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Desserts for a Crowd

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Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Posts: 9
Location: Orlando, FL

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:16 pm    Post subject: Desserts for a Crowd Reply with quote

Hey all!
I am baking afternoon dessert snacks for a company event in a couple weeks, and I would love some creative suggestions. The crowd will be about 50 people, and I'm doing this for five days! Crazy, perhaps.

Anyway, I've considered the old faithfuls that can be frozen ahead: fudgy brownies, a pumpkin sheet cake, peanut butter rice krispies a la Whole Foods (anyone got a copycat recipe?).

Any suggestions? Tried and true potluck/bake sale recipes? They don't absolutely have to be frozen ahead of time, but that would be helpful. It's a relatively casual event but I would love to do some more creative, unexpected things.

Thanks everyone!

ps: extra points for anything that does not involve rolling small balls or making pie crusts. Smile
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Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Posts: 108
Location: France

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that sounds like a tall order - these are some things that spring to mind when you talk about preparing ahead and freezing. Good luck!

How about a clafoutis or some kind of set fruit flan that doesn`t require a pastry base? Although not freezable, easy enough to just slice before serving. Or miny cupcakes/muffins, frozen, and iced before serving.

While this may not be kind of thing you are after, how about some kind of mousse or special ice-cream - prepared in individual portions with either almond tuilles or some kind of biscuity accompaniment on. Or a rich cake that can be made ahead of time & that keeps well - like an alcoholic fruit chocolate cake.
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Joined: 10 Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I often "cater" charity and family events and I like to make and serve individual desserts that you can bake ahead and store or freeze if need be, which means leftovers can be saved easily, too.

I also like to make things in "mini" sizes, so there is less waste. I think many people just want a taste and if you have a variety, they want to taste a bit of each.

I usually figure 3 mini desserts per person and have too much, but I always rather have too much than not enough.

I always put out fruit, too.

My fall back mini dessert recipe is Marcia's Mom's Cheesecake Cups.

Here's the recipe:

Makes 24 cupcake sized individual cheesecakes:

3-8 oz packages of cream cheese (can be low-fat, should be Philly-style, not natural)
3-eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or other flavor (lemon, almond, etc.)
1 cup of chocolate chips (or other flavor chip or add in) - optional
24 vanilla wafers or other cookies that will fit on the bottom of the cupcake cup (try a gingersnap with lemon extract, an amaretti cookie with the almond, a chocolate wafer with mint extract and chocolate chips, etc.)
Fruit for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.

Combine first 5 ingredients, mix wll at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. (You can do by hand, but make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature or you will be getting a very good workout!) Add optional chips, stir to distribute.

Place liners in cupcake tins OR use stand alone foil cupcake cups on a sturdy cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Fill each cup two-thirds full.

Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed in the center but not browned at all.

Let stand in the oven with door open for 30 minutes.

Store in the refrigerator.

Just before serving top each cheesecake with a raspberry, slice of peeled kiwi or half a strawberry, etc.

I have also topped with a dollop of good sour cherry jam. Some flavor combinations I prefer to leave topless, though.

Other options: before baking, swirl in some jam or nutella into each cup for a marbled cheesecake effect. Make mini cupcake size by crushing the cookies and mixing with some melted butter. Then pack a tablespoon or so of the "crumb crust" into the bottom of a lined mini cupcake tin, fill as directed. Bake in 375 F degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. Then let sit as directed above for 30 minutes.
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Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 696
Location: israel

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Faith,
I specialize in finger food parties, which I can cater for quite large number of people. I love the savoury ones, but of course, everyone loves sweet petit fours.
If the desssert snacks you have to prepare come after savoury snacks, than I agree with creampuff- about 3-4 pp are enough. But if it's coffee and sweet snacks only, I would prepare at least 5. So we talk of about 700-1300 pieces for 5 days.
besides what you suggested and creampuff's cheese cupcakes ( which I aready added to my repertoir - they are a brilliant idea), I bake batches of mini eclairs ( or puffs, but eclairs are very elegant) which I froze. You can make a vanilla creme patissiere ( it holds a t least three days in the fridge) and fill each day the number of eclairs you need, which I coat with melted chocolate/butter glazure.
I also like to prepare lots of mini meringues, plain white, with cacao or cofee, people like them , and its easy and of course you can make them well in advance ( don't freese them, they can stay for a very long time in an air-tight box in the fridge). I present them in a glass bowl ( like a big wide champagne cup).
I also prepare sheet chocolate or cheese cakes and cut them in little squares ( or rounds-, but then you have to eat the"waste" and bad things happen to the waist...)
I also prepare pre baked mini empty tartlets, which I fill the last minute with creme patissiere and decorate with fruits.
I also prepare fruit cakes (I mean english fruit cakes) which I slice very thin. there are special long and thin baking pans, so the slices are small - like a mini english cakes.
If there is any receipt you need ( as most of the above are found in any pastry book) please email or pm, and I'll send you my receipes.
Good luck

No more war, more of those litle sweet desserts!
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Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

creampuff- You're entirely toooo kind! And now I've really got to step up to the plate, don't I? Wink

When I think big numbers I think cookies. They're the nearly perfect food and if someone could get some actual nutrition in them they'd move all the way up to perfection, don't you think? Besides, they're infinitely portable, need no last minute fussing or prep and don't require anything more complicated than a cocktail napkin for service & an attractive basket (or 2 or 3) for display/distribution.

