Create the perfect ending

Mention the words “holiday entertaining” to friends, and the first images that spring to mind are fanciful sweet endings. Not to say that pictures of turkey and maple squash don’t dance in our heads but, as every good host knows, desserts are what leave a lasting impression. So start some new traditions with recipes that showcase glorious seasonal fruits in desserts everyone can enjoy.

Roasted Clementine Sundaes

Transform clementines into a stunning dessert by roasting and caramelizing them and then serving in a family-friendly sundae. The slight tartness of clementine rind contrasts beautifully with the sweetness of chocolate sauce and ice cream.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

4 cups vanilla, chocolate or vanilla-and-chocolate checkerboard ice cream or frozen yogurt

Roasted Clementines:
4 clementine oranges
1/2 cup orange juice (125 ml)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (75 ml)

Chocolate Sauce:
2/3 cup whipping cream (150 ml)
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (125 g)

• Roasted Clementines: Preheat on to 325°F (160°C).

• Using sharp knife, slice clementines crosswise into very thin rounds, discarding both end pieces. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, in bottom of 8-inch (2 l) baking dish. Drizzle with orange juice; sprinkle with half of the brown sugar. Cover dish with aluminum foil; roast for 50 to 60 minutes or until peel is tender when pierced with tip of a knife.

• Increase oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Sprinkle clementines with remaining brown sugar; roast, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until fruit has begun to caramelize and liquid has become syrupy. Let cool in pan on rack. (Fruit can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.) Chop coarsely.

• Chocolate Sauce: In small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chopped chocolate, whisking until melted and smooth. (Sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Warm slightly to reliquefy.)

• In parfait glasses or bowls, place one scoop of  ice cream. Scatter about 1 tbsp (15 ml) clementine pieces over; drizzle with 1 tbsp (15 ml) chocolate sauce. Repeat layers one or two times, depending on the size of bowl, ending with chocolate sauce.

Variation: Strawberry Granola Parfaits. Make roasted clementines as directed. Instead of chocolate sauce, purée one package (425g ) thawed frozen strawberries (packed in a light syrup) in food processor until smooth. Replace ice cream with thick Balkan-style yogurt. Sprinkle top with low fat granola.

Truffle Hazelnut Bites

These divine morsels will easily turn into a perennial family favourite. They can also be made with macadamia nuts. Make sure the bottom layer is cool before you pour on the ganache topping.

Makes about 60 pieces.

1 cup toasted hazelnuts (250 ml)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (175 ml)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (125 ml)
1/4 tsp salt (1 ml)
1/4 cup unsalted butter (50 ml)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (180 g)
2 eggs

Truffle Topping:
2 tbsp unsalted butter (25 ml)
1 cup whipping cream (250 ml)
Pinch salt
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (375 g)

• Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

• In food processor, combine hazelnuts, flour, sugar and salt; pulse until finely ground. Set aside.

• In saucepan, melt butter and chocolate, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in hazelnut mixture just until combined. Scrape mixture into greased 8-inch square (2 l) metal baking pan, spreading and patting into an even layer.

• Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out with just a few dry crumbs clinging to it. Let cool completely in pan on rack.

• Truffle Topping: In saucepan, bring cream, butter and salt just to a boil. Remove from heat.

• Stir in chocolate; whisk until completely smooth and melted. Pour over base, smoothing top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 5 hours. Bring to room temperature before cutting and serving.

Low-Fat Chocolate Cheesecake

Enjoy your cheesecake without wasting a nanosecond on guilty admonitions. Using cocoa powder means intense chocolate flavour without any of the fat regular chocolate provides. Baking in a water bath ensures a spectacular cake with nary a crack to mar its surface.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs (250 ml)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (25 ml)
2 tbsp water (25 ml)

2 cups 2% cottage cheese, at room temperature (500 ml)
8 oz light cream cheese, softened (250 g)
1 cup granulated sugar (250 ml)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (125 ml)
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (7 ml)
2 tsp vanilla (10 ml)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (90 g)
Chocolate-covered cocoa beans

• Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).

• In bowl, stir together crumbs, oil and water until well moistened. Press into bottom of 8-inch (2 l) springform pan. Centre pan on large piece of foil; press foil to sides of pan to help keep water out while cheesecake is baking. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Let cool.

• Filling: In food processor, purée cottage cheese until very smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add cream cheese, sugar and cocoa; process until smooth. Add eggs; pulse just until combined. Dissolve espresso powder in vanilla; add to cheese mixture along with melted chocolate, pulsing until well blended and no streaks remain. Pour batter over prepared crust.

• Set pan in larger roasting pan. Carefully pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch (2.5 cm) up sides. Bake for about 60 minutes or until edges are set but centre still jiggles slightly. Turn oven off; quickly run small paring knife around edges of cake. Let cake cool in turned-off oven for 1 hour. Remove from water bath. Remove foil; let cool completely on rack. Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.

• Garnish with chocolate beans.

TIP: For a velvety smooth cheesecake, have all ingredients at room temperature.

Roasted Pineapple Shortcakes

Roasting fruit brings out all its natural sweetness. Just wait until you taste the nuances of roasted pineapple. As a fruit sauce, this is incredibly versatile: try it over sorbet, frozen yogurt or ice cream; bake it into a quick bread (drain it really well first); combine it with a little mint, mango, diced sweet red pepper and a splash of vinegar for a fresh salsa. The biscuits are so tender and light, they’re a treat all on their own for breakfast or tea.

Makes 8 servings.

1 extra sweet small ripe pineapple
1/4 cup pineapple or tropical juice (50 ml)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (75 ml)

2 cups all-purpose flour (500 ml)
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut (125 ml)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (50 ml)
1 tbsp baking powder (15 ml)
3/4 tsp ground ginger (4 ml)
1/2 tsp salt (2 ml)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces (125 ml)
1/4 cup milk (50 ml)
1/4 cup whipping cream (50 ml)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp granulated sugar (10 ml)

3/4 cup whipping cream or thick yogurt  (175 ml)
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut (125 ml)

• Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

• Peel pineapple; quarter lengthwise and core. Slice each quarter lengthwise into 4 long strips. Place strips on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with half of the juice and sprinkle with half of the brown sugar.

• Roast for 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn slices over. Brush with remaining juice and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until juices are bubbling and pineapple is a light golden colour. (Pineapple can be made up to 8 hours ahead and kept covered with plastic wrap at room temperature).

• Shortcakes: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

• In bowl, blend together flour, coconut, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt. Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.

• In separate bowl, combine milk, cream and egg. Set aside 2 tbsp (25 ml) in small bowl. Pour remaining milk mixture all at once over flour mixture, stirring with a fork to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.

• Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, gently pat dough into 7-inch (18 cm) square about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Cut dough into 8 equal sized triangles. Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with reserved milk mixture. Sprinkle  with 2 tsp (10 ml) sugar.

• Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until puffed and golden. Let cool on racks for at least 10 minutes. (Shortcakes can be made up to 8 hours ahead.)

• Chop roasted pineapple into chunks. Cut each shortcake in half. Topping: Whip cream. Spoon about 1⁄2 cup (125 ml) of pineapple chunks over bottom half of each shortcake. Add a dollop of cream or yogurt. Sprinkle with coconut. Top with other half of shortcake.

TIPS: To add oomph, spike the whipping cream or yogurt with a touch of rum.