Simple Yet Impressive Desserts?
- luckyfatima Sep 20, 2007 10:27 AM
Okay I pride myself on being a fairly good cook, but I have a shameful confession: I suck at desserts. Somehow most sweets just involve precision and chemistry to prepare and I am more of a throw stuff together without measuring type cook. Anyway, it is the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan right now that means dinner parties for breaking the fast for which I must cook desserts! Help me! Any suggestions for sweet dishes that seem impressive but even a monkey could cook them? I can make Tiramisu, but that is what I always make, so I need to try something else, finally, if I can muster up the nerve.
Considering my total lack of skills and confidence, please explain conscisely. Also, I don't use pork products or alcohol in my cooking. Many thanks for any suggestions.
Trifle, which is mainly a matter of assembly rather than baking. I like to fancy mine up with drizzled chocolate and sliced almonds, and it's always been received well. You need good soft custard (or chocolate pudding, if you prefer a chocolate trifle), whipped cream, cake (I like sponge), and you have your choice of fruits. Here's a recipe, complete with picture.
How about a fruit crisp? I love this blueberry-rhubarb crisp from epicurious with pistachio topping. Everyone will devour it, plus it looks pretty! If you can't get fresh berries, go for the frozen wild ones from Maine. The tart rhubarb is an unusual flavor, and I really like it because it's sweet but not overpoweringly so.
I've also done cranberry upside down cake -- easy and gorgeous, with the top like little shining crimson gems!
Baked Alaska is one of those desserts that looks impressive but can be absurdly easy to make. You can go as far as making each and every component or just buy all of them.
You can shape ice-cream in a bowl (or some sort of mold). Once harden, slather some thinly sliced pound/yellow/whatever cake with a jelly/jam/preserve/etc of your choice and arrange on the icre-cream. Top the whole thing with a meringue and broil/flame until golden. The only thing you absolutely have to deal with is meringue, and they make instant mix for that, too. The whole process is a bit time consuming but impressive.
Chocolate mousse in individual glasses - no chemistry, no precision.
My favorite recipe is actually "mooless" made with tofu. I use this recipe but with extract instead of liquor (careful the chocolate doesn't sieze) and without the crust. I put it into juice or martini or wine glasses, and voila! You could garnish it with something pretty too.
I think a crisp or a crumble is the way to go. Look up any recipe for the topping (usually flour, brown sugar, butter, oats and/or nuts) and then put a mix of apples or pears (peeled and sliced) with a bag of frozen blueberries in a pan. Add some sugar (1/2 cup) a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinke of salt and cinnamon. Mix. Crumble topping on top and bake. It's so simple, and served with whipped cream or ice cream, it's delicious!
Oh, I've got easy.
Natural vanilla ice cream (one scoop) in a martini glass. Put kiwi and strawberry that you've sugared and let sit for an hour or so, thinly sliced around the inside of the glass. Take a strawberry and, leaving the stem end intact, make thin slices through it and spread; put on top of ice cream. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction and wow your guests.
Cheating at its finest.
re: holy chow
I'm with you! Ice Cream. This seems to be always a hit. As holy chow says and describes a beautifully executed dazzling dessert. Not to minimize their efforts, because although yes, you simply put the ingredients in a frozen container and push the button letting it make the ice cream in about 30 minutes for you. One can still mess it up. But with a few trial and errors, even I got the hang of it.
A martini glass is a wonderful idea! I have these wonderful gently pleated old and open style crystal champagne glasses that remind me of a ballerina skirt flipped upside down.
As important the dessert, is the serving piece!
I cook the balsamic down into a syrup first -- on medium heat with the black pepper and a little sugar. I like this with strawberries, peaches, nectarines, in their juicy ripeness, or even grilled. This syrup is definitely an acquired taste, but accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some good homemade whipped cream -- mmm-mmm. The contrast of flavors is unusual and startling to the palette, and delicious too, which makes it a great twist to standard dinner party fare. Crumbling some kind of homemade cookie or biscotti on top would be cool too, for texture.
