I’m taking a break from my regularly-scheduled programming to bring you this special message that may or may not be helpful during this time of seasonal surplus.
Is it just me or do you also have trouble resisting leftover desserts from holiday celebrations? With Thanksgiving behind me, but hopefully not still ON my behind, I am contemplating my plan of defense against the traditional weight gain of the Christmas season. For me, the leftover pie, cake or cookies beckon most loudly when everybody has gone home. Of course, I try to pawn off any extra food, but I’ve observed that more and more, people decline. And who can blame them? Few of us need extra padding.
After accidentally buying several 7-1/2 inch glass pie plates on ebay a few years ago, I noticed the average pie recipe, cut in half, fit perfectly into my small pie plates. Although reduced in size, there still seemed to be plenty of dessert for our special family dinners (hubby, me, 2 sons and their wives and 1 grandson) with little or no leftovers.
When I started looking around, I found a small tart pan at a Home Goods store; small, round, cake pans (6-inch) at a restaurant supply (also seen in craft stores); and a small bundt pan in my mom’s kitchen. I even have a spring-form pan in a small size as well as small loaf pans. This means I can cut almost any dessert recipe in half. Everybody gets to enjoy his sweets, but I don’t have much left when the party is over.
Last week, for Thanksgiving dinner, I made 4 (7-1/2 inch) pies, all of them filled with only half a recipe. Multiple culinary choices seem to be part of the Thanksgiving tradition and I wanted to make sure everybody got what he wanted without too much waste. Most people took a taste of several different pies, then helped themselves to a larger serving of their favorite one. The result– much fewer leftovers than past years when we would have 4 or 5 (9-inch) pies. In fact, so few that I didn’t feel guilty about tossing remainders at the end of the day. (If you have trouble disposing of sweets, read my post “On the waist or in the waste.”)
This might not work when cooking for a huge crowd, but I’ve noticed I sometimes go overboard worrying that people will go home hungry and then I end up with way too much. I remind myself that anything in short supply suddenly seems more precious and popular. Better to have people fighting over the last piece than trying to pawn off half a cake on people who really don’t want or need it or worse, me eating it later.
One word of caution: you might want to experiment ahead of time with any particular recipe you’re planning to divide to make sure you did the math right. I make note of the amounts for future reference right there in the cookbook. For things like pie or tart crusts, you may need more like 2/3 or 3/4 of a recipe. I like to double a one-pie-crust recipe and then make 3 smaller crusts. The 2/3 to 3/4 rule also applies to icing or frosting.
Don’t forget to adjust baking times. A half-recipe will likely take more than half the original time but not quite as long as a whole recipe.