Holiday season is almost upon us, and (thankfully) we’re back to full dinner tables with lots of hungry guests. After a delicious meal, you might be wondering how you can possibly satisfy everyone’s varied cravings with just one dessert? The answer is deceptively simple—why not offer a variety of flavours, textures and tastes with a dessert charcuterie?
We’ve all seen traditional charcuterie before: a variety of meats, cheeses, fruit and dips, all heaped on beautiful boards and platters. The same concept applies for the dessert course! It’s a new twist on an old tradition and the creative opportunities are endless.
Like the idea, but not sure where to begin? Here’s an easy step-by-step approach that will take your desserts from so-so to scrumptious!
Begin with a beautiful canvas
The most important element when choosing a surface to use as your serving platter is a flat surface, but otherwise you can really use any type of material, including wood, ceramic, plastic or glass. Something with an edge makes it easier to create layers and fullness. You’ll also want to think about the best size, considering the dimensions of your table to ensure guests will still have room for plates, napkins and forks if needed. Using two boards can come in handy with larger groups so that everyone can easily access all the goodies!
What’s your theme?
Here’s where you can rev those creative engines! The possibilities are endless here, but let’s start with some basics:
Is there a holiday or special event coming up? A board full of store-bought or home baked treats works well for Thanksgiving, while a Halloween bonfire is a perfect opportunity to put together a spooky s’mores board.
Why not feature one main item like chocolate, apple desserts or s’mores? A colourful candy-themed board (especially at Halloween) can dazzle guests, and even ice cream can be the star of the show when surrounded by toppings,
drizzles and syrups.
Looking for a healthy option? A fruit-themed dessert charcuterie is a light, fresh approach after a heavy holiday meal.
The main event
Once you have a theme, you can hit the ground running to assemble the main items for your board. The key is to ensure that items are easy and convenient to grab—small brownie bites or tartlets would work well, but something like apple pie slices tend to be a bit messy on a board. Squares are a great alternative as they tend to be firmer and stay in one easy piece, and many bakeries sell large squares that can easily be cut into four smaller squares. While traditional charcuterie boards have items piled high, you may want to keep your dessert charcuterie board to a single layer to keep baked goods from crumbling onto each other.
You may want to bake or create homemade items for your board, but you can easily incorporate store-bought items to save time. Colourful iced cookies and lemon squares from a local bakery would look great next to your home-baked brownies, saving you hours of prep during a hectic holiday season.
Don’t forget dips
From grandparents down to the littlest kiddos, everyone loves to dip their dessert! Consider the main items on your board and then think about what taste combinations would take your dessert charcuterie to the next level. For example,
Fruit tastes delicious dipped into flavoured yogurt, melted chocolate, caramel, or whipped cream.
Dip cake squares, mini muffins and fruit bars into custard, syrup or honey.
Cookies can dip too! Try them with whipped cream cheese, melted chocolate, peanut butter or preserves.
Once you have your board ready, your theme set, and your main items and dips assembled, think of the little things that will take your dessert charcuterie from good to great:
Supply small or medium-sized cocktail plates or small dessert bowls as well as festive themed napkins.
On or alongside your board, set out mini forks and spoons (pickle forks work well!) Make sure each dip has its own spoon to keep things clean.
Find fun garnishes for your board: real or faux leaves, small gourds and/or colourful Halloween candy can all be scattered on, around or under your board.
Consider labeling items on your board. You could also flag any goodies that contain peanuts or other allergens. This is a perfect activity for the kids to help with!
Support your local bakeries and farmers’ markets
by picking up one item from each location and assembling for a take on “local dessert charcuterie”.
Ask each guest to bring one shareable dessert
that can be easily cut up into single servings. You could suggest squares, bars, cookies or other easy-to-divide items.
The kids (and adults!) will love a donut board!
Buy a variety of flavours (try a few each from local bakeries!), cut each into quarters, and layer up on a large board. Try separating each bite-sized portion into cupcake liners to make serving even easier.
Have a bunch of mini-mason jars in the cupboard?
Why not use them to make mini-crumbles? Layer fruit, oats, cookie crumbles and even custard into the jars and bake (you can find various recipes online for specific directions and baking times).
Consider having guests create their own custom cake bowls.
Pile squares of basic chocolate or vanilla cake on your board, surrounded by bowls of sprinkles, syrups and icing. Everyone can customize their personal cake bowl just the way they like it!
Kate’s Town Talk
La Villa Bakery & Café
Le Delice Pastry Shop
Truscott Italian Bakery
Gold Cherry Bakery
Little Rose Cookie Co.