I'm under the impression that Knox and other major manufacturers switched to pork skins as their source in the late 1990's after concerns about bovine spongiform encephalophy, (sp?) commonly called "mad cow disease." I don't think there's been a link shown between the spread of BSE and gelatin processing, but they erred on the side of caution.
There is kosher gelatin made from fish, but I don't know if it's available retail. Agar might work, but it's produces a different texture than gelatin, and might not be the best choice for panna cotta. I think if you couldn't find K-gelatin, I'd choose a different dessert. There are lots of great agar desserts where that texture is desirable.
Hope this helps. You don't have to do without gelatin if you keep kosher or are vegetarian. :)
You can find vegetarian and beef gelatin at Indian and Middle Eastern market; it's labelled very clearly as either vegetarian or halal, respectively. On my most recent gelatin-shopping expedition, I found some labelled "Jello" that is beef gelatin, flavored, also with the name Shahia on it, made in Jordan. The flavors (from these three different brands I've tried) are mostly not bad and include things like mulberry, apricot and mango as well as the more usual apple and strawberry.
However, I have never found unflavored gelatin from these sources. I did request a local gourmet-ish grocery carry a kosher unflavored gelatin, by the name of Diet Kojel, based in Brooklyn NY, 1800-83-KOJEL. At that time, it cost me about $1. I bought it but never actually used it!
Julia did this on TV and we've had many times after a big meal
In a large wine goblet put a scoop of store bought vanilla ice cream and drizzle over it a teaspoon of good jamaican rum and sprinkle a scant half teaspoon of instant coffee (I use instant espresso) over all. It's elegant and you get dessert, liqueur and demi tasse in a single bite.
Onr of the most impressive/low effort desserts I know of is the choclate wafer icebox cake. The hardest part is finding the right kind of wafers at the store. You need either Nabisco Famous Choc wafers or the Nabisco gold box brown edge wafers. basically you whip heavy cream with sugar and a little vanilla and countreau or grand marnier, and butter the wafers with the cream stack them about six or seven high and set the stacks on a cake plate and ice generously with the remaining whipped cream. I like to alternate the golden and choc wafers for an even fancier look. refrigerate overnight and garnish with shaved chocolate. slice with a shaarp and you will have what looks like a multi-(thin)layer cake that is amazingly rich and moist. The liquid from th cream is absorbed by the wafers that become miost cake and the cream, having surrendered it's water, become the most remarkable butter cream-like rich icing. I'm always a little embarassed when I serve it,because the guests never have a clue.
I hear Nabisco recently discontinued Brown Edge Wafers and Famous Chocolate Wafers are darn near impossible to find. What are they thinking!!!!???? These are some of the best old standby recipes around. And nobody ever seems to guess that something that looks so elegant and tastes so good can possibly be so easy.
Please, Nabisco, bring them back to the grocery stores. It's a pain to order them from Amazon.
That recipe also works with ginger thins like Anna's so if you can't find Nabisco Chocolate wafers (which are still available here in Canada much like Kraft's Creamy Cucumber dressing) so you could substitute any thin sturdy cookie I would think.
Maybe we can trade? I'll send Chocolate Wafers if someone sends me Fage yogurt ;)
I'm going to second the chocolate mousse idea. Very elegant (especially in special glasses) and no one seems to realize how easy it is. You can also make a chocolate mousse pie in a pre-bought oreo crust if that seems easy to cart around to dinner parties.
Oh Scuz - that sounds yumyum right about now! To heck with the exhausting to prepare & the too heavy to eat "Coffee & Doughnuts" breadpudding recipe by Chef Govind Armstrong.
Last night my neighbor brought over fresh figs & we ate them with Vanilla Haagen-Dazs & crumbled maple granola - very simple, yet impressively delicious.
