Spices hang in the air like charms and the scent of baked chocolate wafts from the oven — more than any other time of the year, the holidays present your inner chef with a wonderland of flavors to enjoy and experiment with. Whether you’re just cooking for your immediate family or have guests visiting from out of town, your gorgeous gourmet kitchen at Stepping Stone™ means you can make any number of recipes to delight even the most discerning palates. Read on for three dishes that are as simple to make as they are stylish and delicious.
 
Formally, Yours
When hosting a formal dinner for friends or coworkers, poached pears make a lovely final course. Combine 2 cups of red wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until the sugar dissolves before adding the pears and bringing to a boil. Simmer until tender (about 1 hour) then use a slotted spoon to remove pears. Bring the remaining syrup to a boil, stirring until thick, for about 10 minutes. Take this elegant dessert to the next level and serve with cloud-like whipped crème fraîche — beat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream into stiff peaks, then fold in a pre-mixed blend of ⅓ cup crème fraîche with 2 tbsp sugar and ½ tsp vanilla extract. Garnish with cinnamon, star anise, and mint leaves for a lasting impression!

Poached Pears Dessert Getty Images

Cocktail Simplicity
If your gorgeous Stepping Stone™ great room is the setting for a cultivated cocktail party without formal seating, prepare individual cups of light raspberry mousse.
 
Strain seeds from 2 cups of pureed raspberries, then stir in ½ cups of sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice before setting aside. In a small saucepan, sprinkle 1 ¼ tsp gelatin over ¼ cup cold water and let stand for 1 minute, then stir over low heat until gelatin is completely dissolved. Mix the gelatin liquid into your raspberry mixture and refrigerate until slightly thickened, about 1 hour. Beat on high speed until foamy then gradually add cream. Beat until thickened, about 2 minutes, and refrigerate to stiffen. Rim small dessert cups with sugar, then pipe mousse into each and top with berries, mint, or even a square of dark chocolate. Tuck in a delicate dessert spoon for the prettiest of presentations that everybody will be talking about!

Raspberry Mousse Dessert Getty Images

Family Heartstrings
A cozier gathering with your immediate family doesn't mean you have to forego distinguished desserts! Pull out the stops with our favorite chocolate cake recipe — topped not with traditional frosting but with a decadent drench of chocolate ganache and a cascade of bright, fresh berries.
 
For one-bowl quick cake prep, stir together 2 cups of sugar, 1 ¾ cups of flour, ¾ cups of cocoa powder, 1 ½ tsp each of baking powder and baking soda, and 1 tsp salt. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, ½ cup of vegetable oil, and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed before stirring in 1 cup of boiling water — if your batter is thin, you’re doing it right! Pour evenly into two greased and floured nine-inch round pans, then bake 30-35 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
 
To make the ganache, combine 2/3 cup of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and ¼ cup of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the cream starts to bubble around the edges, then remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth before pouring over the top of your cake. Have no fear if you’re gluten-free — check out this alternative recipe!

Chocolate Cake Berries Dessert Getty Images

Whatever the specifics of your holiday gathering, your Crescendo Collection home at Stepping Stone™ provides an exquisite setting. Contact us today to schedule a model home tour in this special community near Parker, Colorado!

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