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Chocolate-Walnut Shortbread Tart


It's Thanksgiving and you signed up for dessert. What will wow them and keep your kitchen time to a minimum? I've got three very different, equally irresistible options.

They'll ooh when you unveil Chocolate-Walnut Shortbread Tart, which is microwaved chocolate and cream — with just enough coffee to enhance the chocolate — in a quick cookie and nut crust.

Satisfy their pumpkin pie fix by crumbling gingersnaps right into “homemade” pumpkin ice cream. No one will ever know it's just spiced pumpkin puree folded into store-bought vanilla ice cream. I promise.

And if just the thought of making apple pie is exhausting, check out the the easy recipe for Apple Charlottes. Sweet stewed apples encased in buttery pan-grilled white bread — assembly is a snap; baking is a breeze.

Chocolate-Walnut Shortbread Tart

½ cup walnuts, plus 16 walnut halves for garnish
½ box (1 sleeve of 20 cookies) Lorna Doone (or other shortbread cookies to yield 1¼ cup crumbs)
2 Tbs. sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1½ cups heavy cream
12 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
¾ tsp. instant espresso or coffee

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
Toast walnuts over medium heat in a small skillet, shaking or stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Reserving the 16 walnut halves, transfer remaining walnuts to a food processor; process until minced. Add cookies and sugar; process until mixture is finely ground. Drizzle in butter; pulse until just incorporated.
Transfer mixture to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; tamp crumbs into pan bottom and up the sides. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Meanwhile, place cream, chocolate and espresso in a 1-quart microwave- safe bowl; microwave on high power until cream is hot and chocolate has mostly melted, about 3 minutes. Whisk until chocolate mixture is smooth. Pour into shell and refrigerate until firm or for up to a day ahead. No more than 2 hours before serving, bring tart to room temperature. Garnish with walnut halves, slice and serve.

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PER SERVING (based on 12 servings): 395 calories, 30 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 31 g fat (15.5 g saturated), 53 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 93 mg sodium

Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream

1 can (15 ounces) 100% pure pumpkin
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 quart premium vanilla ice cream
16 gingersnap cookies, coarsely crumbled

Heat pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a medium saucepan, stirring to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Transfer to shallow pan; freeze to cool quickly. Soften ice cream (15 seconds to 30 seconds on high power in the microwave). Turn into a large bowl; stir in pumpkin puree until nearly incorporated. Crumble 16 gingersnaps into ice cream and continue to fold until incorporated. Freeze until ready to serve.

Per serving: 218 calories, 31 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 10 g fat (4.9 g saturated), 40 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 154 mg sodium

Apple Charlottes

1 stick (8 Tbs.) butter, divided
2 pounds crisp, firm apples, such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled and sliced
1⁄4-inch thick
6 Tbs. granulated sugar
Pinch salt
12 slices good quality white loaf bread, 6 slices left whole, 31⁄4- to 31⁄2-inch circles cut from remaining 6 slices.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples, sugar, and salt; cover and cook until apples are just soft, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until apple juices have reduced to a thin syrup, a couple of minutes longer. Transfer apples on a rimmed baking sheet to cool while toasting bread.

Rinse and dry skillet; return to medium heat. Working in 3 batches, heat another 2 tablespoons of butter until golden-brown; add 3 bread slices and sauté on one side only until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining 3 bread slices and finally bread circles, also toasting only on one side.

Using rectangular-shaped bread (about 4- by 5-inch slices), I only needed 1 slice for the custard cup bottom and sides. Smaller bread slices work, but you may need to skillet-toast a little more.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut a circle in the center of each of the 6 whole bread slices. Place each circle, toasted side down, in the bottom of each of 6 6-ounce ramekins. Arrange remaining bread scraps, toasted side out to fill in cup sides (overlapping is OK). Spoon a portion of apple filling into each cup. Top each with a toasted circle, toasted side up. Place custard cups on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until tops are crisp and charlottes are warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then invert to unmold. Charlottes can be made a couple hours ahead and reheated in a 300-degree oven until warm and crisp.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or spoonful of brandy-flavored whipped cream (beat 3⁄4 cup heavy cream, 1 Tb. brandy and 11⁄2 Tbs. sugar to soft billowy peaks).

Per serving: 346 calories, 48 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 17 g fat (10.0 g saturated), 41 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 365 mg sodium

Photos by Brian Leatart for USA WEEKEND

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Contributing Editor Pam Anderson is the author of six cookbooks. Her latest is "Perfect One-Dish Dinners" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $32). She blogs at