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Sep 20, 2007 10:27 AM

Simple Yet Impressive Desserts?

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.

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    1. 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.

      1. 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!

        1. I've been badgered a couple of times into making an ice cream mosaic. Search for it on Epicurious. Totally easy, and way more impressive than it should be. Looks pretty too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pylon

            I've made kind of a mosaic too with different colored ice creams packed into a ring mold. Unmold by putting warm towels around it, and then fill the hole in the center with fruit. Great in the summer when it's warm.

          2. 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.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ali

              Baked Alaska is certainly very simple. I started making them around age 9 for family parties, though more simply. Hollow out an angel food cake; layer frozen strawberries at the bottom; top with vanilla ice cream; cover in meringue; bake until browned and serve.