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Jacques Pépin’s Favorite Holiday Desserts

This master French chef creates ingeniously simple recipes that double as both holiday desserts and holiday gifts.

Usually my wife, Gloria, and I finish our meals together at home with a wedge of cheese, or sometimes, a piece of fresh fruit. Dessert is what distinguishes these family meals from those we serve guests, which for most of the year generally include custards, tarts or fruit dishes. When the weather starts getting cooler, however, we serve richer desserts like pound cake, and as we approach Christmas, we like to make sweets that can do double duty as holiday gifts.

Sometimes, for instance, we serve our guests pound cake studded with orange, lemon or lime peels that we’ve candied in sugar syrup and rolled in granulated sugar; presented in decorative jars, these peels make wonderful presents. Other times we prepare pâtes de fruits, or fruit pastes rolled in crystallized sugar. These are very popular in France and a special treat during the holidays. The quintessential holiday sweet, however, may be chocolate truffles, or smaller versions that I like to call "truffettes." These can be flavored with many different ingredients, from almonds to orange peel, and should have an irregular shape to imitate the look of the wild delicacy for which they are named.

Published December 2007
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