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Finger food desserts for 50 -- what's better than brownies?

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Someone twisted my arm (not too hard) and so I have to provide 50 servings of dessert for an evening school fundraiser. I think there are 6-8 of us making 50 pieces of dessert each. I could make brownies and cut them into half or quarter servings, but that seems too easy. Definitely don't want to make cookies either -- there'll be plenty of those. Whatever it is needs to be able to sit at rom temperature for at least a couple of hours and not go soggy. I'd wanted to try mini ice-cream sandwiches or mini pavlovas but they're obviously out.

Anyone have any tried and true ideas? ...or recipes worth experimenting with?!

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  1. chocolate-dipped cheesecake pops! they make an impressive display, particularly if you use various shades of chocolate and decorate with bits of crushed nuts, cookies, pretzels...or even sprinkles.

    or you could do a variety of rolled truffles or cake balls.

    11 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Cake pops or balls are a great idea. I also like the look of this itty bitty pies. (You could also do tartlets which would be a little simpler.)
      http://www.notmartha.org/tomake/tinyp...

      You might also find this thread useful.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/637082

      1. re: toveggiegirl

        Here's my reliable recipe for Pecan Tartlets. I'm not a great person with dough, but this forgiving recipe always works for me with delicious results. In the South, these are called Pecan Tassies.

        Pastry:
        1 3 oz. package cream cheese
        1/2 cup butter
        1 cup sifted flour

        Let cheese and pastry soften. Blend together. Stir in flour and chill dough 1 hour. Shape into 2 dozen balls (1-inch diameter). Place each ball of dough in the depression of an ungreased mini-muffin pan. Press dough agains bottom and sides to form pastry shell.

        Pecan Filling:
        1 egg
        1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
        3/4 cup brown sugar
        dash of salt
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        2/3 cup coarsely broken pecans

        Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

        Beat together egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Using half the pecans, place some nuts in each of the pastry shells. Add the filling and top each tartlet with some of the remaining pecans. Press the added pecans gently into the filling.

        Bake tartlets in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool tartlets in pan. Remove.

        1. re: Indy 67

          This looks really good but I'm confused. "Pastry: Let cheese and pastry soften." Do you mean let cheese and butter soften?

          Thanks!

          1. re: rednails

            This looks really good! Do you ever have problems with the pastry sticking to the pan?

            1. re: rednails

              Well that was quite incoherent!!! Apparently, for about 40 years, I've been just glossing over those silly instructions. They should read "Let cream cheese and butter soften. Blend together."

              1. re: Indy 67

                That sounds exactly like Norma Talmadge's recipe for tassies that I make. Is that your recipe too? And yes, they are extremely popular when I make them for gatherings. I make a double recipe, and they disappear. Like mini pecan pies...

                1. re: roxlet

                  This is my mother's recipe, but I haven't got a clue where she got it. Unfortunately, the opportunity to ask has passed. I know I've been using this recipe for at least 40 years and perhaps even longer. Pecan Tartlets/Tassies were simply a standard part of every cook's repertoire in that era, and I've never stopped making them.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    Are you talking about Norma Talmadge, the movie star from the silent film era?

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      LOL, my mistake! I mean Betty Talmadge, the wife of the former governor of Georgia. I have her cookbook -- How to Cook a Pig and Other Down Home Recipes.

                  2. re: Indy 67

                    LOL. I kind of figured as much, but ya never know. Looks great, will definitely have to try it soon.

                    Thanks!

                2. re: Indy 67

                  I make these all the time and they are the first to go at any gathering!!! Another variation is instead of the pecan filling using the same ingredients, and substituting half coconut and half chopped walnuts in place of the pecans. Voila, Coconut Tassies. Both are soooooo good!!!!

