COFFEE - To accompany dessert you’ll want a more distinctive brew than the cup you make as a morning wake-up. Coffees produced in the world’s major coffee-growing regions have different characteristics, so they pair best with different desserts.

East Africa and Arabian Peninsula (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe): Coffees from this area generally have a sparkling acidity and medium to full body. Flavors are rich and vary from fruity or winy to spicy. Offer these coffees with fruit desserts or those flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Indonesia and the Pacific (Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra): This area produces coffees that are full-bodied, smooth, and earthly in flavor, with a low acidity and occasionally herbal flavor notes. Serve them with dense, rich desserts such as cheesecake and those flavored with caramel.

Latin America (Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, plus the Kona region of Hawaii): These coffees are clean-tasting and lively, with light to medium body. They pair well with fruit flavors, including apple, citrus, and other tart fruits, and nutty desserts, such as those rich with almonds or pecans.

Generally darker-roasted coffee beans have stronger flavors, which are preferred with desserts.

French and Italian roasts: Heavy-roasted beans almost black in color; strong flavor.

American roast: Medium-roasted beans; medium flavor.

European roast: Two-thirds heavy-roasted beans combined with one-third medium-roasted beans; slightly strong flavor.

Viennese roast: One-third heavy-roasted beans combined with two-thirds medium-roasted beans; medium-heavy flavor.

Use fresh beans. To assure freshness, buy in amounts you can use within a week and store the beans in an airtight comtainer in a cool, dry place. Do not store them in the refrigerator where they may absorb moisture.

Grind beans just before brewing, using the grind intended for your brewing method. Too fine a grind makes a bitter, unpleasant brew. Too coarse a grind makes a coffee that is weak and without distiguishing characteristics.

Use clean, fresh water. Water just off the boil (195* F. to 205* F.) does the best job of extracting the full flavor.

Use the right proportions: 2 tablespoons of freshly ground coffee per 6 ounces of water. If that’s too strong for your taste, brew with these amounts, then dilute the brewed coffee with hot water.

Much sweeter that dinner wines, dessert wines can be red or white. The rule of thumb in choosing a dessert wine is that it should be at least as sweet as the dessert you serve with it.

Shop for a dessert wine at a well-stocked wine store with a knowledgeable staff, and don’t be reluctant to ask for advice. The wine merchant can guide you in choosing a good “starter” dessert wine or help you move on to the next level.

Because they’re served in smaller amounts that dinner wines, many dessert wines are sold in 375-milliliter as well as 750-milliliter bottles. But you’ll probably pay more for even a small bottle of dessert wine that you usually pay for a full-size bottle of dinner wine.

Less pricey American versions provide a chance to experiment with different dessert wine types and develop your palate. Labels to look for include St. Supery, Quady, and Bonny Doon. Each of these wineries produces several pleasing dessert wines.

Champagne is a smart choice with almost any dessert. Buy one labeled sec or demi-sec, the sweeter end of the taste range. There are excellent American-made sparkling wines ate reasonable prices.

Serve dessert wines quite cool to the touch but not ice cold - about 55* F. is ideal. Because of their high sugar content, dessert wines keep well, and a partially used bottle can be re-corked and stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

FORTIFIED WINES: Brandy is added to the fermenting grape, so these wines are not only sweet, but also higher in alcohol content. Examples include Madiera, Malaga, Marsala, Muscate, port and sherry. They’re best with dense desserts, such as fruitcake, and are an option with dark chocolate desserts.

LATE-HARVEST WINES: These wines include late-harvest Riesling; Sauternes and Barsac from France; Vin Santo from Italy; and, from Germany, Beerenauslese, which is sweet, and Trockenbeerenauslese, which is sweeter yet. Try these wines with fruit desserts.

Sweet and intensely flavored, liqueurs are often enjoyed after dessert rather than with it. If you want to serve a liqueur with dessert, here are some pairings to try:

Cheesecake - try a plain cheesecake with Kahlua or a nut-falvored liqueur, such as Frangelico. If the cheesecake is served with a sauce, repeat the flavor used in the sauce, such as Chambord with a raspberry sauce.

Ice cream - Chambord, Southern Comfort, or amaretto.

Coffee-flavored desserts - Irish Cream.

