Low-Calorie Holiday Dessert Recipes
Marmalade-Glazed Orange Cheesecake
Our Test Kitchen created this showpiece cheesecake to celebrate one of winter's brightest gifts: the orange. It is exceptionally rich and creamy-tasting, but lower in saturated fat than a traditional cheesecake. The secret is to replace most of the cream cheese with pureed cottage cheese. Be sure to let the food processor do its job and process the cottage cheese until it has a silky texture.
Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding
Sweet caramelized pears are the highlight of this comforting, custardy, raisin-studded bread pudding. When turned out of its baking dish, the flanlike pudding sits in a pool of intense caramel syrup, making it worthy of any holiday table. Serve warm or chilled.
Cranberry-Orange Fruit Bars
These sweet-tart cranberry-orange bars are a great addition to a holiday cookie tray or cool weather grab-and-go treat.
Flourless Honey-Almond Cake
Honey and almonds flavor this simple (and gluten-free) cake. It's lovely for afternoon tea or a spring holiday dessert. Be careful not to overbeat the egg whites--they should be white and very foamy, but not at all stiff or able to hold peaks. If you beat them too much, the cake may sink in the middle as it cools.
Caramel Cream Cheese Custard (Flan de Queso)
Every panaderia (bakery) in Puerto Rico has many flavors of flan, from vanilla to guava. Reduced-fat cream cheese gives this version a rich, comforting texture.
French Silk Pie
Bittersweet chocolate and Dutch-process cocoa meld with a shot of fresh brewed coffee to give an ultra-rich flavor to this creamy French silk pie. A frothy meringue is the secret to lightening the brown sugar-sweetened filling.
Frangelico & Toasted Hazelnut Meringues
Perfect meringues depend on totally yolk-free whites. The seemingly fussy step of separating each egg into a small bowl before combining them guarantees yolk-free whites for bakeshop-quality meringues every time. These crispy little morsels travel well and make great gifts too.
Riesling Baked Pears
Here's an elegant yet simple twist on the autumn classic. Pears are oven-poached in Riesling wine, which is known for its floral accents and aromas and hints of honey and pear. Serve this dessert with lightly sweetened ricotta cheese. Delicious hot, room temperature or chilled.
Glazed Chocolate-Pumpkin Bundt Cake
You don't have to have pumpkin pie to still enjoy pumpkin and spice in a Thanksgiving dessert. Pumpkin helps keep this cake tender and moist while, delicate spices add the classic Thanksgiving flavors.
These coconut-chocolate-almond-topped shortbread cookies are reminiscent of Almond Joy candy bars.
Pear & Ginger Cheesecake
Softened dried pears give this low-fat cheesecake much of its body. For the best taste, let it rest for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Holiday Cranberry-Orange Pistachio Bars
Bright red cranberries and toasted green pistachios stud these tart-and-tangy bar cookies and make them a colorful addition to any cookie platter. They hold well in both the refrigerator and the freezer so they're an excellent make-ahead option.
Rich, creamy, vanilla bean-flecked pudding tempers the tart-sweet pomegranate compote. Pick out small, festive glass dessert dishes for this pretty parfait.
Featuring the first citrus of the season, almonds and deep chocolate, this tart is the stuff celebrations are made of. Garnish each serving with tangerine slices and a citrus leaf or mint.
Everyone Loves This Fruitcake
Ah, the maligned fruitcake. Many store-bought varieties, stuffed with unrecognizable candied bits, deserve their bad reputation--but not these wonderful cakes, made with a generous serving of dried fruit and candied orange peel in a light batter. There's only one trick: buy the best-quality, moist dried and candied fruit you can afford.
Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie
While pumpkin pie deserves respect as a Thanksgiving icon, it's fun to shake up tradition. Surprise your family and friends with a frozen pie this year--it just might become one of their holiday favorites. No need to let them know how easy it is.
Dark Roast Creme Brulee
Inspired by a recipe developed by Chef Patrick Grangien at Cafe Shelburne in Shelburne, Vermont, this lightened version has less than half the calories and one-eighth the fat of a classic brulee.
Pear & Dried Cranberry Strudel
All across Wisconsin, Scandinavian and German bakeries start firing up with the onset of crisp, cool autumn days; the lines soon grow long for fresh fall-fruit pastries. For most of us, rich strudel wouldn't be an everyday affair. But with walnut oil (instead of copious amounts of butter) and fresh pears, it can, nevertheless, become a decadence-free indulgence, perfect for your next dinner party. Serve it with frozen nonfat vanilla yogurt or vanilla crème anglaise.
Try this custard pie with buttercup squash, a sweet, orange-fleshed variety that bakes up luscious, light and surprisingly creamy. Roasted fresh squash has a vibrant color and full flavor, but to save time you can use frozen or canned squash. The pie is best the day it is baked, but much of the preparation can be done in advance. Serve with Ginger Cream.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Pound cake got its name from the original formulation: a pound each of sugar, flour, butter and eggs. Just the thought of it is enough to raise your cholesterol. Our version calls for half whole-wheat flour, less sugar, a modest amount of butter and loses quite a few egg yolks. To keep it rich we moisten the cake with reduced-fat cream cheese and buttermilk. It is every bit as delicious as the original, with only a third of the calories and fat.
Chewy Chocolate Cookies
We can't resist big, soft, fudgy cookies, like those found in glass jars on bake-shop counters. These freeze exceptionally well-layer them in a freezer-safe container between sheets of wax paper; thaw 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.
These luxurious macaroons studded with pistachios and dried cranberries hail from food stylist Katie Webster. She made them three years ago when she was a personal chef for a gluten-intolerant client, then began selling them to a grateful crowd at her local farmers' market. Although you can concoct them with either sweetened or unsweetened coconut, we find that the unsweetened packs a more coconutty wallop. For a variation, substitute chopped crystallized ginger and mini chocolate chips for the pistachios and cranberries.
Holiday Cookie Cutouts
There is no need to wait for December to enjoy crisp sugar cookies in fanciful shapes. Capture the spirit of fall by baking maple leaf- or pumpkin-shaped cookies. And when the festive season arrives, have fun with holiday shapes like stars and wreaths. Use the Cinnamon-Sugar Topping for crisp cookies that make perfect teatime treats or finish with Decorator Icing for more elaborate cookies (see Cookie-Decorating Tips, below).