No-sweat sweets: Four summer treats that skip the oven

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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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This recipe was adapted from a recipe by U.K. food writer Anna Jones. Your melon may be sweet enough that you don’t need any maple syrup; add it in slowly and taste as you go so you may adjust the sweetness to your desired taste.

Melon Sorbet

Makes 4 servings

1 large ripe cantaloupe melon

— Scant 1/4 cup maple syrup

— Juice of 1 lime (or lemon)

Halve the melon and spoon out the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and chop into medium-small pieces, then freeze in a container for at least eight hours.

Remove the melon pieces from the freezer and put in a high-powered blender or food processor, along with half the maple syrup and the juice of the lime or lemon. Blend for two to three minutes until smooth, then add more maple syrup if needed.

Scoop into bowls and eat immediately. Any leftovers may be kept in the freezer and blended again before serving.

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This recipe is easily doubled and the plums may be replaced with another stone fruit, such as peaches or nectarines, in equal quantity.

Plum-Honey Frozen Yogurt

Makes 4 servings

2 cups low or full fat Greek yogurt

4 cups of pitted, peeled and chopped plums (or other stone fruit of choice), frozen

2 teaspoons honey, or to taste

In a food processor, place the Greek yogurt, fruit and honey. Process until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy, a sort of soft-serve ice cream consistency. Taste for sweetness and add honey if desired.

Serve immediately, with an additional drizzle of honey if you like. The yogurt should be eaten the day it’s made.

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This retro dessert is quick to put together and calls for in-season fruit. Try swapping the raspberries for thinly sliced strawberries or slightly smashed blackberries as the summer goes on.

Raspberry Icebox Cake

Makes 8-10 servings

4 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar

2 pounds fresh raspberries (about 4 cups)

25-30 graham crackers (from about 4 sleeves)

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Get a 9-by-13-inch baking dish ready.

In a large bowl, beat the cream, vanilla, and sugar with an electric hand mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until the cream holds stiff peaks.

Smear a small spoonful of the mixture evenly across the bottom of the baking dish. Place a layer of graham crackers in the dish, breaking them as needed to fit into a single tight, even layer.

Gently spread 1/4 of the remaining cream evenly across the crackers.

Reserve about 1/2 cup raspberries, then spoon 1/3 of the remaining fruit evenly on top of the cream. Top with a second layer of crackers and repeat with the cream and fruit and crackers for two more layers to make three full layers of cream and fruit.

Top with a final layer of crackers and the remaining cream. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup reserved raspberries and the chopped walnuts on top of the cake.

Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. The cake is ready when a knife inserted in the center goes in easily and comes out with soft crumbs.

Refrigerate any leftovers. Icebox cake is best eaten within two days.

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Fool is a British dessert that is typically made with stewed fruit; here, it’s simplified a bit by mashing the strawberries with sugar and vanilla and then folded with whipped cream and chopped chocolate.

Strawberry Fool

Makes 4 servings

1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

3 ounces bittersweet/semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped

In a large bowl, mash the chopped strawberries with a wooden spoon.

Add sugar and vanilla and stir well to combine. Place in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.

Whip the cream until it is stiff and holds peaks easily. Fold berries and cream together, and then fold in the chocolate. Spoon into four bowls, sprinkle mint leaves over the top of each serving, and serve immediately.

Fool may be refrigerated for up to two hours before serving and is best the day it’s made.

Nicole Spiridakis is a Sebastopol-based food writer. Reach her at nspiridakis@gmail.com or at cucinanicolina.com.

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