Best of MacroChef: Six Sweet Recipes To Make For Thanksgiving

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Yesterday, I promised to repost six of my sweet recipes which would be great to make for Thanksgiving, or for any meal this time of year.  So here they are, beginning with cranberry sauce.  Yes, you can buy cranberry sauce, but why would you when it is so easy to make?  You’ll also find recipes for pecan pie made with dates and maple syrup rather than corn syrup and sugar, and for gingerbread cake, another of my favorites (serve with a tasty vegan caramel sauce). This season’s pears are still in the markets, so why not bake a pear spice cake?  And does the pie have to be pumpkin? Sweet potato pie is a swell alternative, or you could use my recipe as a template for your pumpkin pie–if you must! Finally, I’ve included a recipe using that sadly neglected autumn fruit, the persimmon. You really can’t go wrong with persimmon pudding, a dessert which just tastes like autumn. Take a moment to comment, letting MacroChef readers know what you’re cooking up for Thanksgiving! All recipes, as usual, after the jump.

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A Steamy, Warm and Spicy Recipe For The Coming Winter: Cranberry-Apple/Pear Pudding Cake

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I don’t know what it is about cranberries. I find their tartness refreshing and nearly addictive, and I do my best to incorporate them into dishes both savory and sweet during the brief time they’re in season. Today’s recipe combines them with apples and pears in a rustic dessert which could be a great finale to a holiday meal. Ginger and cinnamon add a spicy, warming note, and walnut pieces provide a subtle crunch.  To keep these pudding-cakes really moist, bake them in a bain marie, which just means that they are oven steamed in a pan half filled with hot water. For an elegant and easy presentation, use individual ramekins, and serve with a whipped or frozen topping of your choice.

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Sweet Potatoes Star In This Luscious Pie (A Recipe To Keep For The Holidays)

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Among my friends, only one stands out as a great fan and connoisseur of sweet potato pie. And so for Michael Stokes’ birthday last week, I knew exactly what to make. Michael grew up eating his mother’s delicious, rich sweet potato pie. While people all over the U.S. love sweet potatoes, they’re especially favored by Southerners, and by those who, like Michael, have family ties to the South. I know his mother’s pies were rich and delicious because I’ve tasted one he made from her recipe. A really good pie it was. My recipe is not as rich and not as sweet, but it is high in pure sweet potato flavor, and Michael ate it with great enthusiasm. In fact, that unfinished half pie in the photo?  It went home with Michael. This is a pie I think you’d be happy to serve to all your family and friends anytime during the coming holiday season, and you’ll find the recipe after the jump..

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Photos–Top: Michael relishes a piece of sweet potato pie for breakfast! Above: The pie just after it came out of the oven.

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Tea Time? Try This Light, Lemony and Crunchy Poppyseed Cake

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Can a cake be light and moist and dense all at the same time?  It seems to me that this one is.  As you probably recall, I’ve long had a love affair with lemons. Is there anything which a squeeze of lemon doesn’t improve?  In this recipe, lemons provide a refreshing zing, maple syrup a lush sweetness and poppyseeds, the crunch. While there are hundreds of versions of poppyseed cake, most of central and eastern European origin, few are as simple as this vegan recipe. A note of caution: while this cake won’t get you high, people have tested positive for banned substances after eating quantities of poppyseed bagels and desserts. Forewarned is forearmed! Recipes for the cake and a maple-lemon glaze are after the jump…

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Summer’s Harvest: Cantaloupe Stars In This Simple, Elegant Dessert

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If ever there’s a time when local melons are in season, now is that time.  So, I suggest that you run, not walk, to your nearest market and pick up a melon or two. They’re so useful. Purée for refreshing soup, freeze for granita, cut up for fruit salad, or just slice and eat as is. Here, I’ve paired cantaloupe with blackberries and raspberries for an elegant dessert. The only thing I added was a bed of coconut cream under the berries (to make coconut cream, whip with a fork the thick, creamy part of coconut milk, add just a bit of maple syrup, leave the watery part for another use).

I can think of few things more delicious than a sweet, ripe cantaloupe. To find that perfect melon, first of all, start with local melons. They’re far more likely to be ripe than ones picked green and shipped from afar.  After that, use your senses–sight, smell and touch. The overall look of the melon should be creamy beige–not green. Also, of course, inspect for soft spots and mold. Smell the melon up close, does it smell like a cantaloupe? If so, you’ve got a good one. However, if it smells really strong, it’s probably too ripe. Keep in mind that melons stored at very cool temperatures will have less of an aroma, so smell is only one indication. Touch is the sense I find most useful in selecting cantaloupes. Press the melon lightly with a thumb, a really hard melon was probably picked too soon and may never ripen properly. Pay particular attention to the round, indented area at the melon’s stem end. Press in there, it should give way slightly,  but if this area is actually soft, your melon is likely over ripe. Even melons which are nearly ripe can benefit from sitting a day or two at room temperature. After that, wash well, slice open, scoop out the seeds and cut the juicy flesh into bite-size pieces. Cantaloupe pieces will keep well for several days stored in a covered container in your fridge, and they make handy snacks for adults and kids alike.

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This Easy-to-Make Mousse Satisfies Both Your Sweet Tooth and Your Chocolate Craving

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Eons ago, in the days of my misspent youth, I passed a couple of summers waiting tables at waterside restaurants in the bohemian enclave of Provincetown, a village on the tip of Cape Cod. I remember watching, amazed, when I first saw a chef fold beaten egg whites into melted chocolate on the way to chocolate mousse. At the time, my culinary knowledge was rudimentary, and making mousse seemed a mark of great sophistication. Years have passed, and I confess to having made chocolate mousse that way a few times myself. Consulting Julia Child, whom I consider to be the authority on such matters, I see that her recipe for mousseline au chocolat calls for very fine sugar, egg yolks, orange liqueur, semi-sweet chocolate, strong coffee, butter and egg whites. It’s not all that complicated to make, but then neither is my vegan version, and the only ingredient our recipes have in common is chocolate. Search out the best premium unsweetened chocolate you can find. I buy Ghirardelli’s 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate at my local supermarket. Three friends who joined me for dinner gave this creamy, rich dessert a hearty thumb’s up. The secret here is the use of agar agar, which adds lots of volume and almost nothing in the way of fat or calories. This recipe makes eight servings, but you could easily cut it in half.  Garnish it anyway you like, but I kept mine vegan by using coconut cream, the thick part only of canned coconut milk, whipped with a fork and sweetened with just a few drops of maple syrup. And raspberries, I’m sure you’ll agree, are never wrong with chocolate. Full recipe after the jump.

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Photos: A Chocolate-Almond Mousse so rich and creamy your guests will never guess it’s vegan, garnished with coconut cream, raspberries and toasted, sliced almonds.

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Baklava: A Middle Eastern Favorite Updated for the 21st Century

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Who doesn’t like the nutty, crunchy, syrupy goodness of baklava? A favorite in Greece and the Middle East, with butter, white flour and sugar, baklava is not exactly god’s gift for a healthy lifestyle. I’m not claiming that my version is completely righteous either, but with whole wheat filo, high quality oils rather than butter, and rice syrup and barley malt to replace the sugar and honey, this recipe is a step in the right direction. Make this for a crowd, or freeze half, once you’ve opened a package of filo dough, you might as well use the whole thing. Because filo dough nearly always comes frozen, be sure to check thawing directions, you may need to thaw it over night. My recipe for new age baklava is after the jump.

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