Desserts

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Sweet Potato Cheesecake Empanadas
Puerto Rico and the American South intersect deliciously in this unique dessert empanada from Boricua Soul in Durham, North Carolina, which combines the flavors of marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole with spiced pumpkin cheesecake, encasing it all in caramel-drizzled, crisp pastry. Thanks to the smart use of store-bought shortcuts like empanada wrappers and canned sweet potatoes, the creamy filling comes together in minutes.
Sourdough Cookies
These richly spiced, chewy sourdough cookies are an excellent way to use excess sourdough starter or discard, which is never in short supply for habitual sourdough bakers. The trick to the cookie's bold character is using as many freshly ground spices as possible—their strong punchiness is pleasantly balanced by the rich flavor of the flours and unrefined sweeteners. A spice grinder is best for preparing whole spices into a fine powder for measuring, but a clean coffee mill works just as well. Using this combination of stone-ground spelt, rye, and buckwheat flours leads to a robust grain flavor, thick cookie, and slight chew. This is a thick, hefty dough; Sarah Owens sources heavy-duty vintage ice cream scoops to make portioning easier. For a stronger flavor and more tender crumb, ferment the dough in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before scooping and baking. 
Chocolate Puddings with Miso Caramel
Miso-enriched caramel intensifies the deep, chocolaty flavor of these silky puddings from pastry chef Clarice Lam. A touch of cornstarch in the custard base helps thicken the puddings and keeps them from curdling or breaking. Be sure to bring the leftover caramel to the table; its savory, bitter, and sweet flavor will have guests reaching for more.
Chocolate French Crullers with Dried Raspberries and Fudge Glaze
From slinging s'mores at one of her The Baking Bean pop-ups to creating pastries for hot NYC spot Kimika to competing on popular cooking shows, there's never a dull moment for pastry chef Clarice Lam. Made with a classic choux dough, her French crullers are likewise full of personality, featuring a crunchy crust, an airy center, and a colorful topping of dried raspberries and fudge. Dip the chocolate crullers in the warmed fudge glaze so the dried raspberries stick for a sweet-tart topping that's as tasty as it is beautiful.
Dark Chocolate Vanilla Cookies
Rating: Unrated 1
"It's not often that we find someone who doesn't like a great, soft, crumbly chocolate cookie, so these are our go-to treats that serve many purposes," say Todd Porter and Diane Cu. "When there are new neighbors, we welcome them to the neighborhood with a platter. If our mail carrier or UPS driver is working hard and delivering heavy packages to us, we'll send out a thank-you in a bag of these cookies. Need to apologize to someone? These are the perfect catalysts to start the conversation again and to admit that you screwed up. Dark Chocolate Vanilla Cookies double as the perfect holiday baked good, too, because the light dusting of powdered sugar adds the perfect analogy to soft, drifting snow. Better yet, pairing these with some eggnog or hot apple cider is a fabulous finish to a feast. These chocolate cookies are best eaten while still warm (aren't most cookies?) or at least on the same day."
Air Fryer Brownies
With the help of an air fryer, these gooey, fudgy brownies—baked in ramekins and reminiscent of a molten chocolate cake—are less than an hour away. Adding espresso powder to the batter helps bring out the chocolate flavor, as does the crunchy sea salt garnish at the end. Serve them on their own, or with your favorite ice cream. Better yet, top them with berries, whipped cream, chopped nuts or caramel sauce to make a brownie sundae.
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Fun and Fancy Macarons 
To add an extra-festive holiday touch to macarons, pastry chef Paola Velez paints them with several different colors of edible shimmering luster dust. As for the filling? Pick from homemade dark chocolate ganache, or store-bought holiday jam, apple butter, or firm caramel sauce. The macarons can be made in advance and frozen; wait to fill until ready to serve.
Matcha-Butter Cookies with White Chocolate Drizzle

Matcha powder adds festive color to these crisp butter cookies from Aiko Cascio, a Japanese cooking instructor with the League of Kitchens in New York City. Cascio learned how to make these not-too-sweet matcha tea–flavored cookies from a friend who owns a bakery in Tokyo, where they are popular during the winter holiday season. Matcha powder is made from finely milled green tea leaves and imparts a slightly bitter and earthy flavor to these cookies, and melted white chocolate boosts the sweetness and gives them a festive look. Due to the high ratio of butter in the dough, it softens quickly at room temperature; chill it in between rolling and cutting for clean cuts.