Summertiming dining provides a great opportunity to get cool and creative with desserts. "Creating seasonal desserts is always exciting," says Charleen Huebner, bakery and pastry arts program coordinator in Stratford University's Culinary and Hospitality Department. "There are so many refreshing desserts that can be made. They complement many of the traditional summer meals people like to eat, and they always please a crowd."
Huebner suggests cool and creamy desserts, such as panna cotta, gelato, fresh fruit pops, no-bake pies and tarts, and delectable grilled fruits. Besides being knee-weakening delicious, these superlative sweets are quite simple to prepare. For your next everyday family dinner or special weekend get together, give one or more of the following summer desserts a place on your summer dining menu.
Grilled fruit exudes caramelized sweetness that has an affinity for vanilla ice cream or a same-fruit sorbet. Adding a dash of five-spice powder gives grilled fruit a welcome exotic flavor.
4 ripe but firm peaches, halved, pitted
4 thick rings of fresh pineapple, cored
2 bananas, peeled, sliced lenghtwise
Ice cream or sorbet
1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush peach halves, pineapple rings, and banana halves with vegetable oil. Sprinkle with five-spice powder.
2. Oil the grill grate and place fruit cut-side down on the grill. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly golden. Flip and grill an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Remove from the grill and serve warm with ice cream or sorbet of your choice.
*Five-spice powder can be found in the spice section and Asian food section of most supermarkets. Substitute a dash of ground cinnamon and ginger, if desired.
Panna Cotta is an elegant Italian dessert that requires very little effort. Garnished colorfully with an assortment of berries, this decadent creamy treat will steal the show at your next summer dinner party.
4 cups half-and-half
2 cinnamon sticks, coarsely broken
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4-1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons cold water
Cinnamon for garnish
Fresh fruit compote or fruit sauce
1. Heat the half and half, cinnamon sticks and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Lightly grease 8 ramekins or custard cups with vegetable or olive oil.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Strain warm half and half mixture through a sieve over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
4. Divide half and half mixture into the prepared cups or ramekins. Chill for at least 2 hours or until firm.
5. To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and invert each onto a dessert plate. Garnish simply with a dash of cinnamon or lavishly garnish with a fresh fruit compote and a bit of whipped cream.
This dessert, courtesy of Stratford University's Culinary and Hospitality Department, does require some oven time, but the heat is minimal compared to most baked desserts. Since it needs time to cool, you can always make it early in the morning to beat the summer afternoon heat.
4 ounces butter
2 tablespoons lime zest (try orange or lemon zest for a change!), divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces lime juice (or other citrus juice)
4 ounces heavy cream, soft whipped
Sweetened whipped cream for garnish
Toasted coconut for garnish
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Melt butter in a small saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of the lime zest, stirring to combine. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and 1/4 cup sugar. Add butter mixture to flour mixture and combine.
3. Place flour mixture in a greased pie or tart pan and press to coat bottom and sides of pan. Bake until golden. Remove and set aside.
4. Lower oven heat to 275 degrees F. In a second large bowl, combine eggs and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whisk until combined. Add lemon juice and gently fold in the whipped cream. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until filling is just set.
5. Let cool on a wire rack. Top tart with sweetened whipped cream and toasted coconut. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
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