Try a pavlova. It's so easy but very impressive! You can bake the meringue round the night before. It doesn't have to be pretty since it gets covered up. Before serving, whip up some heavy cream, spread on top of meringue, top with fresh fruit. Gale Gand and Ina Garten both have good recipes for the meringue on the Food Network web site.
IF you have a stand mixer, they're easy. If you don't have a powerful mixer, they're a pain in the arse. You also have to know a few basics, like how to melt chocolate and how to tell when eggs are whipped to triple volume--not difficult by any means, but some experience is certainly helpful. Also, if you make them, do NOT leave the kitchen in the last minutes of baking. You have to watch them in order to take them out when the center is still molten.
I beg to differ that you need a stand mixer - or any mixer - to make molten chocolate cakes. Seriously, all you need is a bowl and a whisk, and you certainly don't need to whip eggs to tripple volume. You must be using a far different recipe then any I've ever seen.
I wouldn't advise an inexperienced dessert maker to try molten chocolate cakes for a dinner party without having made them beforehand, though, because in my experience, finding the right baking time so they'll be molten and not overbaked (or simply collapse) can take a bit of trial and error, as every oven is different. As for releasing them from the ramekins, the trick is to use a nonstick spray and to let them rest for 5 minutes after they come out of the oven before you try and turn them out.
re: Caitlin McGrath
My recipe starts by whipping three eggs plus one egg yolk (all at room temperature) with the sugar until they're tripled in volume, which takes about 7 minutes. I wouldn't want to do this by hand, sorry. I'd love to hear your recipe, if you have the time. Sounds much easier.
I've got to agree with the profiteroles. You can also fill them with homemade custard (very easy), stack them up and drizzle caramel sauce on them. An impressive presentation.
If no one has mentioned it yet, another wonderfully easy dessert is pears poached in red wine. Simple and classic.
This is one of the recipes on the epicurious site because I'm not at home so I can't share my own recipe that's actually pretty low carb (for those who want to low-carb it) but it is NOT low fat. :)
This one's pretty close, though, and the steps are very simple and well laid out.
It's Mario Batali's recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
Found my low carb recipe
Siobhan’s Low Carb Panna Cotta
1/4 cup cold water
4 teaspoons unflavoured gelatin (this is not quite two packets, so measure it out)
4 cups Heavy whipping cream
1 cup Splenda (use Splenda because you need to boil this)
1 tbsp Honey (orange blossom honey is recommended but any honey will do)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Vin Santo, Muscat wine, or Cream Sherry (optional, I always leave it out)
3 cups Strawberries
1/2 cup Sugar or Splenda to toss with the berries
Put the water in a metal bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it stand until the gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Set the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water. Stir just until gelatin dissolves, about 1 minute.
Combine cream, Splenda, honey, and vanilla in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring until the honey is dissolved then remove from heat. Add the gelatin mixture and the Vin Santo (if using); whisk until well blended. Divide among custard cups (I usually do 6 1-cup ramekins; the recipe I took this from recommends 10 3/4-cup ramekins). Chill overnight.
Clean, hull, and smoosh up or slice the strawberries. Toss with some Splenda (sometimes I add about 1/8th cup real sugar to help the juice come out a little better). You can puree the strawberries into a sauce if you like, or just use them a little smooshed or sliced.
At serving, dip the bottoms of the ramekins in a bowl of hot water to loosen, then unmold onto a plate. Ladle some strawberries/sauce over the top and serve.
I tend to use fresh fruits a lot...I triple the rec for strawberries & balsamic...another easy, delicious treat is to either grill or roast halved peaches (peeling optional), or other stone fruits and serving them in a pretty glass or dish with a splash of amaretto, small scoop of marscarpone cheese and a sprinkle of crushed amaretti cookies...It's delicous and texturally really satisfying! Baked apples or roasted pears with good vanilla are also easy...you can use store bought chocolate or caramel sauce to drizzle...
