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New Year´s Eve Sweets & Sparklers

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This do-ahead party pairs sophisticated desserts with sparkling wines for a new way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Round out the menu with bowls of roasted cashews and fresh clementines or tangerines. This menu serves 20.

The best parties are as much fun for the hosts as they are for the guests—like this dessert buffet for 20. Cooks will get a kick out of the recipes, which take sweet classics and give them a modern spin by adding something savory—a fresh herb, sea salt, cheese. The idea gets even more interesting when the desserts are paired with a variety of sparkling wines: These are eye-opening matches. And since all the sweets can be made ahead, there’s no worry about getting left in the kitchen while your friends are having all the fun.

Menu Timeline

Up to 1 Week Ahead

  • Make and shape the Apple, Fennel, and Cheddar Straws. Cover and freeze on their baking sheets.
  • Make the Bittersweet Chocolate Bark and refrigerate in an airtight container.

2 days ahead

  • Make and bake the shells for the Rosemary-Lemon Tartlets. Store in an airtight container.
  • Make the lemon curd for the Rosemary-Lemon Tartlets. Refrigerate.

1 day ahead

  • Make the ricotta pastry cream for the Croquembouche.
  • Make the pastry puffs for the Croquembouche and store in an airtight container.
  • Toast the pine nuts for the Rosemary-Lemon Tartlets.

4 hours ahead:

  • Bake the Apple, Fennel, and Cheddar Straws and let cool in the oven for 1 hour.
  • Fill and garnish the Rosemary-Lemon Tartlets.

2 hours ahead:

  • Fill the cream puffs and assemble the Croquembouche.

15 minutes ahead:

  • Make the Popcorn with Sweet Butter and Sea Salt.

Shopping List

You can find a foam cone and food-grade foil for the croquembouche at a crafts store.

Fresh Produce

  • 1-1/2 lb. crisp apples (such as Sierra Beauty, Pippin, or Braeburn)
  • 1 crate clementines or tangerines
  • 4 medium lemons
  • 1 small bunch fresh rosemary

Eggs & Dairy

  • 25 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1-1/2 oz. sharp Cheddar
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1-1/2 lb. (6 sticks) unsalted butter

Other Groceries

  • 2 1.1-lb. packages frozen puff pastry
  • 1 lb. bittersweet chocolate
  • 9 oz. Marcona almonds
  • 1-1/2 cups yellow popcorn kernels
  • Roasted cashews
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • One 4×12-inch (approximately) foam cone
  • food-grade foil (ideally gold) to cover the cone
  • Toothpicks

Pantry Staples

  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 18-1/4 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 6 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. sea salt; more as needed
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Table salt
  • Kosher salt

The Bubbly Bar
Who knew Champagne made such a good food wine? As it turns out, sparkling wines and desserts are made for each other. These bottles fall on the dry side to offset the sweet treats, and bubbles cleanse your palate between bites (so you can eat more!). Each pairs well with all the desserts, which means you can set up a “bar” of options for guests to try.

  • Bisson Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani 2008, Liguria, Italy ($16) An Italian sparkler that goes down easy, with hints of Meyer lemons and apricots.
  • Dr. Becker Scheurebe Sekt 2007, Rheinhessen, Germany ($20) Dry and refreshing, this wine is loaded with stone fruits and perfectly balanced natural sugars.
  • Coppo Brachetto d’Acqui 2006, Piedmont, Italy ($28) This elegant coppery-pink sparkler (made from Brachetto grapes) is medium bodied, with an explosion of soft mixed berries and floral aromatics.
  • Wolffer Blanc de Blancs 2006, Long Island, New York ($35) Reminiscent of the great wines of Champagne, this bright, minerally sparkler has a dense texture and excellent finish.
  • René Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée Champagne, France ($58) This wine will make your mouth water with layers of red fruits, caramel, and brioche.

The Menu

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