Earthy, healthy nuts are a satisfying treat in festive desserts. Pecans, of course, play a pivotal pie role on holiday menus—but other nuts are also celebrated during the holidays including walnuts, pistachios, chestnuts and hazelnuts. Here are seven nut desserts that you’ll go nuts for this festive season.
Bourbon & Pecan Tart, Coppin’s-Hotel Covington, Covington, Kentucky
The Bourbon & Pecan Tart from pastry chef Madelyn Bernard’s stars one of Kentucky’s greatest exports along with pie stud — the pecan. A rift on the classic pecan pie, chef Bernard elevates the dessert with a buttery tart shell. The pecans are coated in British pure cane syrup before baking and, just before the tart makes its oven debut, bourbon is drizzled to crystallize the warm sugar. Make a reservation at Coppin’s-Hotel Covington.
Karidopita, Avra Madison, New York, New York
Pastry chef Paola Marocchi has created a traditional Karidopita for the holidays. The classic walnut cake is made with walnuts, (of course!), Cognac, cloves, breadcrumbs, sugar, and cinnamon, and it is bathed in a sweet syrup (cinnamon, sugar, and water). Powdered sugar is sprinkled liberally on top, and the nutty cake is served with vanilla gelato. Opa! Make a reservation at Avra Madison.
German Chocolate Cake, Deadhorse Hill, Worcester, Massachusetts
Chef and co-owner Jared Forman’s decadent German chocolate cake with walnuts, coconut, and homemade black walnut liqueur gelato is in the spotlight this time of year. The festive cake is a light but rich layer cake that features deeply toasted shredded coconut and walnuts that are made into a thick glaze adding caramel notes and moisture. Make a reservation at Dead Horse Hill.
Panna Cotta, Green Fig, New York, New York
During the holidays, it’s all about Chef Gabriel Israel’s Pistachio-Goat Cheese Panna Cotta at this Modern Israeli restaurant with influences from North Africa’s Maghreb region. A pistachio meringue stars inside the goat cheese panna cotta and the dessert is then finished with chopped pistachios, more pistachio meringue and a drizzle of honey. Make a reservation at Green Fig.
Chocolate Tart, Oak + Rowan, Boston, Massachusetts
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire — and in the chocolate tart at this new restaurant in Boston’s Fort Point section. Executive Pastry Chef Brian Mercury’s tart is made with malt, chestnut puree, chestnut mousse, olive oil and crème frâiche. The chestnut puree is layered on the bottom of the tart and the chestnut mousse on top for “a noticeable chestnut flavor.” Make a reservation at Oak + Rowan.
Walnut and Apple Crostata, Ernest Loves Agnes, Seattle, Washington
Chef David Nichols dishes a Walnut and Apple Crostata at this Capitol Hill neighborhood restaurant. The dough is a butter crust, and the apples are tossed with brown sugar, cinnamon, all spice, grated fresh ginger, and candied walnuts. The crostata is served with Dulce de leche, mascarpone gelato and more candied walnuts. Make a reservation at Ernest Loves Agnes.
Vermicelles, Altstadt Seattle, Seattle, Washington
Order the wonky-looking Vermicelles, a classic Swiss chestnut-based dessert, at this German bierhalle and brathaus. A chocolate puff pastry provides the base for a chestnut puree that’s been formed into “noodles”— and the decadent holiday treat is topped with nutmeg-and-dark-rum ice cream, a Kirsch-soaked cherry, and sage-candied hazelnuts. Make a reservation at Alstadt Seattle.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.
Photo credits: Caroline Amighi (Deadhorse Hill); Green Fig (@RatedRuwan); Toan Trinh (Oak + Rowan).