remember that chocolate easily absorbs odors—never store it alongside strong-smelling foods.
- It’s best to melt chocolate over indirect heat, so as not to burn it. Stir constantly.
- If your fruit isn’t as ripe as you’d like it, speed up the process by putting it in a small paper bag with a ripe banana. The excess natural gas from the banana helps accelerate the ripening process.
- To keep crisp cookies crisp, store in a tin or can with a loose cover.
- To keep soft cookies soft, store in an airtight container with apple or bread slices, changing frequently, to help mellow and moisten the cookies.
- Resist the temptation to check on your creation while it’s baking. Opening and closing the oven door affects the outcome.
- If your cake doesn’t look done in the time allotted by the recipe, see if it’s springy to the touch and insert a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, you should be good.
- Dried spices lose their potency and freshness within six months to a year from the date they are first opened.