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On the Table: Thanksgiving Dessert

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By Bella Butler EBS STAFF

A wise person once said: Always leave room for dessert. While perhaps this is a bigger task after Thanksgiving dinner, it’s well worth the effort. There are so many ways to do Thanksgiving dessert, but advice from some of the best pastry chefs and bakers normally goes something like Ben Mackall’s advice on Thanksgiving wine: keep it simple.

Ashley Dodd, Big Sky baker and the host of the pandemic-born series “The Great Big Sky Baking Show,” suggests giving your dessert spread a solid base with the usual crowd pleasers and sprinkling in the deviations. Pies, especially the traditional varieties like apple and pumpkin, will always please. And there’s always room to reinvent tradition.

“A lot of times when I do a pumpkin pie, I’ll do a pumpkin brûlée pie” Dodd says. “And it’s just as simple as doing a brûléed sugar crust on top of the pumpkin pie. It’s not so different that traditionalists are going to be put out, but it’s just fun enough that it’s interesting and new.”

Traditional flavors can be retained for seasonality in a less traditional dessert. Dodd makes a pumpkin roll, for example. The New York Times has a library of non-pie Thanksgiving desserts that fit the bill as well including treats like cranberry bars, pumpkin flan and cinnamon rice pudding.

Dodd also recommends having lighter sweet snacks for those looking to nibble on something after dinner but who don’t want a full plate of dessert. In the past, she’s made bites like toffee or brittle.

In terms of production, Dodd says it’s best to prepare your desserts a day ahead, whether you’re in charge of preparing Thanksgiving dinner or not.

“Pie is almost always better the second day after it’s had a chance to sort of set up,” she says.

As for how much to make?

“I find that especially after a meal like Thanksgiving, you never need as much dessert as you think you do,” Dodd says. “But it’s also one of the things people are most excited about for leftovers.” Dodd says a standard 9-inch pie can easily feed a dozen people, but if you want some the next day, you better make more.

Desserts aren’t just limited to the solids. Thanksgiving is a great time to bust out holiday drinks like spiced apple cider or eggnog (Dodd makes her own), both things that can be spiked for adult drinkers.

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