Everyone loves homemade peanut butter, oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies. Not very original but very do-able and always delicious. Besides who do you know who bakes at home anymore so they're bound to be a treat. Brownies are excellent of course but I've never had success baking them in large pans. It's hard to get them not to burn on the edges and to get them to cook adequately at the center.

Here are some other excellent cookies that could be done in large quantities:

Peanut Brittle Bars

• 1 cup butter , softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 cup all purpose flour, sifted
• 1 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped & divided

Preheat oven to 375? F.

Cream together butter and sugar. Gradually add flour, mixing at low speed, until fully incorporated. Stir in 1/2 cup of the peanuts.

Turn batter into ungreased jelly roll pan (10x15) and, after flouring your fingertips, press batter into thin layer. (I used a second pan and pressed it into the lower one.) Evenly sprinkle remaining peanuts into the pan. Cover dough with a piece of wax paper and press peanuts into the dough, smoothing the mixture into an even layer. Remove wax paper. (I lightly pressed with the second pan a second time.)

Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cookies cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slice into bars. Let the bars cool completely in the pan. They will be quite firm when completely cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 24 bars.

Notes: I have never doubled this recipe but I'm sure it would easily double or triple — tho I'd just do one pan at a time. I have also made them by putting some chopped coconut in the batter and substituting macadamias nuts for the peanuts. The macadania version could be drizzled with chocolate for a little glamour. ••• Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper that extends over the long sides. You'll be able to use the extra paper to lift the whole pan of cookies out to cool and put your pan back into service on the second batch. If you do it immediately and place them on a flat surface they'll curl as you lift them but flatten out and firm up as they cool.

Source: Maida Heatter (but I picked it up from the wonderful nic at BakingSheet)


Seven Layer Magic Bars

Makes about 36

• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
• 1 cup butterscotch flavored chips
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
• 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°, (325° for glass dish). Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Place the butter in the baking pan and melt it in the oven. Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour condensed milk evenly on top of crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients in order listed; press down firmly with fork. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature.

Notes: These were all the rage in the 90s because they were sooooo easy. They're pretty dental-filling-curdling sweet but they're also good if you think of them as half cookie/half candy. Since the whole exercise consists of measuring out ingredients and layering 'em in a pan you could whip out as many pans as you think you'll need.


Earl Grey Tea Cookies

• 2 cup all purpose flour
• ½ cup sugar
• ½ cup confectioners' sugar
• 2 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 teaspoon brewed tea
• 1 cup sweet butter

Preheat oven to 375°F

Pulse together all the dry ingredients in a food processor until the tea leaves are pulverized.

Add vanilla, water, and butter; pulse together until a dough is formed.
Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a sheet of plastic wrap.

Roll each half into a 12-inch log. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Slice each log into 1/3 inch thick pieces.

Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or foil, 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Makes about 4 dozen

Notes: These have a slightly more sophisticated flavor; not too sweet, sorta shortbread-y. Consider substituting green or Jasmine tea and orange water for the vanilla. •• These cookies do best directly on a baking sheet. A silcone mat insulates them too much and the bottoms don't brown and crisp but a piece of parchment paper would probably permit crisping and allow you to quickly slide them off the cookie sheet all at once. •• These cookies are what used to be called "ice box" cookies. They'll double or triple with ease and sit (well wrapped) in your freezer nearly forever waiting for you to slice off enough for a guest, a party or yourself and a cup of tea.



Nanaimo Bars

• ½ cup butter, melted
• ¼ cup sugar
• 1/3 cup cocoa
• 1 egg
• 2 cup graham cracker crumbs
• 1 cup flaked coconut
• ½ cup walnuts, chopped
• ¼ cup butter
• 2 tablespoon Bird's custard powder
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoon milk
• 2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
• 3 ounce semisweet chocolate
• 1 tablespoon butter

Base Layer: Mix together ingredients. Press into a 9" square pan. Refrigerate while making filling.

Filling: Cream together butter, custard powder and vanilla. Gradually blend in milk and confectioners' sugar, alternating between additions. Filling will be stiff.

Spread over chilled base. A bent-handled spatula dipped in water may help. Chill to firm before adding icing.

Icing: Melt chocolate and butter together. Pour over chilled bars, tilting pan to cover evenly and smoothly. Chill well before slicing into bars.