            2. Line a mini muffin pan with your choice of crust and either blindbake that and fill with, for example, lemon curd or ganache, or bake mini-cheesecakes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: stilton

                I vote for min cheesecakes. The kind with a vanilla wafer in the bottom are easy. I know you said no cookies but what about some fruit filled cookies, like mini turnovers? I bet a good cupcake would be a winner - carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

                1. re: stilton

                  This is how I'd go, too, even with brownies. No need to cut and far easier to serve. OP could also do nut tarts, bite sized cupcakes, custard tarts, endless ideas.

                  Along the idea of mini ice cream sandwiches, whoopie pies are always a big hit at things like this.

                2. When I have to make dessert for a crowd sometimes I like to make popcorn balls. I basically make rice krispies treats, but with popcorn instead of cereal. You can add in nutella, peanut butter, nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, sprinkles, etc. And you can put them on sticks from the craft store, or even use pretzel rods for sticks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Chocolate dipped fruit? Something that can be dipped whole, else it will go soggy if left out for an hour strawberries perhaps, or physlis?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Peg

                      One of the best party desserts I ever had was apple "lollipops". Very easy! Chunks of a tart apple like granny smith, dipped in dark chocolate, with a stick in the top. Really delicious, and easy to grab and go.

                    2. I would make chocolate truffles. For 50 would require about 150 truffles which would require about 6 pounds of chocolate...3 pounds for the genache and 3 pounds for dipping. Unless you have access to a tempering machine, I wouldn't dip them in chocolate. I would roll them in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, coconut or sprinkles. They would work well on lollipop sticks too. So you would only need 3 pounds of chocolate and 3 cups of cream. I would make them all 1 flavor genache because who needs the extra hassle.

                      Here is my recipe for the genache.

                      16 oz dark chocolate
                      7 oz cream
                      3.5 Tbls of butter
                      4 Tbls of liqueur*
                      1 Tbl of light corn syrup

                      * I use half Grand Marnier and half Ameretto. You could use either one or both.

                      1. Melt chocolate in microwave with 30 second bursts on level 8.
                      2. Heat cream in pot to about 180.
                      3. Combine cream, corn syrup, and chocolate and stir together until blended.
                      4. Add liqueur. Stir.
                      5. Let set until about 80 degrees.
                      6. Add butter 1 pat at a time
                      7. Whip
                      8. Allow to set up in refrigerator at least 2 hours.

                      1. I agree with the mini cheesecakes...so easy and so tasty.

                        Baklava

                        Small pecan bars or pecan tartlets.

                        Mini cupcakes

                        Oh, these are easy. Melt a bag of dark chocolate chips and peanut butter chips together in the microwave. Dump in a can of honey roasted peanuts. Drop by heaping spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes to harden. These things are super easy and seriously awesome!

                        1. Rice krispy treats -- not difficult or fancy, but always popular! You could always drizzle them with white and dark chocolate to make them look a little nicer. Chocolate-coated toffee or "matzo crack" would be easy and popular too.

                          1. Lamingtons. The ones filled with jam are even better. They also they better when "rested."

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Eat.Choui

                              Do you have a lamington recipe to recommend? Also, do you know if there's a way to do a chocolate coating that is more like a ganache shell and less like cocoa mixed with powdered sugar and hot water? Thanks!

                              1. re: TerriL

                                I really like Martha Stewart's recipe:

                                http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/l...

                                I also tried the recipe in the book "A World of Cakes," but I prefer Martha Stewart's. I've dipped them in tempered chocolate, which I loved, but the kids like the chocolate icing better. The icing makes a really thin coating, thinner than chocolate. It may also be because I'm quite an amateur when it comes to working with chocolate and I can't get as thin of a coating.

                                1. re: Eat.Choui

                                  Thanks. I like the lamingtons recipe in Greg Patent's Baking Odyssee', but the frosting is too sweet for me. Martha's actually looks ok. How did the tempered chocolate hold up?

                                  1. re: TerriL

                                    The chocolate was thicker and "crunchier" than the icing, For the first couple of lamingtons, I had a hard time gauging out much chocolate is too much when I dipped the lamingtons in. They ended up pooling with the coconut sliding off. The next round, I dipped them in, then scrape some chocolate off, then dip in coconut. It was definitely more work than the icing. I'll try some type of chocolate glaze next time. but don't know if it's worth it if the kids won't eat them if the chocolate tastes too "adult."