Chocolate dipped strawberries. Melt Trader Joe's dark chocolate (careful not to burn/chocolate burns easily). Mix nothing with the chocolate. Dip ROOM TEMPERATURE strawberries into the hot, melted chocolate. Place on parchment paper until all sheen is gone. Lift off. Do NOT refrigerate after dipping. Serve at room temp. Any monkey can do these.
ramadan mubarak, suggestion, custard is easy to make. i use half and half buy the custard powder fm the indian grocery store. use it as topping over fruit for a simple fruit salad, baked apples, apricots, i use dried and reconstitued and then baked in the oven with some sugar and spice. the custard is very versatile. you can use it in a trifle as well.have fun with all the dessert suggestions.
I make a fruit salad out of segments of orange & grapefruit, sliced strawberries, raspberries, chunks of mango, blackberries, and pomegranite and then dump in a can of lychees - syrup and all - and stick it in the fridge.
The aunties love it. ;o)
If you like bananas, a Bananas Foster type dessert is totally easy. Slice firm but ripe bananas lengthwise, saute in butter and a bit of brown sugar until soft and a bit caramelized. Flame with some gold rum or brandy and serve over ice cream or pound cake. Top with whipped cream.
Also, on the Wilton cake decorating show on PBS yesterday, they demonstrated an easy dessert that you could modify--it was a stack of the chocolate wafer cookies with icing rosettes between the layers. They topped the stack with fresh raspberries. I would do something like this but with a flavored (like mint or orange) whipped cream between the layers instead of icing.
I honestly think that cheesecakes are one of the simplest but always impressive desserts, especially if you make one that doesn't call for a water bath (I always get paranoid about leaking which hasn't yet happened but I'm sure it will every time). I recently made the mascarpone cheesecake from Epicurious that was very impressive and ridiculously easy. No rolling of crusts, not many ingredients, can be made ahead of time...
There are a million varieties of cheesecakes so you can always experiment.
I feel like cheesecakes have a bad rap for being difficult, but are surprisingly easy. You should try one just to see If it doesn't turn out pretty it'll still taste good :)
Here's a few for you: my version of a very simple fruit crumble, and a clafouti:
Roasted Fig & Apricot Crumble (adapted from “Fast Food My Way” by Jacques Pépin) Note that pretty much any fruit would work with this: peaches, blueberries, cherries, raspberries and so on.
- Fresh Figs; about 4 per person
- Fresh Apricots; about 4 per person
- 1/8 cup light brown sugar (regular sugar will also work if brown sugar isn’t available)
- Small pinch of Nutmeg (optional)
- Small pinch of Cardamom (optional)
For the crumble:
- All-butter shortbread cookies (any good quality butter cookies will do just fine).
- Unsalted butter
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
2. Quarter the figs and apricots, remove pits and place in a bowl.
3. Toss the fruit with light brown sugar, Nutmeg and Cardamom. Place in a baking dish and set aside (to make it a little more special, divide the fruit and cookie crumbs into individual ramekins).
4. Add about 3-4 cookies per person and smash them up into crumbs.
5. Sprinkle the cookie crumbs over the fruit. Dot the crumbs all over with bits of butter.
6. Place in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the crumbs are slightly browned.
7. Allow to cool before serving. It is best at room temperature or just slightly warm. Add a dollop of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche, if desired.
This is a classic French dessert that is delicious and easy to prepare. It is usually baked and served in a casserole dish or pie plate, but for a special dinner I suggest you bake it in individual ramekins.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound cherries, pits removed, or any other stone fruit or berry; *see notes below
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 cup light cream, room temperature
1 cup flour
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
*unsalted butter for greasing ramekins
1. Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Butter the ramekins and dust the bottom and sides with sugar.
3. Add the fruit to the prepared ramekins and set aside.
4. Whisk together the milk, cream, flour, eggs, egg yolk and salt until combined.
5. Add the sugar and the vanilla, combine with the batter and pour it over the fruit.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden.
