No-sweat sweets: Four summer treats that skip the oven
On a hot summer night, the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven.
Fortunately, most summer meals can be kept simple on the stovetop, with desserts following suit. No-bake desserts using the current abundance of seasonal fruit make for the perfect finish to any meal - and a wonderful warm-weather antidote.
The recipes included here are, for the most part, quite versatile. Other than the melon sorbet, which is fruit-specific, the others can be made with whatever fruit you have on hand or particularly enjoy.
Speaking of the melon sorbet, it’s a bit of a genius recipe that’s adapted lightly from U.K. vegetarian food writer Anna Jones. Pieces of cut up melon are frozen overnight and blended into a dairy-free dessert reminiscent of a rich ice cream. I like using lime juice to play up the melon’s mellow flavor, but Jones’ original recipe calls for lemon, which would do nicely as well.
The frozen yogurt - which I’ll admit to having on my menu year-round - calls for frozen plums. But I also love it with a mix of frozen raspberries and cherries. Nectarines or peaches or a mix of both is also delightful.
The key is blending the yogurt and fruit until very creamy; think of the soft-serve ice cream texture. The honey is a lovely complement to the plums but if you prefer a tarter dish or have less of a sweet tooth, the frozen yogurt will not suffer at all for its omission.
Raspberry icebox cake (although “cake” is a bit of a stretch) is a cloud-like concoction built out of layers of whipped cream, raspberries and graham crackers. Left to sit overnight in the fridge, the graham crackers soften and meld with the cream and fruit. This long rest helps the crackers taste like, yes, thin layers of cake. Use any berries in place of the raspberries, such as thinly sliced strawberries or very ripe peaches.
Strawberry fool, a U.K. dessert composed of a simple swirling of fruit and cream, is best served in pretty, clear glasses. It gets a lift here from fresh mint and chopped chocolate. Swap half the strawberries for rhubarb to make that classic combination shine, or choose blueberries and use lemon zest instead of the chocolate.
Other options for no-bake fruit desserts include strawberries dipped in melted milk or dark chocolate, or for something even simpler, strawberries dipped in sour cream or whipped cream.
Banana pops - halved bananas on popsicle sticks - offer several delicious options. Dip the bananas in melted, semisweet chocolate and roll in chopped nuts or dip the bananas in vanilla or Greek yogurt and unsweetened shredded coconut with a pinch of cinnamon. Place the pops on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm.
Banana “nice cream” is another option if you have a glut of almost too-ripe bananas. Cut up the bananas, freeze, and blend in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth and creamy (again, think of the soft-serve ice cream texture). Many recipes for nice cream are available online, and tasty additions include peanut butter, chopped chocolate, blueberries or raspberries, and chia seeds. Frozen mango may be substituted for the frozen bananas with similar results.
Along those same lines, a whipped pineapple dessert made with frozen pineapple and coconut or almond milk mimics traditional ice cream.
Place 5 to 6 cups frozen pineapple chunks and 1/2 to 1 cup cold almond milk or coconut milk in a high-powered blender or food processor and blend until creamy.
Homemade popsicles are typically a favorite with the younger set, even if they consist of just juice or lemonade frozen in a popsicle maker.
Or try semi-homemade ice cream sandwiches with store-bought sugar cookies and strawberry ice cream (lemon sorbet and gingersnaps are also very good).
A watermelon granita, basically iced watermelon juice, is made with seeded watermelon blended with lime juice. Freeze the mixture for a few hours and use a fork to vigorously scrape the frozen fruit into icy flakes. It’s utterly refreshing during a heat wave.
A berry trifle - use a mix of blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, or if you’re lucky enough to have access to them, huckleberries - is another classic, no-bake dessert that would make a perfect finish to a barbecue. Ladyfingers are layered with custard and fruit and topped with whipped cream. Decadent, yes, but also beautiful and a beautiful showcase for in-season produce.
Any number of fruit puddings or a berry panna cotta will also satisfy a sweet tooth, with no need to raise the temperature in the kitchen.
And of course, nothing beats one perfectly ripe peach eaten over the kitchen sink - the quintessential summer dessert.
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