This is the time of year when I start to receive emails from readers asking for ideas for fancy holiday meal pastries. My response is almost always the same: keep it simple. A well-executed simple sweet beats a hastily-prepared complex pastry any day of the week. That’s especially true during a holiday dinner where guests are already loading up on appetizers, main courses and fixin’s. An opulent dessert on top of a multi-course banquet generally puts diners over the edge.
So my advice is to think about the flow of your meal and come up with a nice, understated capper. True fancy pastries, it’s important to remember, weren’t created for dessert. Napoleons, Sacher torte and Marjolaine slices are supposed to be consumed in the afternoon, as a between meal treat, since they’re practically meals in themselves. A little bit of mousse, a small cake of some sort, a few cookies with an after-dinner wine. These are the sorts of things that are always well received after a large meal — and you don’t drive yourself mad trying to get them on the table once the main course is cleared away. This year I say: gear down and have fun!