8 Big-Pan Desserts for Your Big, Hungry Crowd
Save the cookies for another day and make bars, which involve just one pan and can be sliced as large or small as you need (these recipes serve as many as 100!).
The Last-Minute Chocolate-Hazelnut Squares
Liz Gutman and Jen King, proprietors of the Brooklyn sweet shop Liddabit Sweets
and authors of The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook
, say the active work time to make the filling for these squares—made of chocolate, Nutella and cereal flakes—is about three minutes. That makes them the perfect eleventh-hour lifeline for when you remember you need a dessert for tomorrow's potluck. Bonus: The recipe makes about 100 one-inch squares.
Get the recipe: Hip-to-Be Squares
The Amazing Oat-and-Fruit Bar (Just Don't Mention Granola)
These decadent layered bars consist of a base made from oats, coconut and cashews; a filling of softened, lemon-scented apricots; and a topping of more coconuts and cashews. A final drizzle of caramel pretty much ensures these will be one of the first desserts on the buffet table to go.
Get the recipe: Apricot, Cashew and Coconut Bars
Thin and Minty—and We Mean Minty—Treats
Nothing delivers that signature whoosh of coolness like a chocolate-mint confection, and these meltaways have it in spades. Peppermint oil, which you can find in health food stores as a dietary supplement, or peppermint extract will both do the job. This easy recipe from Gutman and King gives you 65 one-inch squares.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Mint Meltaways
The Chocolaty, Buttery Throwback
Gutman and King say it's worth it to splurge on high-quality butter for this Heath bar–esque creation, since the dessert's center solely consists of butter, sugar and salt (the chopped walnuts and milk chocolate on the outside are just gravy). The recipe makes about 4 pounds, which is enough for 60 people.
Get the recipe: Roni-Sue's Best Buttercrunch Ever
Crowd-Pleasing (Literally!) Brownies
While everyone has their preferred brownie (cakey, chewy, fudgy), this classic-with-a-twist recipe from baking guru Alice Medrich will find plenty of fans at a potluck. Medrich stirs nutty brown butter into the chocolate-walnut batter for deeper flavor. You'll wind up with 25 soft, velvety squares with slightly crusty tops.
Get the recipe: Cocoa Brownies with Walnuts and Brown Butter
The Can't-Screw-It-Up Total Package
Economical, super simple to make, impressive to look at and not to mention delicious, this chocolaty matzo-based confection will "magically disappear before your eyes," Gutman and King say. You can use any kind of matzo (salted or not) or even saltines, and can add toppings such as coconut, slivered almonds or chopped dried cherries.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crunch
A Lemon Treat We've Perfected So You Don't Have To
Two characteristics distinguish a truly excellent lemon bar: a base layer that doesn't get soggy, and a filling that gives a little but is still quite firm. This foolproof recipe from entertaining and baking expert Amy Atlas hits both notes. To get razor-sharp cuts through the curd and crust, Atlas says, use a very sharp knife dipped in warm water. Rewet it every few cuts to maintain ultraprecise edges.
Get the recipe: Tangy Lemon Bars
The Dessert That'll Get Them Talking
We predict that within approximately 23 seconds of placing a platter of sweet, rich homemade fudge in front of your guests, you'll start to hear it around the room: "There's homemade fudge?" and "She made homemade fudge?" This ginger-flecked version—which yields an impressive 64 pieces—will not disappoint the masses.
Get the recipe: Gingered Creamy Fudge
Next: Desserts that will make you the most popular guest at the party