(Getting tired of pumpkin pie and holiday spices? Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Marscapone Whipped Cream, and Cranberry Curd come together to make a lucious single-serving dessert perfect for mixing things up around the holidays)
When I was a kid, my mom had a recipe we would make around the holidays. I'm not sure where it came from, but some friend or family member must have made it and then shared it with us. The slip of paper it's written on has a clear and concise title: That Stuff.
Every year around the holidays we'd start going 'you remember that stuff? That stuff was good!'
It was a strange dessert, made up of a pretzel crust, then layered with a sweetened cream cheese and topped with fruit and jello. Not something that would make you think 'yum', but it was a serious hit with every crowd we took it to.
Well, This Stuff was inspired by That Stuff. Just inspired by, though - this is a more sophisticated Stuff, a rich induldgence too good for mass consumption, hence the single serving 4oz. mason jars.
At the bottom are butter roasted pecans (though pretzels would still work if nuts are a concern) topped with a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce, then a layer of vanilla marscapone whipped cream. It's all finished off with a decadent dollop of homemade cranberry curd - and don't go thinking this is some 'cranberry sauce', no. It's curd, like lemon curd: sweet, rich, and flavorful.
With all the layering, and all the fanciness, it might be appropriate to call it a Trifle... but to me, it will always be Stuff. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
(Fills one 8oz. jar)
5 TBSP unsalted butter, cubed
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup heavy cream
In a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat, melt together the butter and sugar, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It will take awhile, but keep stirring until the mixture darkens to a smooth caramel color - it may look as though the butter and sugar are separating, but don't worry, just keep stirring
Once the desired depth of color is reached, slowly pour in the cream while stirring vigourously. I suggest using a long-handled spoon so you can stand back a little, because the mixture will sputter and bubble and steam as you pour in the cream. Be careful, but keep stirring.
Continue to cook and stir until any lumps have melted and smoothed themselves out, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Once cool, pour into a jar and keep refrigerated. To use, reheat at half power in the microwave until pourable.
(Loosely based off several recipes, makes about two cups)
3 Cups fresh cranberries
1/2 Cup plus 1 TBSP water
3 TBSP Butter
3/4 Cup sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/8th tsp. sea salt)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
optional: 1/8th-1/4 tsp. orange zest (fresh or powdered) or orange extract
In a medium saucepan over low heat combine cranberries and water. Cook until all the berries have popped or burst, and are tender. Using the back of a spoon, or a potato masher, press cranberries until they make a thick sauce.
Pass the cranberries through a fine sieve or strainer, using the back of a spoon to press as much through as posible. Discard the larger bits that didn't make it through, and return the rest to the pan.
Add the butter, salt, vanilla, sugar, and orange zest if using.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks together. Pour eggs into cranberry mixture, and turn the heat on to medium-low, stirring continuously to keep the eggs from curdling.
Once the mixture has thickened, pass it once more through your sieve or strainer.
Let cool, and store in a jar or other lidded container.
Cranberry curd (or other fruit curds) will keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks, or can be frozen for up to one year and thawed slowly overnight in the fridge.
Vanilla Marscapone Whipped Cream
8 oz. Marscapone cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp vanilla powder, paste, or the inside of a vanilla bean
2 TBSP sugar
1 Cup heavy whipping cream
optional: 1-2 TBSP bourbon or other liquor
optional: 2-4 TBSP maple syrup (if using, may want to reduce the amount of sugar)
In a large bowl, combine Marscapone, vanilla, and sugar.
In a separate bowl, whip cream until fluffy and almost to stiff peaks. Add in the marscapone mixture, and any liquor or maple syrup if using, and beat just enough to combine with no lumps.
Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to the expiration date of the cream.
Butter Roasted Pecans (Or Pretzels)
2.5 Cups pecan pieces, or lightly crushed mini pretzels
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using salted nuts or pretzels)
2 TBSP sugar
4 TBSP butter
Preheat oven to 375f.
Melt butter in a bowl, then toss in the pecans or pretzels, sugar, and salt if using.
Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring half way through to ensure even toasting.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
This Stuff (Trifle De La Décadence)
(To make one)
Handful of roasted nuts or pretzels
1-2 TBSP caramel sauce
About 1/4 Cup vanilla marscapone whipped cream
Hearty dollop of cranberry curd
Pecan or pretzel for garnish
In a small jar or ramekin, add ingredients in the order listed, or as you please. Seal and refrigerate for one hour, or store in the fridge for up to the expiration date of the whipped cream. Consume shamelessly with a spoon.
I made several of these to share with the Parents, The Boyfriend, and some friends, and got rave reviews from all. Apparently, This Stuff is pretty popular. It may seem like a lot of work to make each layer of Stuff, but trust me when I say it's worth it. Prepare the curd or caramel ahead of time to make things easy, and don't worry about leftovers of individual ingredients - you'll find uses for them. Like, the perfect dipping sauce for your spoon. Or finger.
I made everything at once, and spent the whole morning standing in the kitchen dipping pretzels and pecans into the different ingredients. Warning: Caramel sauce is hot when it's fresh! Warning: It's hard to stop eating it, despite the burning.
Do you have any weird, unsuspecting family recipes that are a huge hit? Have you modified them, or do you keep them tried and true? Discuss in the comments!