7. Garnish with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, add a sprig of mint if desired and serve.
*Note: If fresh cherries aren't available, you may substitute plums (pits removed), peaches (pits removed), pears(peeled, cored and sliced), apples(peeled, cored and sliced), blueberries, raspberries, etc. In a pinch, frozen fruit will also work for this.
Here's a question for you Marie Fromage. Long ago I had a clafouti recipe I had that I loved. I think I made it with peaches. But I haven't liked the ones I've tried since then. I think part of it may be the texture. And maybe some of the recipes seem too eggy to me. Your recipe has only two eggs, some have quite a few more I think. What do you think? Is there a big difference between clafouti recipes?
Hi Kary - yes, they do vary quite a bit, some veering more towards custard than cake. Mine is right in the middle and I don't think this is too eggy. It's one of those rare dessert recipes that can withstand experimentation. A little more flour or sugar here, add another egg there, or not, maybe more vanilla...it really all ends up tasting pretty good and can bend to the will of the cook.
Lemon curd goes well with most fresh fruits. Berries, apples, pears, bananas, even melons. We just had some cubed muskmelons tonite with lemon curd mixed in. If you want to fancy it even more, a little mint is nice, and if you really want to up it, add any kind of cream...
Creme brulee. (don't bother with one of those pitiful little "kitchen" torches. (they take forever) Get a regular household propane one. Using the broiler to carmelize heats the custard and don't carmelize and refrigerate (sugar will melt). I heat my cream, sugar, and vanilla bean in the microwave then temper in beaten eggs. Takes all of 5 minutes. Strain into brulee dishes (or ramekins), set into a water bath and bake. Cool to room temp., refrigerate till serving. Sprinkle on sugar and carmelize. Couldn't be easier.
From the little I know about Ramadan, a lot of the eating involves potlucks, bringing desserts to other people's houses, etc. so I'd recommend making a large creme caramel in a pyrex container, because it's easy to transport, looks very impressive unmolded, everyone loves them - kids and adults alike - and they don't need gelatine (porcine, cow-derived or otherwise). Let me know if you want me to post an easy, no-fail recipe.
Wishing you Eid Mubarak...
You must make a big plate of these fabulous cookies:
They're called World Peace Cookies and they're the most fabulous, double chocolate, slightly salty cookies I've ever had! Just made them for the first time last weekend and they were extremely easy and even more wonderful...
Thanks so much, DKS1, and all others who have raved over these goodies. Upon reading this, I raced to the store for premium cocoa, and whipped up a batch. Easy, and dreamy. I like the intensity, that salty edge... perfect with a strong cup of coffee. I brought these to a thrilled birthday girl over the weekend, and I even caught her sneaking three more in the middle of the night. They're that good -- and must be served with strong coffee or milk.
I've never been a dessert person until the last couple years. Never could bake an "American" apple pie. Which I think it's one of the hardest and least appreciated (for the effort). Another topic though for another thread.
My impressive desserts ( to me anyway!) are:
carmel and or coffee flan
creme brulee - (as someone else mentioned -forget the tiny torch!)
Ice cream with lace cookies or pirouettes, or tiny sugar cookies
strawberry mousse cake
One of the most memorable desserts I ever had was berries, strawberries, blackberries, bluberries and raspberries in a large wine glass with warm Grand Marnier. I have often switched the GM out for my kids, making a syrup made with strawberries, orange zest, a little oj, sugar, lemon and water, cooked down to make thin syrup and cooled a bit, then drizzle on each layer.
profiteroles - stuffed with whipped cream, strawberries and drizzled with dark chocolate
No bake cheese cake
.....Very forgiving for the non-measuring cook.
Buy: 8 oz cream cheese, 8 oz whipping cream, one graham cracker crust, one can of pie filling.
Wash the lid of the graham cracker crust and put aside to put (upside-down) on top of the pie for transporting.
