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Delicious Christmas desserts

Christmas is just two weeks away and chances are you’re having friends and family over for a gathering or you’re attending one soon.
No matter what type of party, a sweet ending is always important.
It’s the last thing everybody eats, so it should be memorable and spectacular.
Here are some fantastic dessert recipes that are sure to dazzle friends and family members.
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Panna cotta sounds fancy, but is really just a basic custard that can be flavored many ways. I love them because they must be made ahead of time and chilled.
This is a great one at this time of year since it is flavored with the always festive eggnog.

Eggnog panna cotta
3 1/2 cups whole milk
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light rum
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (1 ½ envelope)

Prepare an ice bath. Simply put ice and ice cold water in a large, glass bowl. Set aside. Place 2 cups of milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Pour half of the hot milk into the egg-yolk mixture over low heat.
Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the remaining 1 ½ cups milk and the cream. Set the mixture over the ice bath and stir in the rum and a sprinkling of nutmeg. Let stay in the ice bath until chilled, stirring often. Measure out ½ cup of the eggnog mixture and sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand until softened, about five minutes. Pour remaining eggnog into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until just steaming.
Add gelatin mixture and stir thoroughly. Strain through a fine, mesh sieve or colander and then pour into 3-ounce ramekins.
Cover and refrigerate three to four hours.
Serve chilled.
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Who doesn’t love chocolate mousse? Similar to a panna cotta, this must be made ahead and chilled thoroughly. This would be terrific when served with some fancy cookies. Homemade or store bought.

Chocolate mousse
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, separated
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, stirring well. Let cool to room temperature. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Whisk a third of the whites into chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the remainder. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Chill until set, two to three hours.
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1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with muffin liners. In a boil, combine boiling water and baking soda, set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, the spices and salt.
In another bowl, (or in a standing mixer), cream the butter until light and fluffy.
Add brown sugar and beat well. Beat in molasses, baking soda mixture and flour mixture until combined.
Beat in eggs one at a time. Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full. Bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Dip tops of cupcakes into the chocolate glaze and let set about 20 minutes.

Chocolate glaze
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 ¼ cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons butter

Combine all in a microwave safe dish and heat until melted, stirring every 10 seconds.
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This is almost too simple and too good to be true. Everybody loves getting their own trifle. If you have individual trifle dishes, here is a great way to use them. If not, substitute large wine glasses.

Individual ‘Tiramisu’ trifles
1/2 pound mascarpone
3 tablespoons sugar
12 store-bought ladyfingers
3/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
Whipped cream (homemade or store bought)
Cocoa powder for dusting

Mix together mascarpone and sugar. In a small bowl mix together espresso and rum. Dip ladyfingers in coffee/rum mixture.
Place a dollop of the sweetened mascarpone in the bottom of the glass. Add ladyfingers, breaking apart to make them fit.
Add a dollop of whipped cream. Repeat layers.
End with some whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.