'Tis the season to be stressed-out right? Especially when you're still trying to tick off those last minute items on your holiday gift list, attending countless holiday parties and you've got a fancy dinner party for 10 planned this coming weekend. How are we to do it all, with grace and style no less? Leslie Steh, the Executive Pastry Chef at Toronto's Colette Grand Café, knows a thing or two about throwing a fuss-free (but fabulous) dinner party. We sat down with Leslie to get her top tips on how to throw a stylish holiday dinner party, without the stress! Lucky for you, she's also sharing two of her favourite recipes with us...
Q: What’s your top entertaining tip to create an easy (but impressive) holiday dinner party?
A: Have quality bread and cheese, it’s easy to put out and everyone loves it!
Q: What’s your go-to meal to make (starter, main and dessert) when you throw a holiday dinner party?
A: Starter - Seafood is easy and fun – specifically, oysters which are interactive and low labor.
Main – My family loves a good turkey roll. It’s creative with stuffing and has a short cook time. For some extra flavor, wrap in bacon or prosciutto.
Dessert - Pecan pie is always my go-to. In my opinion, when people are presented with multiple dessert options, they always turn to pecan pie.
Q: What advice would you give busy moms to handle the stress of the holiday season?
A: Have a glass of wine (or two!), don’t bake too much and try to have fun!
Q: What’s your favourite holiday cocktail to serve?
A: Champagne - it’s a great way to start a party, and sets the tone for a special occasion!
Q: Can you describe a day in the life of the Executive Pastry Chef of Colette Grand Café?
A: I arrive at Colette, put out a bunch of fires, have a bunch of wins (and some losses) and come out of it each day hoping I’ve made everyone happy!
Q: Can you share a pro baking tip that readers can easily implement?
A: Freezing desserts ahead of time and pulling them out the day of is a quick and easy way to make entertaining this holiday season a breeze. It’s easy to make something look like a plated dessert with skills that we all have. To really impress guests, add fruit or flowers to the plate, and you’re ready to serve.
Q: Describe your cooking philosophy in one sentence.
A: I like something that tastes amazing, looks will follow.
Q: What kitchen gadget or baking tool do you swear by?
A: My German garlic press is a must have!
Q: What’s your can’t-live-without pantry ingredient?
A: White rice. Got to have it, everything with rice!
Q; Your weeknight go-to meal?
A: You won’t believe this but…Doritos!
Q: What is the best meal you have eaten at a restaurant?
A: It wasn’t quite a restaurant but my best meal was on the side of the road in Thailand. I had rice with crispy fried garlic chips, and it was hands down an unforgettable meal.
Q: What is your necessary indulgence?
A: Plain, salted potato chips.
Q: What cookbook do you find yourself going back to time and time again?
A: Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.
Q: What 3 famous people would you jump at the chance to have dinner and a drink with, and why?
A: 1. Ralph Lauren
2. Iris Apfel
3. Pierre Hermé
I love people who have led successful lives. Ralph Lauren built an empire and is recognized worldwide, Iris is a woman of many talents and Pierre is one of the best pastry chef’s out there. I would love to dine with the best of the best.
Q: Can you share some of your favourite holiday recipes?
6 (59g) eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups (270g) caster sugar
2 teaspoons corn flour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
300ml thickened cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar mixture, sifted
Finely shredded rind and juice of 2 limes
2 Lady finger bananas, thinly sliced diagonally
3 golden kiwifruit, peeled, thinly slice or pineapples
2 star fruit, thinly sliced
Pulp of 2-3 passion fruit
1. Preheat oven to 250F. Line an oven tray with foil. Brush with melted butter and
dust with corn flour, shaking off the excess. Mark a 10 inch-diameter circle on foil or
3" if you want to make individuals.
2. Use an electric mixer to whisk egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks
form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each
addition, until meringue is thick and glossy and the sugar is dissolved. Rub a little
meringue between fingers. If still "gritty" with sugar, continue to whisk until sugar
dissolves. Add corn flour, vinegar and vanilla and whisk until just combined.
Spoon meringue onto the foil, using the marked circle as a guide. Smooth sides
and top of pavlova. Use a small spatula to form little peaks around edge of
pavlova. Bake in oven for 11/2 hours or until pavlova is dry to the touch or 1 hour
for individuals. Turn off oven. Leave pavlova in oven with the door ajar to cool
completely. When completely cold, transfer to serving plate or store in an airtight
container until required.
3. Use an electric mixer to whisk the cream and icing sugar in a medium bowl until
firm peaks form. Spoon cream onto the top of pavlova. Pour lime juice into a
ceramic or glass bowl. Add banana slices and toss to coat with juice. Drain.
Decorate pavlova with banana, kiwifruit, starfruit.
5 1/2 cups of ground almonds (almond meal)*
2 cups of white sugar; refined baking sugar is best
1/2 teaspoon pure almond essence (extract will do, but essence is better)
1 cup (or as needed) of icing sugar for dusting the tops of the amaretti
2 pinches of salt
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Position the oven rack so that it is in the middle of the
2. Check that your ground almonds are as fine as possible. You can always put
them in a blender or the food processor to make the meal extra fine.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground almonds, salt and sugar, mixing well
with a fork. Next mix in the eggs (all at once – no need to beat in advance) and
the almond essence.
4. Line your cookie sheets with baking paper, and make round balls of cookie
dough…generally about a tablespoon, roll them in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar,
covering the ball, and then place them on the baking sheet.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes,
then transfer to a cooling rack. EAT and enjoy.
About Leslie Steh:
Leslie Steh is the Executive Pastry Chef at Toronto’s beloved Colette Grand Café. Steh is a mother of two and an avid traveller who attended London’s prestigious culinary arts school, Le Cordon Bleu.