Holiday Entertaining Tips & Recipes: Desserts


“Draw inspiration from the colors and textures of nature and the seasons for recipes, table decoration, and food presentation-especially when preparing an elegant holiday meal.”

-May Vervoordt, author of At Home with May and Axel Vervoordt

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes


4 red apples (e.g., Fuji)
2 3/4 oz. (80 g) blueberries
4 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 cup (100 ml) agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground aniseed
Juice of 1 orange


Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas 4).

Cut a 1/2-in. (1-cm) thick section off the top of each apple, retaining the stem.

Using an apple corer, remove the cores.

Place the apples in a baking pan. Put 1 teaspoon of butter inside each apple and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Replace the apple “lids” and bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the agave syrup and ground aniseed in a small frying pan until slightly caramelized.

When the syrup has begun to turn golden, add the blueberries and orange juice, and cook over medium heat for an additional 3 or 4 minutes.

Remove the apples from the oven and pour the blueberries and their juice over them.

Makes 4 servings.

Tip: This is a perfect accompaniment for roast poultry or game.

Untitled Extract Pages


“For the holidays, I like to give Le Cirque’s caramelized egg custard a seasonal twist. I infuse the cream in step 1 with gingerbread spices-ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves.”

-Jane Sigal, contributor to A Table at Le Cirque


2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (see Tips)
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
8 teaspoons sugar in the raw, for glazing (see Tips)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream with the vanilla bean, seeds, and salt over medium heat until bubbles appear around the edge.

In a large glass measuring cup, blend the egg yolks and granulated sugar with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, stirring gently. Remove the vanilla bean.

Arrange 4 shallow 4½-inch-long ramekins in a roasting pan (see Tips). Slowly pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Set the roasting pan in the center of the oven and carefully pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake until the custards are firm at the edges but still a bit wobbly in the center, about 1 hour.

Transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

Heat the broiler. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and blot the surfaces of the custards to remove any condensation. Using a small sieve, sift 2 teaspoons of the sugar in the raw over each custard in a thin, even layer. Broil the custards on the top rack of the oven until the sugar is evenly caramelized, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve at once.

Makes 4 servings.

Tips: At Le Cirque, the chefs use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar topping. You can find one at Williams-Sonoma stores. If using deeper 6-ounce ramekins, bake the custards for about 20 minutes longer and reduce the sugar topping to 1 teaspoon per custard. A fresh vanilla bean that’s been used once still has a lot of flavor. Rinse the bean and then let it dry at room temperature before wrapping and refrigerating. Used beans rehydrate when added to poaching liquid or milk to make a sauce. They can also be added to the sugar jar to make vanilla sugar.