By peoplestaff225
Updated December 08, 2020 01:46 PM
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Just because summer is (almost) over, doesn’t mean the party has to be.

This is especially true for Carla Ruben, founder of New York City’s Creative Edge Parties, which has catered events for the likes of Beyonce and Jay-Z, Madonna, and Oprah (just to name a few).

“I think it’s actually easier to entertain in the fall,” Ruben tells PEOPLE. “People really take to heart the full flavors during this time of year.”

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And when it comes to entertaining at home, Ruben has one strong piece of advice: Do everything ahead. “When guests walk in I want to be dressed, relaxed, and ready to entertain. I don’t want to be stuck in my kitchen preparing food. When the host and the hostess are relaxed and enjoying themselves, everybody’s enjoying themselves.”

Here, she shares some two of her favorite fall dessert recipes (both of which can be made ahead!), including a mini pumpkin pie served inside a pumpkin. And don’t think we forgot about the booze! Her twist on an old fashioned with sage-infused syrup will keep you warm even as the evenings get chillier.

Pear-Cranberry Crostata
For dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 stick very cold butter, diced
2 tbsp. ice water

For filling:
4 large Bartlett pears, peeled and sliced
½ cup fresh cranberries
½ tsp. orange zest
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground all spice
½ stick cold butter, diced

Whipped cream, for garnish

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1. For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

3. Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.

4. Toss the pears with the orange zest and whole cranberries. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

5. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the pears. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

6. Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Tip: Make ’em mini! Instead of one big crostata, roll the dough into four rounds and divide the filling amongst them for an individual treat.

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Pumpkin Pie in a Mini Pumpkin
Makes 3

For dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 stick very cold butter, diced
2 tbsp. ice water

For filling:
¾ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
2 eggs
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

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1. For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

3. Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into a circle slightly larger than the top of the pumpkin. Cut with a fluted cutter and keep cold while you make the filling.

4. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

5. Cut the top off of a small pumpkin and use a spoon to scoop out the inside. Pour the pumpkin pie batter into the mini pumpkin leaving a half an inch at the top. Place the pie dough circle on the top of the pumpkin and pinch around the top to seal.

6. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F; bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

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“New Fashioned” Cocktail
Makes 1

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. sage-infused maple simple syrup (recipe below)
2 dashes angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish

Combine bourbon, simple syrup and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir then strain into Old Fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with orange twist.

For maple simple syrup: Heat a large handful of fresh sage leaves with ⅔ cup maple syrup and 1 cup water. Let boil lightly for 2-3 minutes. Strain and cool.

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Shay Spence