Country Dessert Platter (8 to 10 servings)
Copyright 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved
Photo: Melanie Acevedo
This is an incredibly easy platter to arrange, even if you don’t have time to bake! Buy a delicious and beautiful assortment of cookies, bars, and pastries from your local bakery and you’re almost done. At Barefoot Contessa, I choose things that are both colorful and easy to eat with fingers. Remember, lots of baked goods look delicious on their own, but grouped together, they can look very brown. I mix colorful things like lemon bars, pecan bars, brownies, cookies, strawberries, figs, and slices of lemon cake.
Start with a platter that is round or oval and particularly one that is very flat. I like to use something simple, such as silver or china. Place doilies on the bottom of the platter. Cut each cake or bar into large bite-sized pieces; pastries cut too small tend to look like a dog’s breakfast, too large and the platter looks unapproachable. I like to cut our large brownies into two finger-sized pieces and to cut the slices of cake in half.
The design of the platter is very simple. I follow good Japanese principles. “Earth” is a solid element, which grounds the design; “sky” is something taller, which curves upward; and “water” is something spilling forward. In all good design, the eye wants to be drawn to one focal point. I arrange slices of cake down the middle of the platter to give the arrangement grounding. I place the pastries in paper muffin cups and arrange them in a flowing pattern around the cake. Then I pile strawberries and figs or grapes high to give some height to the design. Then I add some cookies and lemon or hydrangea leaves to fill in the spaces.
I tend to prefer platters that appear more casual than formal. There’s a fine balance, however, between casual and just plain messy. I think if you follow these simple steps, no matter which pastries or fruit you use, you will be thrilled with the results.
Note: For this episode Ina used pecan bars, coffee chocolate bars, a round shortbread, a round chocolate cookie, biscotti and long-stemmed strawberries.