The Best Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes to Make From Scratch

Thanksgiving dessert: Food styling by Maggie Ruggiero for Hello Artists; prop styling by Kaitlyn Du Ross Walker for Honey Artists
Marcus Nilsson for Men's Journal


For many home cooks, dessert is the final frontier. Even if you can put out a roasted turkey with skin that shines like gold foil, baking a cake can seem as mysterious as building a blockchain. And it’s true: Baking requires certain skills, such as patience and meticulousness, that cooking does not always demand. But if you can get good at one, you can get good at the other.

We’ve developed four desserts—with an assist from the new fall cookbooks Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen, whose biscuits crown our maple peach cobbler, and Dinner at the Club: 100 Years of Stories and Recipes from South Philly’s Palizzi Social Club, whose ricotta cheesecake is the base for a show-stopping version made with gorgonzola.

None of these recipes is terribly difficult.

And once you master the basics, you’ll be riffing on them by New Year’s.

Food styling by Maggie Ruggiero for Hello Artists; prop styling by Kaitlyn Du Ross Walker for Honey Artists
Marcus Nilsson for Men’s Journal

Blue Cheesecake with Caramelized Apples

Crust

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3⁄4 cup melted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • Butter, for greasing

Directions:
Heat oven to 325°F. Grind pecans in food processor into a coarse meal. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until evenly combined to make the crust. Lightly grease a 10-inch springform pan with butter. Press crust into the pan, packing it down with the end of a rolling pin to make it as flat and even as possible. Bake crust for 20 minutes until golden brown and cool completely. Wrap outside of the pan in plastic.

Filling

  • 20 oz cream cheese
  • 12 oz Gorgonzola
  • 15 oz ricotta
  • 11 oz mascarpone
  • 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 eggs plus
  • 2 yolks
  • 2 pinches kosher salt

Directions:
Raise oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed for 6 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed to make sure everything is well-mixed. Spread filling over the pecan crust, filling pan about 3⁄4 of the way (there may be some left over). Smooth the surface. Fill a large roasting pan with water and set cake in center; the water should go halfway up the sides of pan. Place in center rack of oven and bake for 2 1⁄2 hours until filling is fully set (a slight jiggle or no jiggle). Turn off oven and allow pie to rest in oven for 30 minutes. Crack oven door and let pie continue to rest another 20 minutes. Remove pie and put plastic wrap directly on surface. Cool overnight in refrigerator.

Caramelized Apples

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1⁄2-inch thick
  • 3⁄4 cup honey
  • 1⁄4 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
  • Honeycomb, for serving
  • Sea salt, for serving

Directions:
Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add apples. Saut until golden and slightly softened, about 5 minutes, then add honey and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low. Cook until shiny and thick, then add salt and thyme. Unwrap the cheesecake and run a small knife or spatula around the inside of the pan to loosen. Remove outer ring of the springform pan and transfer cheesecake to a platter. Spoon caramelized apples over cheesecake. Garnish with honeycomb, thyme, and sea salt.

Food styling by Maggie Ruggiero for Hello Artists; prop styling by Kaitlyn Du Ross Walker for Honey Artists
Marcus Nilsson for Men’s Journal

Maple Peach Cobbler

Filling

  • 2 lbs frozen peeled peach slices 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup maple syrup
  • 1⁄4 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving

Heat oven to 400°F. Combine ingredients except whipped cream in large mixing bowl and stir to coat. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and bake for 45 minutes until peaches are soft (but not falling apart) and a thick, sticky sauce has formed. Remove from oven, and cool to room temperature.

Biscuits

  • 3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces
  • 3⁄4 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1⁄2 cup buttermilk

Directions:
While peaches are baking, make the biscuit dough. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl and mix. Add cold butter. Using your fingers, pinch the pieces of butter and flour together so that you get uneven shards and beads of butter. (Don’t work the butter for long.) Make a well in the middle, pour in cream and buttermilk, and stir to combine. With your fingers, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones just until combined. The dough will be moist and crumbly; press it into a small rectangle and cover with plastic wrap. Chill. When peaches have cooled, unwrap and roll out the dough to roughly 1⁄2-inch thick. Tear off irregular pieces and place here and there over the peaches. (Rewrap and save any excess dough for future use.) Decrease oven to 350°F and bake cobbler 40 to 50 minutes, until biscuits are lightly golden on top. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Food styling by Maggie Ruggiero for Hello Artists; prop styling by Kaitlyn Du Ross Walker for Honey Artists
Marcus Nilsson for Men’s Journal

Pear & Pistachio Tart

  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, chopped for serving
  • 1⁄2 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp heavy cream
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 large firm pears, cored and sliced into 1⁄4-inch rounds
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Sea salt, for serving
  • Candied orange peel (substitute fresh orange zest), for serving

Directions:
Heat oven to 400°F. Combine pistachios, honey, cream, and salt in a food processor. Process until mostly smooth and reserve. Gently roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a sheet pan lightly greased with butter. Spread an even layer of the pistachio paste across the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on each side. Arrange pear slices in overlapping shingles. Brush beaten egg onto border of pastry. Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry border is fully risen and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely. While tart is cooling, make the glaze by warming jam and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk to combine and gently brush cooled pears with glaze. Garnish tart with chopped pistachios, sea salt, and candied orange. Cut into squares and serve.

Thanksgiving dessert: Food styling by Maggie Ruggiero for Hello Artists; prop styling by Kaitlyn Du Ross Walker for Honey Artists
Marcus Nilsson for Men’s Journal

Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding

  • 1 large loaf bread (about 1 lb), cubed
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 3⁄4 cups heavy cream
  • 1⁄4 cup bourbon or whiskey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 5 bananas, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, diced
  • Sea salt, for serving
  • Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving

Directions:
Heat oven to 300°F. Arrange bread cubes in an even layer on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes. Transfer to a 4-quart baking dish. Whisk the eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the brown sugar, cream, bourbon, spices, and salt. Whisk until completely combined. Pour mixture over bread to evenly coat, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350°F. Bake bread pudding for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into center of pudding comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool slightly. If pudding is puffed up, lightly press down with the back of a heavy pan. Layer banana slices cut-side up across the center of the pudding and evenly cover with remaining brown sugar. Distribute butter over surface. Caramelize bananas with a crème brûlée torch.

Alternately, place dish under a low broiler for 5 minutes, rotating dish 180 degrees halfway through, being careful to watch for burning. Garnish with sea salt and serve warm, topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

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