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Finger-food desserts for cocktail party

I'm having a cocktail party for about 50-60 on Saturday and am all set for main food, but am looking for a few sweets. I'll be doing chocolate-covered grapes, which are delicious and fun and bite-size, and am looking for something else that fits that description. I was mulling over chewy caramels, but am a relative novice at candy-making. I just did many hundreds of cookies for Christmas, so don't feel like cookies. And cakes, pies, etc,, just won't cut it. I also feel as though a second chocolate option is too much chocolate, so was wondering if I could do rum balls with blondies instead of brownies for a change. Any thoughts? Thanks!

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  1. what abourt a mini tarts? I have made caramals using the Ina method...it wasn't bad at all.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LaLa

      You and one other person recommended caramels, and I can't get it out of my head. I have a sugar thermometer, but it's really slow. Should I still give it a go?

    2. mini cheesecakes in muffin tins with cupcake liners. top w/berries. mini pecan tarts. And who doesn't love lemon bars?
      never heard of chocolate dipped grapes--interesting

      3 Replies
      1. re: sparkareno

        Mini cheesecakes are a huge hit. I use the metallic liners as they are sturdier. I made cheesecakes w/ blueberry, pomegranate and lemon curds. They were devoured.

        1. re: sparkareno

          Second the lemon bars. I usually don't have the time to make lots of individual tarts or cheesecakes, so I make lemon bars, brownies, etc. and cut them into bite-size squares.

        2. Possibly too much like a cookie...but what about brown sugar blondies made very thin and cut into very small pieces...no bigger than an inch square. Then put a nut on each one...maybe a whole pecan or a macadamia nut. I did that once w/ chocolate brownies and they looked surprisingly elegant simply scaled down.

          Also, I once made mini pecan pies made in mini-muffin tins.

          Fun project, can't wait to read other suggestions and to hear what you decide on.

          6 Replies
          1. re: danna

            I've done mini tarts before, I've done mini pecan pies, and I hate cheesecake, so those are off the table. BUT those are exactly the sort of elegantly easy things to eat that I want to find, so you guys are on the right track. I even thought of mini-pineapple-upside-down-cakes, but then worried that not enough people like that.

            1. re: katecm

              ooh, ooh....mini eclairs!!! Fun to make, light (relatively) on the belly and you can glaze them w/ caramel or coffee or some other flavor icing if you don't want to repeat the chocolate.

              1. re: danna

                I like this idea. I was going to make my gougeres tonight. Maybe I should scrap the gougeres if I decide to go mini eclair?

                1. re: katecm

                  hmm....to you and I, gougeres and eclairs might be duplicative, but I wonder how many of your guests know it's the same dough or would notice the similarity at all.

                  Are you freezing your gougeres? I've never frozen pate a choux. I made the gougeres from the Zuni cookbook for New Year's w/ bacon, pickled onions and arugula. Mine weren't as pretty as hers but they tasted good. I kinda ate them all.

                  1. re: danna

                    I REALLY wanted to do some bacon ones - I've seen a bacon and corn heralded - but it's one of my veggie choices. I thought about doing two kinds, but I've already got pork and prosciutto on the menu, so skipped it.

                    I do freeze them. They're not AS wonderful, but I have 60 people coming to a 1,000 square foot townhouse, so need to do as much in advance as possible! I have a heating drawer, and they keep their fluffiness in the freezer while getting that nice mild crisp in the drawer. Not as good, but still really good.

                    1. re: katecm

                      Thanks for the tips! So you just pull them from the freezer and pop them in the warming drawer? Gougeres that are 90% as delicious are still off the chain in my book.

                      the recipe I'm talking about made little bacon sandwiches, it wasn't in the dough. But anyhow, a person who can invite 60 guests to a 1000 sq ft house doesn't need hostessing advice from me! ;-) Have fun!

          2. I have never made them before, but Cook's Illustrated has a recipe for Key Lime Bars. I thought they sounded good. And that's coming from a true chocoholic. I could find the recipe if you are interested.

            1 Reply
            1. re: valerie

              i do a nice shortbread bar cookie that's Key Lime with White Chocolate chips... it's a great combo!

            2. caramels are actually very easy and salted caramel is trendy right now. just take care not to burn yourself, lol, like i do every time i make caramel or toffee.

              cake balls with lemon or coconut cake and dipped in white chocolate can be made several days ahead.

              mini cannoli or cream puffs

              these blueberry crumb bars are amazing: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/blu...

              1. mmm, what about mini bread puddings?

                or an assortment of bark with white chocolate vs dark - I know you said not too much chocolate but it's different enough, nice presentation and easy peezy and for those folks (like me) who really don't want dessert most of the time. I kind of went bark crazy for the holidays and did:
                white chocolate with pistachios and cran raisins
                dark chocolate with pretzels and peanuts
                dark chocolate with chili hot powder

                or even a nice candied nuts. like a praline cookie

                1 Reply
                1. re: lexpatti

                  I did bark for Christmas also but stuck to one kind as I had other desserts going on; I did white chocolate with peppermint baking chips..I also did bark dipped pretzel rods which were rolled in different things like toasted pecans & drizzled with caramel; white bark drizzled with chocolate & dusted with espresso powder and bark rolled in chopped dried cranberries & dusted with dried lime rind.

