Here are three delicious desserts guaranteed to please.

I don’t believe baking should be complicated. I know some people like the challenge of a baked Alaska, and that’s fine. But I lean toward baking’s more creative than challenging side. That may stem from having to do a TV segment in four minutes that has to entice foodies and casual bakers alike to try my recipes. But I like that challenge, and every week I try to come up with a dessert that will make people say, “I can do that.”

Of course, it needs to taste great, too, and that has to do with simple, pure ingredients, which aren’t hard to find in Boulder.

And just about nothing beats sharing food and recipes with family and friends during the holidays. It’s the one time of year I don’t mind sharing my kitchen, because people tend to bring me wine when they come over.

So here are three fabulous desserts for this time of year: white chocolate pumpkin swirl pie, gingerbread brownies, and dark chocolate candy cane butter cookies. (Sounds like the beginning of a joke, “So, a pumpkin, gingerbread and cookie walk into a bar…” OK, maybe not. This constant baking is making me punchy!)

sweetspot-whitechocpumpkintifThe white chocolate pumpkin pie is very smooth, and has the added bonus of crunchy pecans that keep the crust from becoming too soggy. They add flavor as well. I know you’ll love it (yes, that is a bold statement, but I’m sticking with it). You can bake with any pumpkins, but unless you use actual pie pumpkins you’ll need to add extra sugar and puree your little heart out until the pumpkin reaches the right consistency.

My gingerbread brownies have a nice kick to them; crystallized ginger adds some oomph. I assume you’re all looking for oomph—I know I am.

Pair the dark chocolate candy cane butter cookies with Bliss Organic Chocolate Candy Cane Ice Cream. This seasonal flavor is delicious.

I hope you’ll find time for baking adventures this season, because before you know it, spring and summer will come a-knocking. Now try these recipes, put some love into it, and invite me over when you’re done.

WHITE CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SWIRL PIE

Crust

1¹/³ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup shortening, chilled
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
½ cup whipping cream
¾ cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate ¾ cup chopped pecans

Pie Filling

2 eggs
¾ cup brown sugar
2  cups cooked fresh pumpkin (you can substitute one 15-ounce can of pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie filling)
1½  teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup whipping cream

Fresh Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon

Beat ingredients together until soft peaks form.

In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar until combined. Add cold shortening and pulse until the mix resembles coarse bread crumbs. Slowly add cold water, until you can pinch the dough and it sticks together. Form the dough into a ball and place in a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

While dough chills, heat ½ cup whipping cream in a small pan until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and add white chocolate. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

After 30 minutes, take the pie crust out and place it on a lightly floured surface. Dust a rolling pin with flour and slowly roll out the dough until it fits into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with overhang. Drape dough over the pie plate and cut off or pinch the dough to make a nice edge. Sprinkle pecans on the bottom and press into the crust. Place crust back in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350˚.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar until well combined. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt, and mix well. Stir in ¼ cup whipping cream and mix until smooth. Stir in white chocolate/whipping cream mixture, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Make sure chocolate mixture is well incorporated with the pumpkin mixture.

Pour into the chilled pie crust. Swirl remaining 2 tablespoons white chocolate mix over the top of the pie.

Bake 50-55 minutes, until pumpkin is set and white chocolate is bubbling on top. Let cool completely.

When ready to serve, slice and dollop with fresh whipped cream, and garnish with a dash of cinnamon.

GINGERBREAD BROWNIES

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a square 9-by-9-inch baking pan.

Melt ¾ cup chocolate chips and ½ cup butter in a double boiler slowly over low heat. When melted, remove from heat. Add cocoa powder and vanilla. Mix well and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar. Add molasses. Pour chocolate mixture into molasses mixture and stir until well combined.

Add flour, salt, cloves and ground ginger into batter and mix well.

Pour into the greased pan and bake 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Do not overbake.

Remove brownies from oven. Spread ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips on top of the brownies and let sit at least a few minutes until the chocolate starts to melt. Gently spread melted chocolate evenly over brownies.

Sprinkle chopped crystallized ginger over the top. Let set and cool at least one hour. When ready to serve, dust lightly with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

Note: Savory Spice Shop, at 2041 Broadway in Boulder, has a great selection of crystallized ginger, as well as any other spices you may need.

DARK CHOCOLATE CANDY CANE BUTTER COOKIES

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1½ teaspoons pure peppermint extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips
5 crushed candy canes
Powdered sugar for dusting
Bliss Organic Chocolate Candy Cane Ice Cream

Preheat oven to 350˚.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the egg and peppermint extract and mix until well combined. Add in flour mixture. Batter will be slightly crumbly. Fold in chocolate and candy canes.

Drop by the teaspoonful onto a lightly greased baking sheet (or cover the baking sheet with parchment paper).

Bake 9-10 minutes, until bottom just begins to brown.

Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with a bowl of Bliss ice cream.

sweetspot-danette