Store in fridge. Makes 48 bars

Notes: These delicious bars made their reputation among people making the ferry crossing from Vancouver to Victoria. Just don't expect them to do much for your waistline when they, basically, consist of three differently flavored layers of butter. Still, I don't know anyone who has one and doesn't want the recipe. ••• I hope you can find Bird's. I always bring some home when I'm in Canada so I haven't looked for it in many years.

Source: Canadian Living Cookbook


Neiman-Marcus Cookies

• 2 cup butter
• 2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 2 cup sugar
• 4 egg
• 2 teaspoon vanilla
• 4 cup all purpose flour
• 5 cup oatmeal, whirled to a flour in a blender or food processor
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoon baking soda
• 8 ounce milk chocolate, grated
• 3 cup pecans, chopped
• 24 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Stir into butter mixture. Fold in chocolate chips, grated chocolate and nuts.

Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375?.

NOTES: This recipe usually gets halved. You'll want to use at least a 4-qt. stand mixer to do the whole batch. ••• The milk chocolate grates best when well chilled. But I've moved on to 1 part milk chocolate chips to 4 parts of semi sweet chips. ••• This flour made from whirled oats is a great substitution for part of the flour in many cookie recipes.

Makes 10 dozen

Source: Now there's the rub! We all know the story but it's supposed to be an urban legend.


Halloween Spice Cookies

• 4 ¾ cup all purpose flour
• 2 tablespoon baking soda
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 ½ cup butter, at room temperature
• 1 ¾ cup sugar
• 2 large egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• ½ cup molasses
Royal Icing
• 2 large egg whites (or 1 teaspoons of meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons of water)
• 4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
• 1 lemon, juiced
• paste food coloring

Combine dry cookie ingredients in a large sifter. Sift and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixter fitted with a paddle, combine butter and sugar. Beat, starting on low speed and increasing to high, until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes; scrape the sides of the bowl down once with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla; beat on medium speed until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Turn off mixer. Add molasses, and mix on medium speed until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl and add dry ingredients. Mix, starting on low speed and increasing to medium high until ingredients are just combined, about 30 seconds.

Transfer dough to a clean work surface. Roll the dough into four 1 1/2 inch diameter logs. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350?. Unwrap and slice each log into 3/8 inch thick rounds. Place rounds on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies crack slightly on the surface, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

When completely cool, pipe on the outline of jack-o-lantern faces and ghosts, ect. fashioned with slightly thick royal icing. Fill in with royal icing that is the slightest bit runny.

Royal Icing

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and lemon juice; beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; it it is too thin, add more sugar.

Makes 6 dozen

Notes: These are meant to have scary/jack-o-lantern faces piped onto them. Hence, the name "Halloween". But, that aside, the spicy flavor is excellent. The "ice box" approach is super easy. And the icing, which adds a nice sweet note to the spice, can be drizzled over a whole pan of cookies for speed and efficiency.

Source: Martha Stewart
God writes a lot of comedy... the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny. -- Garrison Keillor

Last edited by Rainey on Sat Oct 15, 2005 7:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 02 Oct 2004
Posts: 233
Location: Canton, TX USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheesecakes also freeze well. Instead of making one large cheesecake. make several, using the 6" mini-springform tins, then cut each small cake into 6-8 pieces. I like Creampuff's suggestion of small portions so people can sample more than one.

Would it be too out of place to offer some dried fruits as well? I'm thinking of dates, figs, and apricots. Maybe stuff the dates with a bit of cinnamon-pecan cream cheese, and an almond or bit of marzipan inside the apricots if you want to get fancy.
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Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Posts: 9
Location: Orlando, FL

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2005 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, everyone - thanks so much for all the suggestions. There are some wonderful recipes and tips in here. Thanks so much - this is very, very helpful.
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Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Posts: 9
Location: Orlando, FL

PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2005 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, this is coming really late, but I thought I'd let everyone know what I ended up doing.

I baked desserts for lunch each day. I made, variously, a chocolate cake (Hershey's recipe), a pumpkin cake from Leite's Culinaria, an oatmeal cake, and a great banana cake I found on AllRecipes. I made all of these in two very large sheet pans, and they worked splendidly.

For afternoon snacks I bought some different things to mix it up: trail mixes, dried fruit, some pretzels, and on one day I made fresh garlic salsa to go with corn chips. People brought in leftover Halloween candy to get it away from their house (and kids!), too.

I also made massive quantities of buckeyes (chocolate dipped peanut butter balls) and monster cookies (oatmeal, M&Ms, etc.). I tried out several new recipes, all with great success; the peanut brittle bars and and the tea cookies were a hit. I am definitely making the brittle bars again. I put a light syrup made with fresh ginger over top of one of the sheets, and it was yummy! I didn't have a lot of fridge space, so I didn't attempt any of the cheesecake ideas. I think I might try some of those at Christmas, though.

Thanks again all for the suggestions. The event went very well, although I think I was a little cracked in the head to bake so much and run things at the same time! But hey, that's fun too.
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