                  Dipped pretzels would be good to serve at the OP's party..you could do mini pretzels dipped in chocolate or white almond barl and rolled into various nuts, dried fruits, cookie crumbs etc plus you'll have the bonus of the sweet & salty factor going on. No baking involved and you get a ton out of one bag of pretzels.

                  Other good suggestions here by the other posters....why not get some frozen phyllo cups and fill those up with pie fillings then pipe on some whipped cream

                2. You could go real down-home and make mini Rice Krispie treats. I know it ain't exactly haute cuisine, but I've yet to meet a single person who, when confronted with them (made with butter, of course), doesn't go "Ooh, I love these!"

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: visciole

                    I love that idea..was just thinking over the weekend about making some with a twist of ganache glaze or maybe a layer of peanut butter & caramel..ummmm

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      You could do home made marshmallows dipped in toasted coconut. Or petit fours.

                  2. Oreo truffles...folks really go nuts over them.

                    1. how "elegant" do you want to go?

                      Oreo Truffles

                      Seven Layer Bites

                      Apple Pie Bites http://www.finger-food-recipes.com/ap... (do with pre-made dough or make your own


                      Mini Smores - graham crackers with homemade marshmallow fluff and a square of dark chocolate

                      Soak Graham crackers in raspberry jam, allow to dry, then dip in white chocolate to coat

                      1. oh, another one that I absolutely love and like brownies can cut into smaller squares are these to die for bars made with ritz crackers and skor bits, with a cream cheese frosting. These are sooo easy but packed with great flavors - I'm in teh middle of a kitchen renovation and recipes are packed but might find on line:


                        * 1 package skor toffee pieces
                        * 1 box Ritz cracker (orignal flavour)
                        * 1 can condensed milk


                        Crush the Ritz Crackers.

                        Mix with the other two ingredients.

                        Pour mixture into a buttered 9x9 pan.

                        Press firmly.

                        Bake at 300 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

                        Let cool and slice while still warm.

                        1. Mini-tars and pies were my first thought, cream puffs/eclairs are versatile and popular, as are more bars- lemon, crumb bars, blondies.
                          Pie pops, which I am seeing more and more, are simply adorable.
                          Mini-trifles or tiramisu, dessert verrines, cups or cornets of mousse with fruit compote or fresh fruit, etc.
                          Macarons or mini pavlovas.
                          Phyllo based desserts like baklava, sebeye b'lebeh, triangles with a fruit and a cheese, cups with a tart marscapone or brie filling with poached, spiced figs or dates and pine nuts or almonds, walnut oil or balsamic drizzled on top, or that sort of thing.
                          Mini pastries made with pre-made puff pastry sheets or shells. Palmiers are beyond easy this way, same with galette de rois, etc.
                          Doughnuts, especially when filled and inventively flavored, can be lovely.
                          Pate de fruit.
                          Sweet popovers.
                          Bons bons and cake bits - like carrot, hummingbird, lemon, or red velvet cake bites in white chocolate, if you want to avoid chocolate.

                          Any of those ideas stick?

                          1. I recently made rum balls for the first time, but used Cruzan Vanilla Rum instead of regular rum. They were quite yummy. Used this recipe with a little more rum and a little more nuts. P.S. No need to measure--just use the entire box of Nilla Wafers...though next time I make these I want to make my crumbs out of butter biscuits (Liebniz makes nice ones).

                            Even one of my toughest critics (who is not a big sweets person) said, "You KNOW these are good!" :)

                            1. Update: I tried some caramels last night. I was going to use Ina's method, but looking at the comments on the Food Network site, it seemed as though there was general agreement that her written measurements varied significantly from those she gave in the episode, and that they didn't work. I did find a salted caramel recipe on Epicurious and that's what I used. I don't have a good candy thermometer, so used my meat thermometer, which claims to go up to 302 degrees. I threw the pan in the fridge before bed. This morning, I checked on them and they seemed rock-hard, so I left them out on the counter. But the time I was done with pilates, they were room-temp and PERFECT. Now, the trick is replicating them with one or two more batches. But a really good start. Even if I can't get them right again, I should be able to cut a fair number of bite-size pieces out of the pan. The trick is to not eat them all myself.

                              1. This may sound odd but you can make a individual tiramisu bites that can be eaten out of hand by using a mini muffin tin to make little phyllo cups. Just butter and stack three sheets but add a little sprinkling of sugar between the layers, then cut the phyllo (scissors are easy) into square and fit them into the mini muffin cups. The corners will hang over but it is pretty.

                                Then just make your mascarpone filling per usual. You can top with espresso powder and ground chocolate or sometimes I add orange zest to my mascarpone and top with berries, skipping the coffee and chocolate flavors.

                                You can also make the cups out of wonton wrappers. Seriously! It is a little easier but don't layer them just brush the top with butter and sprinkle with sugar then bake them.

                                1. Since you have chocolate, I think I'd go for something lemony. A creamy lemon custard or mousse in mini phyllo (bite size) cups is super easy and do-ahead. You can top ea. w/a raspberry, blackberry, a wedge of kiwi, or a few blueberries. They're beautiful and have always disappeared when I've served them at parties.