Whip the cream cheese. Add sugar to taste. Add vanilla.
Whip the cream. Fold into the cream cheese mixture. Add sugar if necessary.
Put the white stuff into the crust. Open the can of pie filling. If too gloppy, drain it a bit. Add the pie filling to top the cheesecake.
Put on the washed cover.
If you had too much stuff to put into one pie shell, put the rest into wine or martini glasses.
Not as heavy as real cheesecake, but always well received, and sooooo easy.
Poached pears. Good with whipped cream and/or chocolate sauce, or raspberry sauce, or even better, some runny cheese, crisp crackers or melba toast and toasted walnuts. Or a wedge of Stilton, with walnuts or walnut biscuits (like a savory walnut cookie).
Cinnamon roasted pears are good too.
Okay, don't be scared by the fact that this is a cake. It's the world's easiest cake to make, a very forgiving batter, and is amazingly delicious. It's a plum torte, and my grandmother's been making it for years. She's given the recipe out dozens of times and now that I make it, I've gotten many requests too.
Grandma Sylvia's Plum Torte
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
a dash of vanilla (I added this. You could also probably add lemon zest.)
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted (skip the sifting if you're scared of the sifter, or pour through a strainer)
1 teaspoon baking powder (you can sift into flour or just stir into the flour)
pinch of salt
2 eggs beat with fork to mix
6-8 plums or pluots, halved and pitted (I like to use different kinds/colors for aesthetics and flavor)
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp or more cinnamon (grandma uses 1/2 cup sugar)
Cream sugar and butter until light. Add flour, baking powder,salt and eggs and beat well.
Spoon the batter into a 9-inch springform pan.
Cover the top with the halved plums, skin side up. Sprinkle lightly with mixed sugar & cinnamon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove and cool. Refrigerate or freeze if desired, or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (which Grandma prefers; I like the cake plain).
To serve frozen torte, defrost and reheat briefly at 300 degrees.
Note: To serve torte, remove sides of spring form but leave torte on bottom of pan.
Yield 8 servings
(There's a picture on my website in the food section.)
I don't know if this fits with your dietary requirements, but it is definitely an easy but impressive dessert. It's one of my favorites...no baking required, except a few minutes on the crust.
1 pack Nabisco chocolate wafers
1/4 c. margarine, melted (more if needed)
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter (more if needed)
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened (real butter)
1/2 to 1 c. whipping cream
1 tbsp. vanilla
Crush wafers into crumbs. Add melted margarine and press into 9” springform pan. Bake 5 minutes at 350°. Chill.
Whip cream until stiff. Transfer to another bowl. Into mixer bowl put cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy, scraping bowl. Fold in whipped cream. Spread over crust and chill.
**If time is short, use purchased chocolate graham cracker crusts.
Serve big platters of fruit and plain cookies with melted chocolate to dip. This can be as light or extravagant as people want and is always festive, you just need to make sure you have good quality chocolate.
Here's an easy recipe that we make every year. This disappears fast.
No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake
**Graham Cracker Crust**
1-1/4 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbs softened butter
Mix well and press into bottom and sides of
a 9" pie pan.
**Pumpkin Cheesecake filling**
1 8oz pk of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup canned Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix (not solid pack)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cool whip
Whipped cream for topping
Combine cream cheese, pumpkin mix and sugar. Mix well until smooth.
Fold the cool whip into the pumpkin mixture until well incorporated.
Spoon into prepared 9" graham cracker crust and spread to fill.
Refrigerate at least 2-hours prior to serving.
Serve with whipped cream topping.
