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Make ahead desserts & sweets- Suggestions?

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Traditionally, my husband and I have a huge Christmas party known for its fabulous food. This year, however, I'm 8 months pregnant and can't pull it off. Instead, we are doing an open house cocktails, sweets and desserts. While I do candies every year, baked goods and desserts are not really my realm of expertise. I've got lots of homemade candies and ideas for items that can be made 1-2 days in advance (mini creme brulees, dessert shots, mini cheesecakes, etc.), but in order to "pace myself", I need to know which types of desserts I could get away with making 3-4 days in advance without comprimising taste/freshness. I know that there are some baked goods that can be frozen, but will they really taste the same? How far in advance can cookies, brownies or bars be made? Are there some recipes that will keep better than others? Magical storage methods to really keep them fresh? Also, simple is better at the moment (I love a challenge...but I'll be 3 weeks away from birth, that is challenge enough!)

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  1. I would think it would be easier for you to do a cocktail & appetizer party rather than desserts if that's not what you're into. In my experience, there is more work involved in creating many different desserts in mass quantities. Assorted dips & crackers, cheese & roasted veggie platters, a cured side of salmon, a roasted beef, baked ham or turkey display with assorted rolls and mustards or chutneys to accompany, spiced nuts, herbed cheese straws and the like would take practically no time at all.

    But if you're really wanting to do desserts, many types of brownies, blondies, fruit bars and cheesecakes can be made ahead and frozen. Sugar cookies, cookies made with cream cheese, oatmeal and chocolate or other baking chips can be frozen; Mexican wedding cookies can be made in different flavors, frozen & dusted in powdered sugar at the last. You can do a variety of quick breads and flavored butters (orange honey, blackberry lavender, etc) as a display; both freeze well. IMO creme brulee shouldn't be made more than a day ahead. Good luck and congratulations on the baby.

    1. First - congrats.

      Second - How about profiteroles? You can make piles of the puffs ahead and even freeze them. You can fill them with whatever your heart desires (including all sorts of savories for that same party or for the celebration after your baby arrive (woot!). You can prescoop icecream and freeze on a sheet pan and then at the last minute cut those suckers and stuff in the ice cream and have folks dip their in chocolate (or whatever) as they eat them. OR you could verge on crazy and assemble a croquembouche right at the last. And if you do that, well, you are pretty amazing. OK that is a digression. Anyway, you can fill them with pastry cream or whatever you desire. very versitile and can be assembled in steps. Everyone loves a profiterole and they are not just the same old cookie and... They look hard, but are sick easy.

      1. You can freeze cookies... probably brownies, too. You could refrigerate them in plastic containers for a week before your event.

        A foodsaver would work well but don't use one on the brownies or any leavened bread product. The foodsaver will suck the air right out of brownies. My wife suddenly had fudgy type brownies where there had been cake style just a minute before.

        Chocolate truffles store well in the fridge. Cake without the icing freezes well.

        1. You can freeze cookies, bars, etc. baked. I find it easier to cut the bars, like brownies, when frozen, especially if they're topped w/ chocolate ganache or another sticky glaze. I wrap cookies with layers of parchment in between stacks and then put them like that in a zip lock bag, and using a straw on the end suck out as much air as I can. If they're sticky cookies, I'll put them single layer, not touching, on a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes until they're frozen first. After putting them in an airtight ziplock bag, I find it easier for storage to put that in a tupperware container in the freezer and that protect the cookies, too, though takes up more space.

          Overall, I prefer to freeze the dough (cookies not bars) and then bake as needed. I think you maintain freshness better that way. I'd probably be more inclined to do that and then spend the last day baking it all. You could also do truffles and they'd be fine; or something that starts off frozen like cheeseball bites.

          Good luck with it all and congratulations!

          1. Congratulations on the upcoming addition! You can make rum balls a week ahead and leave them out at room temperature -- they get better with age. (And being pregnant, you won't be tempted to eat them all!) Also, I keep seeing recipes for buckeyes lately (chocolate peanut butter balls), and those are usually stored in the freezer and thaw pretty quickly.

            Personally, I find that freezing baked items can change the texture in ways that are fine for home consumption, but not necessarily for a party. But chowser's idea of preparing and freezing unbaked cookie or brownie dough, and then baking the day of the party, is a good one, and your guests will be impressed to have lots of fresh-tasting baked goods.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Pia

              rum balls will stay for a long time and will get better with age. we always do that.

              rainbow cookies can be made ahead and frozen. you can leave them in longer pieces. when you are ready, defrost them, cut into a smaller size and finish the chocolate icing a while before serving.

              1. re: Pia

                I agree on the freezing. I like to make the dough ahead and form into balls or logs and bake as close to eating as possible. The already baked goods in my freezer are for home consumption only. Someone in another thread suggested baking the biscotti loaf and freezing that, and then right before you need it do the second bake. Inas outrageous brownies are also easily made in advance and stored in the fridge. I had mine in the fridge for a week and they were still delicious.

              2. These are ridiculously delicious, super-simple, and a nice change of pace. I skip the water so they set up a bit firmer. I usually cut the entire pan in half, wrap really well, and freeze. I've kept them frozen up to several days in advance. I unwrap before defrosting, then cut once they're soft enough to. They're rich, so I tend to cut into fudge-sized cubes and serve on a platter in mini-muffin papers: http://www.bakeorbreak.com/2008/03/bu...

                1. congratulations :)

                  some things that work just dandy made ahead (sorry if some aren't as seasonally constrained):
                  biscotti
                  baklava
                  bread pudding - set it up, freeze it and bake off day of
                  ice cream sandwiches
                  pies
                  gingerbread
                  frozen mini cheesecakes bites
                  tiramisu a couple of days ahead

                  1. Funny, I'm in almost the same boat (only 7 months though). Although I am probably taking on too much by still trying to do a dinner, but I chose some simple things. So best of luck on both counts!

                    I'm doing Grasshopper Squares the week ahead http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                    And chocolate orange cheesecakes, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi... (the day before).

                    Cookies are the best for making ahead, because they will freeze, or if its only a few days, stay in an airtight container. I find tins really good for cookies, but even just in a box wrapped in foil works.

                    I've also made the Chocolate Stout Cake, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... and kept it a few days. I would do the cake, wrap in foil and make the ganache and keep in the fridge. Day of you can rewarm the ganache and ice the cake. Honestly, I've even made the cake, left it under a cake dome thingy for up to a week, and it's still yummy as we slice into it every night.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mickeygee

                      I just made those chocolate orange cheesecakes! Do yourself a favor and use liners in your mini-muffin tin -- they were easy to make, but a nightmare to unmold.

                      Oh, I made these chocolate peanut butter rice krispy bar things that kept fine in the fridge for a week, let me see if I can find the recipe -- here it is.
                      http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/10/pea...