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Fast and Fancy Dessert Help!

I need to come up with two different (contrasting) fast desserts tonight that look very posh... I have a well-stocked pantry and can go to the market before I go home... anything you guys rely on in a pinch? Please help!

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  1. Chocolate dipped strawberries---if you've never done them, let me assure you they are so easy. Melt some good chocolate---add a spoonful of solid shortening to get the right consistency. Dip your strawberries by the stem and let harden on waxed paper. Can't believe what the "gourmet" candy stores charge for these!

    1. I watched this one on the Food Network....oh my goodness...FABULOUS!! Serve this in a teacup and matching saucer or coffe cup and matching saucer. It makes a cute little presentation and makes you feel like you are eating a rich restaurant dessert!

      Ricotta Cappuccino

      1/2 cup sugar
      1/2 vanilla bean
      1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
      1/2 tablespoon instant espresso powder
      1 (3-inch) biscotti, crushed
      Pinch ground cinnamon
      Pinch cocoa powder

      Place the sugar in a food processor. Cut the vanilla bean open lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and place them in the food processor with the sugar. Run the machine to make vanilla sugar.

      Place the ricotta and espresso powder in the food processor. Blend for 1 minute. Stop the machine to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Blend for another minute. Spoon the mixture into 4 small coffee mugs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

      To serve, top the ricotta cappuccino with crushed biscotti. Sprinkle with cinnamon and cocoa powder.

      A MUST try!!

      1. Pavlovas with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce or berries.

        1. A lemon tart. With a simple shortbread crust, lemon curd and sprinkle it with icing sugar, or brule sugar over the top. Always a hit, looks fancy (especially if you top with frsh fruit) and super easy.

          1. Individual trifles in wine or other nice glasses.
            You need only 4 things:
            1 Lemon
            Pound Cake
            Frozen/ fresh berries
            Whipping Cream

            Make a coulis with the berries by placing them in a pot with water and sugar. Bring to boil then lower to a simmer and add a slurry of cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, then turn off burner. It will thicken.
            Add some lemon juice/ zest to heighten the berry flavor.
            Whip the cream. Add some powdered sugar as the cream comes together, if you have it.
            Cube the pound cake.
            Assemble by placing a layer of berries, whipped cream and cubes of cake. Repeat until you get to the top. Finish with a cream layer.

            1. How about Chocolate Slab, from Laura Calder? Only 5 ingredients, fast and easy.

              Chocolate Slab
              Yield: 8
              8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate
              1/2 cup espresso
              8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
              3/4 cup sugar
              4 x eggs, lightly beaten

              Heat the oven to 350°F.
              Grease and flour a 9-inch/23 -cm springform pan, wrapped with foil around the outside bottom to prevent leakage.
              Put the chocolate and coffee in the top of a double boiler and heat to melt (or use microwave which I usually do).
              Stir until smooth and add the butter, a few chunks at a time, until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
              Beat in the sugar, and cook the mixture a minute or two until hot.
              Beat the eggs in a bowl. Slowly pour over the chocolate mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the batter through a strainer into the pan. Bake until the cake is cooked through, about 40 minutes.
              Take it from the oven and cool in the pan 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and remove the sides of the pan.
              Cool completely and serve at room temperature about an hour before serving.

              And for number 2 - Glazed Figs with Marscapone Cream. You could do this with plums too.
              Yield: 6
              2 cups mascarpone cheese
              1/2 cup heavy cream
              2 tbsp icing sugar
              1/2 cup orange juice
              1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
              1/4 cup sugar
              1/2 tsp orange zest
              1 pt fresh figs, halved
              1/2 cup walnuts coarsely chopped

              In an electric mixer whip the mascarpone until smooth.
              Continue whipping and slowly add the cream in a steady stream.
              Add the sugar and whip for 3 minutes.
              In a small pot combine the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, sugar and zest.
              Over high heat bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
              Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
              Preheat the broiler or do on a BBQ but watch the heat.
              Toss the figs with the glaze and spread, cut side up, in a single layer on a baking sheet.
              Cook under the broiler for 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly caramelized.
              Serve the warm figs with the mascarpone cream and toasted walnuts.