For smooth after-dinner sipping with dessert or on their own, keep some of these popular liqueurs on hand:

AMARETTO - Sweet and almond-flavored; first made in Saronno, Italy

BRANDY - Distilled from wine; available plain or flavored

CHAMBORD - Mainly raspberry in flavor with hints of citrus, herbs and spices

COINTREAU - A clear, colorless orange-flavor liqueur from France

GRAND MARNIER - Dark gold, brandy-based French liqueur flavored with orange peels

IRISH CREAM - Based on Irish whiskey with the plus of rich cream

KAHLUA - A coffee liqueur imported with Mexico

MIDORI - Light green and honeydew-melon-flavored; originally from Japan

SAMBUCA - From Italy, fragrant with licorice; two or three dark-roasted coffee beans are often added to each serving

SOUTHERN COMFORT - A genuine American, based on bourbon and flavored with peaches


Present your food gifts in attractive packages that do justice to the love and effort you put into baking them.

To present cookies, cupcakes, or a pie, purchase a sturdy box with a shallow lid from a crafts store. Using a crafts knife and a pattern, cut out a tree or other holiday shape from the center of the lid. Attach glass beads around the edges of the shapes and glue vellum behind the holiday shape opening. Cover the lid edges with glued-on ribbon. Attach dangling beads to each lid corner. Line the inside of the box with parchment paper or plastic wrap, then fill with your food gift.

For loaves of bread, purchase a wine gift bag at a crafts or party store. If you want to make the bag yourself, determine the amound of fabric you will need by folding a piece around the baking pan; allow for the height of the bread, seams, and a hem at one end. Use straight stiches to sew side seams and hem the open end. Place the bread in a plastic bag and seal. Place the bagged bread in the gift bag, then tie the bag closed with tinsel garland or wide ribbon. Attach a gift tag.


To ensure easy release of a cake or bread from a shaped pan, properly prepare the pan.

Use a pastry brush to generously coat it with solid (unsalted) vegetable shortening, making sure you get all the flutes. Lightly spinkle the greased pan with flour or sugar; tilt and tap it so the flour or sugar covers all greased areas, then tap out the excess. If any areas are not covered, repeat the steps.

If you prefer to use a nonstick cooking spray, follow the pan manufacturer directions, which may call for a spray that does not contain lecithin. Such products, often labeled “for baking” can be found with other nonstick cooking sprays in the supermarket or in cake decorating supply catalogs. They grease and flour a pan in one step. If a product is not clearly labeled, check the contents listing on the can.

To remove cake or bread from a pan, let it cool according to recipe directions. Gently shake the pan up and down to see if the cake is releasing around the side. If not, use a long, thin plastic knife-type spatula to loosen the side. Then invert the cake on a wire rack, remove the pan, turn the cake over, and let it cool completeyl.

At cleanup time, avoid using harsh cleansers or pot scrubbers that might roughen the inside fo the pan.


If your cookie sheets are thin and warped or dark with baked-on grease, it is time to look for new pans. Look for shiny, heavy gauge aluminum sheets with low or no sides. Dark cookie sheets may cause cookie bottoms to overbrown. Insulated cookie sheets slow baking and tend to produce pale cookies with soft centers. If you’re using insulated cookie sheets and are having problems with cookies spreading too much, try increasing the oven temperature by 25* F.


Note the doneness test that is given with the recipe and begin testing your product at the shortest cooking time.

How a product looks is one test. For example, when bread, cakes and cookies look done, they usually are.

If the test is color, consider that golden brown means more golden than brown.

The toothpick test is another method for checking doneness. Stick a clean toothpick into the product near the center and remove it. There should be no cooked batter or wetness on the toothpick. It’s done even if small crumbs are sticking to the toothpick.


Storing baked cookies properly is essential if you want them to keep that just-baked freshness. For short-term storage, cool cookies completely. Arrange the cookies in an airtight container in single layers separated by sheets of waxed paper. Do not mix soft and crisp cookies in the same container because the crisp cookies will soften. Store cookies at room temperature for up to 3 days. If the cookies are frosted with a cream cheese or yogurt icing, you will need to refrigerate them. Baked cookies packaged in freezer bags, freezer containers, or foil can be kept for up to one month.

Cool quick breads completely on a wire rack. Wrap them in foil or clear plastic wrap, or place in plastic bags. Store them in the refrigerator up to one week. To freeze, place completely cooled loaves in freezer containers or bags; keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw the wrapped loaves overnight in the refrigerator.


Melt 1 teaspoon shortening with each 1/2 c. (3 oz.) chocolate. The shortening will help the chocolate set up.

Pour melted chocolate or frosting in a small heavy plastic bag and seal the bag.

Snip a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag and squeeze the frosting or chocolate through the hole to make neat drizzles or other designs.

The easy way to fill the bag is to place it in a 1-cup measuring cup for support; fold the top edge to the outside forming a cuff. Once you’ve poured the chocolate or frosting in the bag, unfold the cuff and close the bag. Have fun!!