Try icebox cake, it's simple and quick to make:
1 Box of graham crackers (just regular, not honey or cinnamon)
1 large box chocolate pudding NOT INSTANT - cooked with 2 3/4 c. milk, not 3 cups on box directions
1 large box vanilla pudding NOT INSTANT - cooked with 2 3/4 c. milk, not 3 cups on box directions
1 large can fruit cocktail (like 29 oz.) drained
1 smaller can fruit cocktail (like 15 oz.) drained
1 or 2 sliced bananas (optional)
Line the bottom of a 13 x 9 oblong Pyrex baking dish with graham crackers. Cook the chocolate pudding on the stove using 2 3/4 c. milk (box calls for 3 cups, you need to reduce it by 1/4 cup for more firmness). When thickened, pour over the graham crackers. Let set a minute or two. In the meantime, drain large can of fruit cocktail and spoon it over the chocolate pudding - you don't have to completely cover. Slice up a banana too if you like. Layer another round of graham crackers on top and repeat using vanilla pudding (cooked version large box), the fruit cocktail and I like to save more of the cherries for the top - it looks prettier. You can also add another sliced up banana if you dip slices first in lemon water first so they don't turn brown. Take a graham cracker and crumble it up and sprinkle on top just before serving to keep the crumb topping crispy. Refrigerate 3-4 hours before serving for best result (or make that morning) and keep leftover cake covered and rerigerated. Good with a squirt of whipped cream, too! BTW, it won't work with instant pudding so I don't recommend trying it - I did and it was gross! LOL You can use low-fat variations like low fat graham crackers, lite fruit cocktail and 2% milk, but DO NOT use skim, it doesn't work. Also, you can make a smaller version of this recipe by using the smaller oblong Pyrex baking dish and the smaller boxes of pudding and 1 3/4 cups of milk. You may be able to get away with just one large can of fruit cocktail but it depends on your personal preference. If you like a lot of fruit, keep an extra can on hand while you are making the recipe in case you run low during the first layer and want more for the top. Hope you enjoy!
Actually, I just thought of something else that is probably the fastest dessert and a total no-brainer AND....really good! Buy a tub of that Philadelphia Brand cheesecake filling - comes in chocolate or vanilla. The chocolate, dumped into a shortbread Readi-crust, then covered with a thin layer of Cool Whip and some sliced up bananas and/or strawberries around the top for garnish makes people think you went to a lot of trouble (but shhh, no one has to know you didn't!). Or get the vanilla and add some raspberry or cherry pie filling to the top and you've got instant cherry cheesecake. There ya go - have some fun!
Panna Cotta is so simple and delicious. The one in the picture is a simple buttermilk panna cotta with a blackberry coulis and a sprig of mint and a cookie alongside. It is delicious and very easy but remember that the eyes need to eat too. Presentation is 50% of the dish.
You can google up all sorts of recipes. Most are alcohol free and the hardest part is softening the plain gelatin for 5 mins. or so.
A few weeks ago a local fruit stand had some really sweet tangerines (clementines). We bought several pounds and enjoyed them until they were gone. This last weekend we went back to the fruit stand and purchased more tangerines without sampling them. This last batch were very sour. They were too sour to eat as fresh fruit.
I didn't want the fruit to go to waste so I made Tangerine Meringue pie. This pie is one of the best I have every tasted. Just use a Lemon Meringue pie recipe and substitute 3 parts tangerine juice and 1 part lemon juice. Do the same for tangerine and lemon zest.
One that I picked up from Jacques Pepin is a berry gratin. Take a couple of day-old croissants, or a big slice of pound cake, or even a big muffin, and pulse it in the food processor with two tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup of sugar (or 1/4 cup if the bread you're using is sweet) until you have coarse crumbs. Take a package of frozen raspberries and put them in a dish big enough that you can evenly spread the berries about two deep. Sprinkle the crumbs over the berries, and bake at 400 degrees until the crumbs are nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Let it cool off until it's just warm, and top with a generous dollop of sour cream. It's pure heaven. Even better, the recipe is very flexible. You can use whatever kind of berry or frozen fruit you want, and if you don't have any day-old croissants sitting around, any pastry or even three slices of bread will do in a pinch. But it is really good with croissants.