              1. This goes together faster than it reads. I'm going to be making it with a gingered shortbread crust in a few days. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                Another winner is the following: http://s3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/...

                Butter and line a 9X2" round cake pan and fit it with a round of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F.

                Put 7 oz. butter and 10 oz. 70% dark chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Whisk until everything is melted and smooth and remove from the heat.

                In a large bowl beat 5 lg. eggs with 1 C. sugar. Gradually whisk in the chocolate and thoroughly combine.

                Put the batter in the prepared pan and cover well with foil ( I like the non stick for this) place in a latger pan and add enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for an hour and 15 miinutes. Carefully remove the cake pan from the water bath and set on a rack to cool. Then refrigerate 2 hours or over night covered with plastic wrap.

                Mean while take a bag of frozen ( f they are defrosted it is just fine) red raspberries and put them into your food processor add a couple of Tbs. sugar (superfine is best if you can get it) add about 1/4 C. Chambord and process well. If the berries are still frozen pour into a small sauce pan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then strain to remove the seeds and pour into an attractive serving bowl.

                Remove the cake from the fridge. You may need to dip the bottom of the pan in warm water to loosen it and run a knife around the edge. Sitting it on a hot wet towel would work well too. Invert on to a serving platter and peel off the parchment. I prefer at this time to cut the tart into slices while it is still a bit cold, it makes it easier. You should get 12-14 slices. Strew fresh red rasberries over the top and serve the coulis on the side.

                oven 350, butter a 9X2 round cake pan and line it with parchement

                1. Poached pears are my in-a-pinch standard. Simmer firm whole pears, peeled and cored, in water and sugar with a broken cinnamon stick. Figure maybe a quart of water and a cup of sugar for four or five pears...I don't measure so this is my guesstimate. Leave the stem attached and a bit of peel at the top, for a nice presentation. Pears are done when a toothpick easily pierces all the way through the thickest part of the fruit, but before they get too soft and start to fall apart. Folks should be able to cut through the pear easily with a fork or spoon without encountering any hard fruit.

                  A classic preparation is to serve the pears with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

                  I've also cooked down the pear poaching liquid until it caramelizes and served that as a sauce.

                  Or, stuff with softened gorgonzola and serve with a drizzle of poaching liquid, which will have thickened during the simmering. If not thick enough, reduce a bit.

                  1. So easy:

                    In a pretty wine or martini glass put a large dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt (greek fage is the most decadent to use). Sprinkle with fresh berries and maybe nuts and drizzle with honey. Or maybe a grating of chocolate instead of honey.

                    1. as long as you have a few hours for this to rest between making and serving I would recommend:
                      Mango panna cotta with strawberry & lime syrup
                      I was in the same situation yesterday, and the result was sublime. V.EASY
                      (any fresh or frozen fruit would work
                      )2 x 300g packs of Sara Lee Frozen Fresh Strawberries & Mangoes
                      2 limes
                      240g caster sugar
                      4 gelatine leaves*
                      300ml thin cream
                      300ml thickened cream
                      Separate out frozen strawberries and mangoes and allow to defrost in individual bowls.
                      To make the strawberry and lime syrup, remove rind from 1 lime using a zester and set zest aside. Juice both limes and place juice in a saucepan with 130g of the sugar and 3/4 cup water. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, then boil for 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Stir in berries and zest, then chill until needed.
                      Puree defrosted mangoes in a food processor until smooth.
                      Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water and allow to soak for 5 minutes.
                      Place creams and remaining sugar in a pan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves and cream is at scalding point. Remove from heat.
                      Squeeze out gelatine leaves and add to the hot cream. Place pan in a large bowl of iced water and cool, stirring occasionally. Stir through mango puree, then pour into 8 glasses or 1/2-cup-capacity (125ml) dariole moulds. Cover and chill in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. Serve topped with the syrup.
                      Refrigerate extra syrup for up to a week to serve on ice-cream.
                      Sara Lee Frozen Fruit come in a resealable bag for ultimate freshness and convenience.