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WalkerSpeak: (More than) 10 Desserts to Make in a Pinch

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When company comes with little advance notice, we can always send out for pizza, or run down to Taco Cabana for fajitas and the trimmings. But, what about dessert?

If you’ve planned ahead – way ahead – you might have no problem. Building an “emergency” dessert pantry has been my answer. That means I have things that we like and know exactly what to do with.  If nothing else, a box of double chocolate brownie mix, or even a blondie mix made-in-a-jar will save you the price of premium baked desserts at the store bakery, not to mention the time it takes to go there.

Here are some examples of things I have, keeping dessert in mind. Usually I have coconut milk, nuts, bars of chocolate, ready-made pie crusts, frozen fruit and a half pint of whipping cream in the freezer. (I’d have ice cream in there, too, except that I try to not to have it there because it’s too tempting. Which means it’s usually not there when I really need it anyway.)

We nearly always have good cheese on hand. So, dress it up for a final course by putting out halves of English walnuts which you’ve cleverly stored in the freezer, along with a little dish of honey to dip the nuts in. This can almost pass as an elegant dessert.

John Griffin has written about one of his strategies: tossing something like we used to call “gorp” for hiking into a bowl and serving it as finger food. Nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, dried fruit and other easy-to-eat items will work. This was “dessert” at a card game he had recently.

SavorSA colleague Kristina Mistry had some good thoughts as well. Dessert smoothies with sorbet and fresh of frozen fruit; dessert drinks, like spiked hot chocolate with a surprise pinch of chile pepper;  cheese and apples; and (only cheating a little bit) frozen cream puffs from Costco. I’d put these in my emergency pantry any day.

Here are 10 more desserts, from dainty to decadent, to make in a pinch:

  1. Oranges, peeled so that the white pith is off, too. Sliced and served very cold with a drizzle of a complementary liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, and a maraschino cherry or two.  I keep rosewater around the kitchen, too, and a spoonful or two of this is good on fresh oranges, as is a little bit of chopped mint.

    Recipe: Coconut Rice Pudding

  2. Sliced pound cake or angel food cake topped with thawed raspberries from the freezer mixed with sugar and served cold, or fresh fruit, such as blueberries. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream goes on top.
  3. Raisin Challah Cinnamon Toast with ice cream. We love this rich, eggy bread. Cut it into generous slices of the challah and toast it. Mix together a half-cup of sugar and a teaspoon or so of cinnamon. Butter the toast, shake over the cinnamon-sugar mix and top each slice with a scoop of ice cream.
  4. Pudding is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. We won’t pretend this is fancy pudding, but try this Lemon Banana Split Pudding by crumbling lemon wafers into the bottom of a dessert ramekin or individual dessert cup. Fold sour cream, sliced bananas or strawberries into cold lemon pudding and put several generous spoonfuls into the dishes. Top with whipped cream and (optional) toasted coconut or a few more cookie crumbs.
  5. A friend of mine, Saundra Winokur, who has many drop-in guests at her Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard near Elmendorf, puts together a quick fruit crumble. She slices peeled apples into a bowl, tosses them with sugar and a little flour, cinnamon and nutmeg, and pours them into a pie pan or other baking pan. She pours over the granola mix she sells at Sandy Oaks, and dots the crumble with butter. Then, she bakes at 350 degrees until the apples are tender.
  6. When you make cookies, double the batch and roll up a long slim tube of cookie dough to freeze. (Wrap it well.) When the coffee is making, slice small rounds of cookie dough and put them on a bake sheet in a 350-degree oven for just a couple of minutes. Take them out when they are beginning to color on the bottom, but are still a bit soft on top. Let them cool just a minute or so, then serve them warm, on a plate.
  7. Free-form pie really is “easy as pie.” If you have fresh fruit, such as apples or peaches, make the filling as you normally would. Put one pie crust on a bake sheet and place the prepared fruit (sugar, flour, spices) on the crust to about an inch or slightly more from the edge. Pull the edges in enough to make a rim around the fruit. Dot the filling with butter and bake in a 350-degree oven until the fruit is tender and the crust browned.

    Recipe: Blondies in a Jar

  8. Coconut Rice Pudding (from chef Mark Bittman). If you always have rice on hand, especially short grain rice, all you have to remember is to keep a couple of cans of coconut milk (3-4 cups) in stock. It’s great with sliced fresh mango on it, sprinkled with cinnamon.
  9. Vanilla ice cream in raspberry syrup and cookies (pretty cookie sticks give a finished look to this – and they’re easy to keep in the freezer.) The ice cream and cookie sticks are easy, and would be fine by themselves. Raspberry syrup is easy, too. Pour a freezer bag of frozen raspberries on the stove with a little water and simmer until the fruit falls apart. Let cool. Press the raspberries through a sieve. Add sugar to taste to the liquid and chill. Be generous with the syrup when you serve the ice cream.
  10. Blondies in a Jar. You still get the chocolate, but if that’s not enough, serve the blondies warm, topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
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