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Last Minute Holiday Desserts That Will
Save Your Scratch-Baking Reputation!

by Donna Scocozza
We know you had high hopes and great intentions. You might even have purchased lots of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, etc., in preparation for your annual holiday baking spree. But life is life and you simply ran out of time. Worry not! To ease your pain and keep your baking cred intact, we created seven last-minute recipes you can whip up using premium baking mixes and products that will save, and maybe even clinch, your reputation as a scratch baker.

We were careful to choose only high-quality baking products that we purchased at gourmet and specialty stores, to ensure closest-to-scratch results with minimum measuring, mixing and fuss.

While you’re running by the gourmet or specialty cookware shop at the mall, be sure to check out the sales on seasonal items like serving plates, bowls and bakeware, so you can at least tell yourself you’ll have a head start on next year. Yeah, right!!

Happy Baking, Happy Holiday!

Christmas Brownie Cream Pie

Serves 12

It’s a wow of a holiday dessert and it tastes even more luscious than it looks. Our phyllo-based pie is so spectacular a dessert that no one will believe you made it at the last minute! Look for a premium fudgy-style brownie mix (we used Cissé) for best results and amazing flavor.


1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 package (16-18 ounces) premium quality fudge brownie mix
Ingredients as called for on brownie mix package
2 tablespoons brandy, optional
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
10 fresh or frozen, thawed phyllo sheets
1 cup cold whipping or heavy cream
1 cup whole maraschino or candied cherries
Chocolate leaves or chocolate curls for garnish, optional


Chocolate leaves are easy to make: Many kinds of fresh leaves are okay to use. The most popular are lemon, rose or camellia leaves. DO NOT use holly or rhododendron leaves. Line a large plate with parchment or wax paper Melt 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe cup on High 30 to 45 seconds; stir to combine. Using a small, clean paintbrush, brush melted chocolate on the leaves to thoroughly coat them. Place leaves on plate not touching each other. Chill leaves at least 20 minutes or until chocolate is hardened and dry. Just before serving, gently peel the leaves from the chocolate.

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare brownie mix as package directs up to the batter stage, stirring in walnuts, and brandy if desired. Reserve some of the whole cherries for garnish; cut remaining cherries in quarters.

2. Lightly brush some of the butter in bottom and all around the side of a 9-inch round pie plate. Keep phyllo covered with a clean kitchen towel as you work; they will dry and break quickly. Lay one sheet of phyllo in the pie plate to hang evenly over the side of the plate. Brush with about 1 tablespoon butter. Top with another phyllo sheet laying in the opposite direction. Brush with butter. Continue to add phyllo sheets at angles to cover the bottom of the pie plate, and brushing each with butter.

3. Pour the brownie batter over the phyllo sheets. Brush the overhanging ends of the phyllo with butter, then gently crinkle the ends. Bake 15 to 18 minutes until brownie is just set at edges and still soft in the center, and the edges of the phyllo are golden brown.

4. Remove pie plate to wire rack to cool completely. When cool, if desired, gently lift the pie out of the plate to a serving plate.

5. With chilled beaters of an electric hand mixer, in a chilled bowl, beat cream with confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in cut cherries.

6. Pile whipped cream mixture over the brownie pie, spreading all the way to edge. Top with chocolate leaves or curls and garnish with the reserved whole cherries.

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