Mojito shortbread trifles

Mojito shortbread trifles. (Supplied)

Mojito shortbread trifles. (Supplied)

RITA DeMONTIS, National Food Editor, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 4:44 PM ET

Yes, I've heard it before - all things in moderation, especially during the holiday season. But sometimes a slice of nice is all you need to really get into the festive spirit.

Here's a selection of dessert recipes you can make and share, or to bring along when invited to neighbourhood get-togethers, or for office pot luck parties. If you're planning on several open houses or family gatherings — definitely keep these dishes on hand to add major wow factor to the holidays!

MOJITO SHORTBREAD TRIFLES

This recipe features tender buttery shortbread cookies layered with zesty lime curd, fresh mint and whipped cream and served in small canning jars for a stylish presentation. Recipe courtesy Gay Lea Foods.

1 cup (250ml) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (125ml) instant dissolving sugar

2 Tbsp. (30ml) dark rum

2 cups (500ml) all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. (30ml) cornstarch

1 tsp. (5ml) salt

Lime Curd:

1 cup (250ml) instant dissolving sugar

3/4 cup (175ml) water

1/4 cup (50ml) each cornstarch and fresh lime juice

1/4 tsp. (1ml) salt

1 large egg yolk

1/4 cup (50ml) unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 tsp. (5ml) finely grated lime zest

Whipped cream

Chopped fresh mint

Beat butter, sugar and rum until creamy and smooth. Stir flour with cornstarch and salt; beat into butter mixture on low speed just until combined. Divide dough into 2 portions; roll each into a log, about 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) thick. Chill for at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Slice logs 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake, in batches and rotating sheets for 12 minutes or until pale golden on the bottom. Cool completely on a rack.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Lime Curd: Whisk sugar, water, cornstarch, lime juice and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil and is very thick. Remove from heat. Whisk in egg yolk; return to heat and cook, stirring constantly for 30 to 60 seconds or until streak-free. Remove from heat; stir in butter until combined. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. Stir in lime zest; cool completely.

Makes 1 1/2 cups (375 ml).

To assemble desserts, layer cookies into 4 oz (125 mL) canning jars or ramekins. Top each with 2 tsp (10 mL) curd and a layer of whipped cream. Sprinkle with mint. Repeat layers swirling the whipped cream to finish. Garnish each trifle with additional chopped fresh mint and a cookie.

Makes about 16 mini trifles (with extra cookies).

ORANGE CRANBERRY CHEESECAKE

I spied this cheesecake while grocery shopping at my local Metro supermarket. After some hunting, I tracked it down to the good folks behind the Canadian sweet company, Baker Street, famous not only for feeding the famous (like the 2011 Academy Awards) but also for all sorts of delicious cakes and tortes, cheesecakes, and their specialty items such as coconut cream cake. This cheesecake is made in a square pan to make serving easier and will do any holiday table proud.

1/4 cup (50 ml) graham cracker crumble

1 lb (454 g) cream cheese

2/3 cup (150 ml) granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup (125 ml) sour cream

1 tsp. (5 ml) cornstarch

1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla

1 tsp. (5 ml) grated lemon rind

Sauce

2 cups (500 ml) fresh cranberries

1/2 cup (125 ml) orange juice

1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar

2 tsp. (10 ml) cornstarch

1 Tbsp. (15ml) water

Cape gooseberries.

Sprinkle crumbs over greased 9-inch (2.5 L) square baking pan; set aside. In food processor, blend cheese and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time; blend in sour cream, cornstarch, vanilla and rind. Pour over crumbs. Set pan in larger shallow pan; pour in enough hot water to come 1 inch (2.5 cm) up sides. Bake in 325F (160C) oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Remove pan from water; let cool on rack. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

Sauce: Bring cranberries, orange juice and sugar to boil over medium-high heat, stirring; cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until berries pop, stirring often.

Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tbsp (15 ml) water; whisk into sauce and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Place sauce on top of cheesecake and spread evenly.

Allow to cool. Place cape gooseberries (or sliced candied oranges) on top of cheesecake.

Serves 10.

'HOT' CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD

These rich chocolate cookies have a hint of spicy zing that will make them a unique and memorable addition to your holiday cookie tray. Recipe courtesy of Gay Lea Foods .

1 cup (250ml) unsalted butter, softened

2 tsp. (10ml) vanilla

2 cups (500ml) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (175ml) instant dissolving sugar

1/2 cup (125ml) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 tsp. (5ml) each salt and ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. (1ml) cayenne pepper

Melted white and dark chocolate

In a large bowl, beat the butter and vanilla until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, cocoa, salt, cinnamon and

cayenne pepper; beat into butter mixture on low just until uniformly combined. Form the dough into a flat disc; wrap and chill for 1 hour or until firm enough to roll easily.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough out between sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick. Cut out shapes using 2-inch (5 cm) cookie cutters. Place cookies, 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, on baking sheets. Re-roll scraps and cut out additional cookies once. Bake, in batches, for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a rack. Drizzle cooled cookies with melted white and dark chocolate for an attractive garnish. Let stand until completely set before packing.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

TIPS:

1. The heat in these cookies is subtle, so for spice-lovers who want more intensity, increase cayenne pepper to 1/2 tsp. (2ml).

2. Make-ahead: Dough can be prepared and stored tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for 1 month before baking. Store baked shortbreads in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

CARAMELIZED APPLE AND CRANBERRY CROUSTADE

If making pastry is not your forte, this is one pie that’s easy to put together and will be a show-stopper for holiday meals. Serve with sweetened softly whipped cream. Recipe courtesy of Foodland Ontario.

1/2 cup (125 ml) unsalted butter

1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar

6 cooking apples (such as Spy), peeled and each cut into 8 wedges

1 cup (250 ml) cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla

9 sheets phyllo pastry

1/2 cup (125 ml) icing sugar

1/2 cup (125 ml) sliced almonds

In large skillet, melt half of butter over medium-high heat. Stir in granulated sugar and heat, stirring, until melted. Add apples and cook, stirring often, until starting to turn golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add cranberries and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool.

Melt remaining butter. Place side of 10-inch (3 L) springform pan (without the bottom) on greased baking sheet and grease inside. Keeping remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp tea towel to prevent drying out, lay 1 sheet on work surface and brush lightly with some of melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with some of the icing sugar. Crumple or scrunch up and press evenly inside pan, not letting it come up the side. Sprinkle with 4 tsp. (20 ml) of almonds. Repeat to make 4 layers of phyllo.

Spoon apple-cranberry mixture into centre, leaving 1-inch (2.5 cm) border. Brush 1 sheet of phyllo with butter, sprinkle with icing sugar and crumple over apples making sheet go to side of pan. Sprinkle with remaining almonds. Butter and sugar 3 more sheets and loosely crumple into 3 large roses to cover top. Butter and sugar remaining sheet; scrunch into smaller rose and place in centre. Bake in 350F (180C) oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with any remaining sugar; bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Let cool slightly. Remove pan side and place on plate. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 8.

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