Amidst organizing gatherings, attending festive events, and shopping for gifts—whether for family and friends or as host/hostess presents—the holiday season can be a demanding and stressful time of the year.

If you’re organizing a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day celebration and aiming for a simpler approach, crafting a menu that is both spectacular and delicious, yet easy, is key.

Opting for a hassle-free sweet treat allows you to spend more time enjoying the festivities with friends and family. By choosing a straightforward dessert, you can savor the joyous moments of the celebration without being tethered to the kitchen, making a seamless transition into the new year.

Mary Cech fruit tartlets

Chef Mary Cech, a member of the 1991 U.S. Pastry Team, has created an easy and delicious fruit tartlet that can be made ahead and served in a variety of ways. This recipe and more can be found in Mary’s cookbook, “The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook: Recipes and Pairings for the Perfect Glass of Wine.”

Opting not to make your pastry crust? No problem – store-bought works just fine. The charm of this dessert lies in the individual servings. Additionally, you have the option to provide an array of toppings, including whipped cream, ice cream, and vanilla custard sauce, or enjoy them as is with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Holiday Dried and Fresh Fruit Tartlets

Serves: 6

Pastry Crust Ingredients

Butter, unsalted, room temperature6 Tbsp (1/4 stick)
Confectioners’ Sugar1/4 cup
Ground cinnamon1/4 tea
Granulated salt1/4 tea
Egg, large1 ea
All-purpose flour1 cup

Fruit Filling Ingredents

Small, red apple, diced with peel (Braeburn, Fuji, or Rome)1 ea
Small, red pear, diced with peel (Red Sensation or Red Bartlett)1 ea
Dried figs, coarsely chopped1/3 cup
Dried apricots, coarsely chopped1/3 cup
Currants1/4 cup
Dried cranberries or cherries1/4 cup
Vanilla bean (4-inch) split lengthwise (We use Nielsen-Massey)
Note: You can also use vanilla extract
1 ea
1 tea
Granulated sugar1/3 cup
Brandy1/3 cup
Finely grated lemon zest1 tea
Fresh lemon juice2 tea
Ground cinnamon1/2 tea
Ground nutmeg1/4 tea
Ground cloves1/8 tea
Granulated saltpinch
Water3/4 cup

Streusel Topping Ingredients

All-purpose flour1/2 cup
Chopped pecans1/4 cup
Light brown sugar, loosely packed1/4 cup
Ground cinnamon1/2 tea
Granulated saltpinch
Unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces3 Tbsp
Confectioners’ Sugar for finishing (optional)As needed


Pastry Crust

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or in a food processor, mix the butter, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and salt until smooth. Blend in the egg until smooth. Add the flour and mix until to dough can be pressed into a ball. Press the dough into a flat disk, wrap it in plastic film, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll.

Fruit Filling

While the pastry chills, prepare the fruit filling. Combine the apple, pear, figs, apricots, currants, and cranberries or cherries in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean and add the pod. (Note: if you are using vanilla extract, add it to the fruit mixture after cooking). Stir in the sugar, brandy, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to s simmer and cook until the dried fruits begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position a rack near the center of the oven. Place six 4-inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms or similar-sized molds on a rimmed baking sheet. Roll the pastry 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface using a floured rolling pin. Use an inverted tart pan to cut the six rounds that are slightly larger than the top of the pan. Press the rounds firmly into the sides and bottom of the pans, patching any tears. Bake the tart shells until they are light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Streusel Topping

While the pastry bakes, prepare the streusel topping. Stir together the flour, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub with your fingertips until it is well distributed and the mixture has the texture of cookie crumbs. Set aside.

Remove and discard the vanilla pod from the fruit. Use a slotted spoon to strain the fruit and evenly fill the tart shells. (You might have a few tablespoons of syrup left to drizzle over the finished tarts or to enjoy over ice cream).

Distribute the streusel topping over the fruit filling. Bake the tarts on a baking sheet until they are light golden brown, about 25 minutes. cool the tarts for 10 minutes before carefully removing them from their pans. Dust with powdered sugar or serve them however you wish. They can be served warm or at room temperature.