Not-Quite Homemade Desserts


I’m a baker: I love to do it, I love to share it, I love to eat the goods.

But lots of people loathe baking, and that’s OK. There are plenty of wonderful local bakeries, ice cream shops and chocolatiers to help those of us with neither time nor inclination to bake.

But for those who would like to serve a kind of homemade dessert once in a while, or for times when you might not have access to a bakery or cash to buy a special dessert, I have good news for you.

These recipes are sort of like training wheels; they give you the building blocks to create delicious desserts, and you can do as much homemade or bought as you like.

Chocolate Ganache Pie

This is a show stopper and oh so simple. Chocolate lovers will shudder with joy. It stands on its own just fine, but additional whipped cream, fresh berries or toasted nuts are a delightful accompaniment.

1 premade graham cracker crust

1 bag best quality dark chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

Pour the chocolate chips into a bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream to just short of boiling and dump it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl and allow it to sit for about five minutes so that the chocolate melts.

Stir the mixture until it’s totally smooth and pour it into a pie shell. Chill it until the filling is somewhat solidified and serve as desired.

Serves six to eight

Fruit Parfait

This pretty parfait is dramatic, delicious and super easy. You can jazz it up with a mint leaf, a drizzle of triple sec or just let it be. These are best eaten the day they are made; otherwise, the cookie crumbs absorb the juice and become mushy and the whipped cream collapses.

1 sleeve of Lorna Doone cookies or similar shortbread butter cookie (about 20 cookies total)

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups pitted cherries or your favorite seasonal fruit (sweetened as needed)

Prepare the fruit: If using cherries, pit them, save the juice and set them aside. If using strawberries, rinse, stem, cut and sweeten as needed. For peaches, peel, pit and chop. It is key to keep the juice with the fruit so the flavor permeates the parfait. Refrigerate the fruit in its juice until ready to use.

Whip the cream, then add the sugar and vanilla. It should be quite stiff, holding peaks well. Refrigerate.

Coarsely crumble the cookies, reserving a few large chunks to garnish.

Using four short glasses or footed parfait bowls, sprinkle cookie crumbs in the bottom of each. Then layer fruit with its juice, whipped cream and more cookie crumbs. End with whipped cream and top with a bit of fruit and a bit of crumbled cookie to garnish. Refrigerate or serve immediately.

Serves four

Lemon Curd Layered Pound Cake

This is a total cheat but really tasty — store-bought cake and filling. Everyone loves pound cake and most people love lemon. If lemon is not your heart’s desire, choose another filler: dulce de leche, Nutella, fig jam, mango puree, brandied cherries … think of the pound cake as a blank canvas.

1 purchased pound cake

2 jars lemon curd (can be found in the jam section of the grocery store)

Remove the pound cake from its package and slice it horizontally into three layers.

Spread lemon curd on each layer, stacking the layers, and cover the top with the remaining lemon curd, like you would ice a cake.

Slice and serve.

Serves six to eight


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