Five Easy Christmas Desserts

Planning a Christmas Eve and/or Day dinner can be stressful. But it doesn't have to be. Or at least the dessert part doesn't have to be.

After you have prepared and cooked a delicious meal for your family, the last thing you want to do is stress over the dessert. Here are five easy last-minute Christmas dinner desserts you and your entire family will love.

5. Bread Pudding

Prepare this comforting dessert in advance, then bake it while you're enjoying dinner. Slice a sweet bread such as panettone or brioche, and place in a 13x9x2-inch pan. Cover the bread chunks with a mixture of sugar, eggs, milk (or heavy cream) and vanilla extract. Sprinkle a mixture of brown sugar, butter, nuts (such as pecans or almonds), fruit (raisins, cranberries, apples or figs) and cinnamon. Bake the bread pudding for 35 to 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven, then serve warm for a comforting and sweet dessert after dinner.

4. Panna Cotta

While many think this is a difficult dessert, it is actually quite simple. All you have to do is add four cups of heavy cream, whole milk, or half-and-half to a saucepan with half a cup of granulated sugar. Heat the mixture until all of the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the stove and add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract. Then, sprinkle two packets of powdered gelatin over six tablespoons of water in a large bowl; let the mixture sit for ten minutes or so. Pour the milk mixture over the gelatin and stir until everything is fully incorporated. Finally, place the panna cotta mixture into eight custard cups or ramekins sprayed with cooking spray or lightly coated in oil. Stick the panna cotta in the refrigerator for at least four hours, the colder, the better! Then pull out of the fridge and serve at dinner with warm chocolate sauce and a mixture of berries.

3. Baked Pears

You can still make an elegant dessert without spending much time in the kitchen. Simply peel the pears and vertically cut in half. Remove the seeds from the middle of each half, then place the pears in a baking dish cut side up. Sprinkle the pears with sugar and spices, such as brown sugar or cinnamon, and add a few pats of butter. Pour in some apple juice and water to boil the pears while they bake in the oven. You can also top the pears with a granola mixture and dried fruit for added sweetness. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 or 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve each pear with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.

2. Brownies a la Mode

What's so great about making brownies for a main dessert is that you don't have to wait for them to cool before you serve them. Make your favorite brownies (boxed mixes are perfectly acceptable), and as soon as they come out of the oven place a serving into a bowl and top with vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top for an added holiday touch. It may be simple, but it sure is tasty.

1. Christmas Cookies

Why not serve something you've probably been making the entire month of December? Create a tray of an assortment of Christmas cookies you've baked, received from friends and family, or simply bought at the store (nothing wrong with store-bought Christmas cookies). Serve with a glass of cold milk, eggnog or hot chocolate.

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