There are several ways to successfully melt chocolate.

You can put the chocolate in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat; stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the chocolate begins to melt. Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until it is smooth. If necessary, return the pan to the heat for a few seconds.

Or, place 1 c. semisweet or milk chocolate pieces or 1 ounce unsweetened or semisweet chocolate, chopped, in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 70-percent power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave on 70 percent power
1 1/2 to 3 minutes more, stirring every 15 seconds until smooth.

It’s fine to use a double boiler, but it’s not necessary. This method increase the chances of getting a drop or two of water in the chocolate.

To make squares of chocolate melt more quickly, coarsely chop them first.


Some people prefer the richness and flavor that butter adds to cakes, cookies and breads.

Regulat stick margarine can be used in most recipes calling for butter, but be sure to select the right product. Buy only stick margairne that contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil.

If you can’t determine the oil content from the front of the package, check the nutrition label; the margarine should have at least 100 calores per tablespoon.

Avoid products that are labeled vegetable oil spreads, light or reduced-fat margarine, or diet spreads. These products have a lower fat content and won’t give you optimum results.


Before using a ceramic cookie stamp, moisten it with a small ball of dough, dip it in flour, and tap off any excess. Dip it in flour between stampings as necessary.

To clean a cookie stamp, use only lukewarm water and a soft brush. Never use soap, never put molds in the dishwasher, and never scrape them out with a knife tip or other sharp utensil.

If water and a brush aren’t enough to get a mold clean, soak it in water or gently pry out remaining bits of douch with a wooden toothpick.


Several hundred years ago, a clever European baker discovered that when he put a metal tube in the center of a baking pan, his cakes cooked more evenly and rose higher than usual. This put his cakes a step above the competition - until his secret leaked out and the technique was widely copied.

Today, tube pans, such as angel food cake and fluted tube or Bundt pans, are descendants of that innovation. Now available in a dozen shapes and in 12-cup, 10-cup, 6-cup and mini sizes, Bundt pans lend deep dimension to cakes and breads.


There are two keys to a successful dessert party - preparation and presentation.

Do much of your baking and food preparation in advance so you won’t be rushed around the kitchen on the day of the party. Then display your desserts elegantly and creatively so they are the glorious focal point of the party. Here are some guidelines:

**Read through the recipes for the selected desserts to be sure that you know how far ahead they can be prepared. Some can be frozen; others are best covered and refrigerated.

**Set up your dessert table the night before the party, so you are not hurriedly arranging and re-arranging serving dishes when the guests arrive.

**Believe it or not, you can make whipped cream ahead. Freeze dollops of whipped cream on wax paper-lined baking sheets. When frozen, store in tightly closed pastic bags for use on desserts or Irish coffee.

*Toasting coconut is easy once you know how. Spread evenly in a shallow pan. Toast in preheated 350 F. oven 6 to 10 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.

Color brings cookie decorations to life; it’s essential that you learn how to tint icings to achieve different decorating effects.

Always add color to white icing a little at a time until you achieve the shade you want. Use a toothpick to add paste color. You can always add extra color, but it’s difficult to lighten color once it’s tinted.

Royal icing requires more color than buttercream to achieve the same intensity.

Always mix enough of any one color icing. It’s difficult to duplicate an exact shade of any color.

Add color to piping gel, cookie dough, marzipan, cream cheese, sugar molds and even cake batter for striking decorating effects.


These are perfect for last-minute put-togethers! And letting the little ones help can keep them busy and out of the way when you are busy!

**Create instant ornaments or party favors. Cut 4-inch squares of clear plastic wrap. Place 1 T. M & M’s in center of each. Bring edges up and around candies. Tie with colorful ribbon. May also be used as tasty package decorations. (What child wouldn’t love that! Making them or finding them on their own gifts!)

**For quick cookie decorations, bake your favorite drop cookies, pressing a few M & M Peanut candies into each cookie just before removing from the oven.

**Colorful gift-giving fudge or brownies sparkle with a simple addition of colorful M & M’s stirred into the fudge or brownie batter just before spreading in the pan.

Turn store bought cookies into Christmas creation. Put small dabs of ready-to-eat frosting on plain cookies and press M & M’s into the frosting.


Better check your spice shelf now before you begin your holiday cooking and baking.

Herbs should be fresh - not faded.

Take a quick whiff of the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, coriander and cardamom to ensure freshness.

If you need to take a second whiff, it’s a sign that you better replace the spice.

For recipes to give perfect flavor, spices must be absolutely fresh.

The aroma should jump out at you!