Summer menus generally run to quick, simple and tasty. Grilling, often, both meats and veggies, simple salads, lots of good raw things from the garden — scallions, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers and such. So when it comes to dessert we might sometimes go a little crazy making up the calories.
Today’s column enables that thought with some utterly fabulous desserts that fill the bill with a minimum of effort: some downright simple, some taking a bit longer but still eminently doable — especially for the applause that will follow! Enjoy!
For those who want something a bit more substantial than a fruit bowl, it’s so easy to whip up a quick and luscious dessert with a pint of (Organic) cream, whipped well and dolloped into pretty little bowls or onto slices of purchased angel food or pound cake topped with sliced fruit or berries. If you have only a little fruit on hand simply stir it into the whipped cream to top the cake.
But, you don’t really need cake and can save a few of those calories by simply scooping the mixture into a pretty dessert dish and serving alone or with a simple cookie if you wish.
Tip: Whipped cream can be more versatile than you think: Instead of adding the usual 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring, try lemon, almond, lime or mint instead. Use garnishes, too — mint sprigs (try chocolate mint!), lemon balm leaves, basil, and even rosemary — can provide fabulous taste variations. Too, Johnny Jump-ups, clove pinks, lavender sprigs or rose petals (all rinsed well and pesticide-free), make glorious, delicately flavored/scented additions — not to mention beauty.
A few years ago, I created a huckleberry “parfait” that I always served in old saucer champagne glasses. Later, I purchased a ready-made chocolate pie crust and served it in that. Here’s the recipe for you to serve to have on hand if you prove to be lucky in the huckleberry patch this year. Caveat: You must use REAL whipping cream (preferably organic) for proper taste, texture and body.
Val’s Huckleberry Fluff
3 cups huckleberries, frozen/thawed or fresh, chilled overnight if possible
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon real butter
1 pint real whipping cream
Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt in pan, then add 1 cup of huckleberries and the water. Bring to a boil, stirring and cooking till thickened and clear. Remove from heat, stir to cool slightly, then stir in the butter and 1 cup of the remaining huckleberries. Fold and stir till well mixed and chill for 1 hour. When berry mixture is chilled through, stir in the last cup of huckleberries. (Mixture does not have to be thick, a syrupy consistency is o.k.)
Whip the entire pint of cream in a large, deep, chilled bowl till fairly stiff. Do not add sugar or vanilla. Stir in huckleberry mixture, folding with a large spoon to mix completely with the whipped cream. Chill for later serving in dessert cups, or scoop into pie crust and chill.
I would be remiss not to include the great old standby of the Baker’s folks!
White Chocolate Mousse
1 package (6 squares) Baker’s Premium White Chocolate
1 1/2 cups whipping cream, divided
Over low heat in a heavy pan, melt white chocolate and ¼ cup of the cream, stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Set pan aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally. When cooled to room temperature, beat remaining 1¼ cup cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Spoon half the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture, folding in well. Beat remaining whipped cream in bowl to a bit stiffer consistency (do NOT overbeat) and fold into the mixture until just blended. Spoon into baked tart shells or dessert dishes and decorate with berries or mint sprig, as you wish. This makes six half-cup servings, so you may wish to double the recipe.
Speaking of mousse — here’s our spotlight for the day — our pictured “baked mousse.” This one takes a bit of time and loving care but is truly worth it!
Baked Chocolate Mousse
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules/powder
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened, finely chopped
1 tablespoon brandy*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan; add cocoa and espresso, stirring till smooth. Remove pan from heat and add chopped chocolates, gently stirring till mixture is smooth. Stir in brandy and vanilla. Pour mixture into a large bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally.
Combine eggs and egg whites, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler, stirring with a whisk. Cook over simmering water, whisking constantly about 2 minutes till well heated through. Pour into a medium bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form — about 5 minutes. Gently stir one-third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, fold in well. When incorporated, fold in remaining mixture, gently but completely.
Whip cream to stiff peaks and fold gently but thoroughly into chocolate mixture. Spoon batter into a8-inch spring-form pan, coated with baking spray, spreading evenly. Bake at 350 for 30-33 minutes, or until almost set — center should not be firm, but will set as it chills. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve in small slices garnished with whipped cream and berries as shown, or as you prefer.
*You may use raspberry liqueur (Chateau Monet, Chambord) or Cointreau (orange flavor) for a light change of flavor.
Baking spray with flour “Baker’s Joy” — if not available, simply oil pan well, dust with flour and tap out remainder.
Editor’s note: For many years, Valle Novak has written gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. “Weekend Gardener” and “Country Chef” became renowned for their humor, information and common sense advice on how to do everything from planting to cooking. While she recently retired, she has shared a number of columns to delight her many fans. This is one such column.