Presents have been opened, lights and decorations have been taken down, and the countdown has long since ended. It is officially 2016. The start of each year has been nationally recognized as a time to start dieting. While many are throwing out their chocolate fudge and stocking their kitchen with fruits, vegetables, and lots of quinoa, we understand that there are others who aren’t quite ready to give up delicious sweets. Here are the best desserts to enjoy in the new year.
1. Chocolate chip banana bread
A delicious classic with a bit of chocolate to make things fun. Although it’s best served hot, this treat tastes wonderful at all times.
3 to 4 ripe bananas
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
Chocolate chips (as many as you want!)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Bake in a buttered loaf pan until a toothpick stuck into the bread comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Slice and serve.
2. Lemon bars
Sweet and simple, these lemon bars make for an excellent dessert or snack throughout the day.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 lemons, juiced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust.Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the preheated oven. The bars will firm up as they cool. For a festive tray, make another pan using limes instead of lemons and adding a drop of green food coloring to give a very pale green. After both pans have cooled, cut into uniform 2 inch squares and arrange in a checker board fashion.
3. Candy apples
These treats are both tasty and slightly good for you. As the saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Who says it can’t be an apple covered in caramel and candy?
Vegetable oil cooking spray
6 small apples, washed and dried, stems removed *see Cook’s Note
2 (9.5-ounce) bags soft caramel candies, unwrapped (recommended: Kraft Classic Caramels)
1/4 cup pulp-free orange juice
1 (4-ounce) bar 53 percent cocoa dark chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (recommended: Nestle Chocolatier)
Assorted small candies, chopped nuts and sprinkles
Special equipment: 6 craft or thick wooden sticks
In a medium, heavy saucepan, over low heat, combine the caramel candies and orange juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the candies have melted and the mixture is smooth, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool for 2 minutes. Dip the apples in the caramel until coated and put them on the parchment paper until firm, about 2 hours.
Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Using a fork, drizzle the melted chocolate over the caramel. Put the apples back on the parchment paper for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with small candies, chopped nuts or sprinkles and allow the chocolate to harden, at room temperature, for about 3 to 4 hours.
4. Peppermint bark
A holiday favorite, peppermint bark can be found at parties and gatherings throughout the entire month of December. Though December has passed, this dessert tastes great year-round.
12 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 pound good-quality white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 candy canes or 12 round hard peppermint candies, crushed
Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any wrinkles. Heat 1 inch of water in a saucepan over low heat until steaming.
Put all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until one-third of the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan; keep the steaming water over low heat. Gradually stir the reserved 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate into the bowl, a few pieces at a time, until all of the chocolate is melted. Return the bowl to the saucepan, 5 to 10 seconds at a time, to help melt the chocolate, if needed. Do not rush this step: It may take up to 10 minutes to melt the chocolate.
Wipe off any moisture from the bottom of the bowl. Stir 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract into the chocolate, then quickly pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Firmly tap the dish against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Set aside at room temperature until almost set, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and repeat the melting process over the steaming water; dry off the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; pour over the semisweet chocolate and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle immediately with the crushed candy canes, gently pressing them into the white chocolate. Set aside at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the bark out of the pan using the foil and break it into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
5. Oreo truffles
What’s better than oreos and milk? Oreos mixed with chocolate and cream cheese, served in a wonderful cake ball-like fashion. These truffles are rich, so no matter how tempting it may be to eat all of them, you probably won’t be able to.
1 pkg. (8 oz.) brick cream cheese, softened
36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided
4 pkg. (4 oz. each) semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
Mix cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended. Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.