I’ve already shared my favorite Thanksgiving cherry-cranberry-pear pie with you, but I don’t believe pie should be a dessert restricted to one holiday per year—even pumpkin pie. (Hey, my dad repeats the entire Thanksgiving feast, turkey, sides, and all, for Christmas when he can; why not make more pies too?)
That’s why I came up with enough pie flavors to get you through the winter into rhubarb and strawberry season, and I just can’t decide which one is my favorite. Is it the fluffy sweet potato with hazelnut streusel? Bourbon butterscotch mini pies with a tangy hit of creme fraiche? Rustic pear-walnut in a double crust? Or raspberry Meyer lemon shaker pie that uses the entire lemon, delicate peel and all?
On the flip side, after making so many pie crusts I was rolling dough in my sleep, I simplified with a bunch of easy-to-make holiday desserts, most of which didn’t even require me to turn on the oven at all. Click through to see all 15 5-ingredient desserts. (A few of these are actually made with only 4 ingredients, if we’re being truthful!)
Some, like the pain au chocolat bread pudding or the inside-out pear crisp, could most definitely do double-duty as holiday brunch dishes. Others, like the cranberry-and-pistachio holiday nut bark or the chocolate chip Biscoff cookies won’t make it to Santa’s plate on Christmas Eve if you let your loved ones taste them beforehand, if you catch my drift.
Out of all the sweet things I nibbled while working on this assignment, the butter caramels are the dessert from this batch that I couldn’t stop snacking on, even as I was shooting the photos and depleting my edible prop stash. It’s a wonder you don’t see a half-bitten caramel in the finished shots.
You’ll need a candy thermometer to bring the sugar to the point of perfect caramelization, but it’s a small price to pay for professional-grade candies that basically make themselves. Melt sugar into butter and cream, heat it up, and you’re golden. Or caramel, as the case may be. Should you want to flavor your caramels with smoked salt or other specialty salts, make it a 6-ingredient caramel by using unsalted butter and stirring 1/2 teaspoon of your preferred salt into the caramel along with the final portion of cream.
Salted Butter Caramels
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 4 hours, including cooling time
Makes about 5 dozen caramels
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, divided in half
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (1 7/8 oz.) packed light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz.) salted butter
- 1/2 cup (5 1/2 oz.) light corn syrup
Spritz an 8-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.
Heat half (1/4 cup) of the heavy cream along with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a high-sided saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves completely.
Clip a candy thermometer to the pot and continue to heat the caramel without stirring until the thermometer reaches 240˚. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream.
Return the pot to the heat and re-heat the caramel until the thermometer reaches 245˚.
Pour the caramel into the prepared baking dish. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours so the caramel firms and sets.
Peel the hardened caramel out of the baking pan onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares with a pizza cutter or carving knife. Wrap each caramel in waxed paper and store at room temperature.