5-Ingredient Caramels and 24 More Holiday Dessert Ideas

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on November 29, 2012

Ten pies made with one killer crust, 15 desserts with 5 ingredients, and a partridge in a pear tree. That’s what I’ve been busy baking and making for iVillage this holiday season.

I’ve already shared my favorite Thanksgiving cherry-cranberry-pear pie with you, but I don’t believe pie should be a dessert restricted to one holiday per year—even pumpkin pie. (Hey, my dad repeats the entire Thanksgiving feast, turkey, sides, and all, for Christmas when he can; why not make more pies too?)

sweet potato pie with hazelnut streusel
That’s why I came up with enough pie flavors to get you through the winter into rhubarb and strawberry season, and I just can’t decide which one is my favorite. Is it the fluffy sweet potato with hazelnut streusel? Bourbon butterscotch mini pies with a tangy hit of creme fraiche? Rustic pear-walnut in a double crust? Or raspberry Meyer lemon shaker pie that uses the entire lemon, delicate peel and all?

Click through to see all 10 holiday pie recipes and tell me which one you want to make first. Yeah, that’s a pretzel-caramel layer on top of the pumpkin pie. You’ve been warned.


On the flip side, after making so many pie crusts I was rolling dough in my sleep, I simplified with a bunch of easy-to-make holiday desserts, most of which didn’t even require me to turn on the oven at all. Click through to see all 15 5-ingredient desserts. (A few of these are actually made with only 4 ingredients, if we’re being truthful!)

Some, like the pain au chocolat bread pudding or the inside-out pear crisp, could most definitely do double-duty as holiday brunch dishes. Others, like the cranberry-and-pistachio holiday nut bark or the chocolate chip Biscoff cookies won’t make it to Santa’s plate on Christmas Eve if you let your loved ones taste them beforehand, if you catch my drift.

salted butter caramels
Out of all the sweet things I nibbled while working on this assignment, the butter caramels are the dessert from this batch that I couldn’t stop snacking on, even as I was shooting the photos and depleting my edible prop stash. It’s a wonder you don’t see a half-bitten caramel in the finished shots.

You’ll need a candy thermometer to bring the sugar to the point of perfect caramelization, but it’s a small price to pay for professional-grade candies that basically make themselves. Melt sugar into butter and cream, heat it up, and you’re golden. Or caramel, as the case may be. Should you want to flavor your caramels with smoked salt or other specialty salts, make it a 6-ingredient caramel by using unsalted butter and stirring 1/2 teaspoon of your preferred salt into the caramel along with the final portion of cream.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Aimee @ Simple Bites November 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Now I’m kicking myself that I used up all the heavy cream in tonight’s quiche. I’ll be trying your recipe just as soon as I restock. Yum!

Off to check out those pies…You HAVE been busy!

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Carol November 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I can’t decide between the citrus chiffon or the raspberry myer lemon…….or the pear walnut. ??? Can I only choose one? I think I’ll go crust less though. :)

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Lisa (dinner party) November 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

You are the best! Love ALL these recipes.

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Stephanie December 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Can I just say that your photos are getting more and more awesome?

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Casey Barber December 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Aw, thanks, Stephanie! I learn from the best. :)

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Tracy January 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm

These look so amazing! WIshing I had a handful to snack on for dessert tonight!

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