                            2. The cheesecakes are always a big hit, try Paula Deen's peanut butter cup ones but do them in mini muffin pans instead of the regular, sooo good. One thing I learned and maybe I am slow, but do not use white muffin liners when doing any kind of cheese cake they blend in after they bake and people eat the liner LOL. Sounds crazy but it happened. Good luck.

                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pa...

                              1. Mini melba profiteroles - easy to make in advance and easy to take.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: chefathome

                                  OK, this sounds really good too. Profiteroles I've managed to make before -- but what's Melba? With peaches? Speaking of peaches, I *was* going to try these -- but am a bit terrified I'll screw up and have to change tack hours before the desserts are supposed to be delivered.

                                  http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/p...

                                  1. re: bgbc

                                    It is a raspberry sauce sometimes associated with peaches. When I make profiteroles I pile them into a tower and drizzle the raspberry sauce over the tower OR do croquembouche which is equally impressive. You could do the profiteroles in advance and take the sauce along. Melba sauce recipe:
                                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                    1. re: chefathome

                                      You know it is funny you should mention a croquembouche. I was wondering if I could fill profiteroles with key lime curd and pile em up and stick em together with something. Not sure the classic caramel would work well with key lime curd but maybe something with raspberries. Raspberries go really well with key lime.

                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                        Yes and lightly whipped cream. Sounds lovely.

                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                          The raspberries and key lime combo is marvellous! Never done it with profiteroles but now really want to.

                                          1. re: chefathome

                                            How would you make the raspberries sticky enough to hold the croquembouche together or does it need to?

                                            I have never made one. I wouldn't think gravity would be enough to hold it together.

                                            Maybe you could use a raspberry jam to do it?

                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                              gravity won't cut it, and preserves probably wouldn't be sticky enough...but you could follow the traditional procedure of dipping the profiteroles in caramel, and just use raspberry-flavored sugar to make it.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                I could stuff a pastry bag with key lime curd on one side and raspberry curd on the other so that a combo comes out. I could stuff the profiteroles with that combination and then use your caramel to stick it together.

                                                Those "curd puffs" or whatever you would call them sound pretty good with or without the tower.

                                                I'm crushed.... I just showed my wife a picture of a croquembouche. I was going to explain that it was a tower of cream puffs but she interrupted me and said it was a tower of donut holes. ( hangs head) She has a way of bringing everything into perspective.

                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  I could stuff a pastry bag with key lime curd on one side and raspberry curd on the other so that a combo comes out.
                                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                  or just make raspberry-lime curd :)

                                                  http://sloblogs.thetribunenews.com/an...
                                                  http://wanderlustandappetite.blogspot...

                                  2. lemon square/key lime bars and/or Magic Bars (srsly) always a HUGE hit.

                                    1. I have done this same charity fund raiser before with this.....VERY simple and always a crowd pleaser. Purchase pre-made chocolate cups/shot glasses.....fill with a finely chopped fresh fruit salad of mixed berries, or pineapple, kiwi, blueberry, apple, really whatever you can find that is fresh, flavorful and colorful. People can pick it up....eat in one bite, no mess, no fuss....and just enough unusual that they always get noticed. Hope this helps ~

                                      1. Nutella Brownie bites are better than brownies :)
                                        and sub'ing almond butter for the nutella in this super simple recipe makes for a nice two-fer!
                                        I made a combo tray for a meeting and the partners couldn't focus on the meeting.

                                        http://savorysweetlife.com/2010/08/4-...

                                        1. I recommend Nanaimo bars! They're always popular, and a little more interesting than just brownies. I don't ever make them myself (I would eat the whole tray) so I don't have a favorite recipe. Here's the wikipedia article if you aren't familiar with them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanaimo_bar

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: looz

                                            Great suggestion, looz. Also one of my favorites and this recipe has been my base recipe while (still) experimenting with flavor combos:
                                            http://www.closetcooking.com/2008/12/...

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              Thanks looz and HillJ -- I'd never heard of Nanaimo bars. Love this idea.

                                              They remind me of caramel slices, which probably take as much effort but have a caramel filling instead of custard: http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/200...

                                              1. re: bgbc

                                                Thank you for that link bgbc, yes they look very similar...and very tasty!

                                                1. re: bgbc

                                                  Along those lines, I love millionaire's shortbread. They were the surprise hit of my Christmas cookie exchange.

                                                  http://pieceofcakeblog.blogspot.com/2...

                                            2. I was also in such a fund raiser recently. I made my snicker doodles, 3 to a cello bag with a cute ribbon attached and they I sold out early. The brownies were another hot seller and they went. Whoever made those, they cut them into huge brownies, they were beautiful.

                                              The people at our event were buying more than one item and not eating it there. They were taking it home. Sales were for around 6 - 12 and for me, packaging up 3 to sell was the best thing for me to do. Maybe it was just our group but I some very lovely cream puffs that I know someone worked very hard on, not selling. Yes to krispie treats - you can add m&ms. or marshmallows, lots of things. Theres also a no bake cookie ( I have a recipe) that is popular, peanut butter chocolate etc..

                                              Or, how about an interesting biscotti or biscuit for tea or coffee? OH Madeleines! They'd be perfect! There is a whole recent thread on them.
                                              The other thing I thought of is caramel corn, served in paper cones or those cute little Chinese take out boxes? I hope this helps, just coming from my experience with our fund raisers.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Thanks chef chicklet, this is a great list. This fundraiser is a ticketed dinner + music so the desserts are part of the menu. But I'm going to go back to your suggestions for the next time I do have to donate stuff to sell! Funny how things like cream puffs don't sell but krispie treats go like gangbusters!

                                              2. Fudge. Does not have to be refrigerated, easily made, can make different flavors, such as peanut butter, chocolate, white chocolate, nuts or no nuts. And, it's easily transported. Good home made fudge is always a treat.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: basketwoman

                                                  oh....I missed that if it was posted somewhere, that explains why you'd be willing to make ice cream sandwiches. Then why not? Those would be a beautiful dessert, delcious and no spoon needed!

                                                2. Mini whoopie pies. They are a guilty pleasure -- a bit like a hostess cupcake for adults. But, no one has mentioned min, one-bite cup cakes. When I make cup cakes for a party, I make half chocolate cake, half vanilla and then I frost half of each with chocolate and the other half with vanilla. They disappear.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    I did--both whoopie pies and bite sized cupcakes, up above! I also like to make home made hostess cupcakes--people love the throwback to their old nostalgic snacks.

                                                  2. Mini-biscotti. I prefer ones with nuts to the totally sweet, dipped in chocolate sort.

                                                    1. I may get my house bombed for suggesting this on chowhound as these are efficient rather than chowish but the 1980's mini-cheesecakes are very easy to produce in quantity and to eat standing up: in each cupcake paper (mini-muffin liner) put a vanilla wafer, then half fill the cup with a cheesecake filling---use any simple recipe---bake this briefly, then fill the rest of the space with a fruit topping either homemade or from a can (strawberry, pineapple, cherry). You can turn these out by the million. Room temp for a couple of hours would be fine. (If you do the fruit topping yourself it's either a bag of frozen strawberries or a can of crushed pineapple or cherries plus a little sugar and some cornstarch dissolved in cold water, brought to a boil).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                        I wouldn't bomb you, I love those things and I make them for my family. I've used jams on these too. You can make (if you want to really take the time) make a criss cross pastry on top with large sugar crystals so they look like little pies.

                                                      2. This was an awesome discussion. Thanks for all the ideas. I ended up going with the "peach" custard-filled cookies and caramel bars. Wanted to do Nanoaimo bars but realized at last minute I had no custard powder... Am still working on not being intimidated by baking anything involving cheesecake :)