Simple Summer Desserts

By Catherine McNulty

August 3, 2011 4 min read

The days are long and accompanied by the sounds of flesh sticking to vinyl. Ah, summer! But just because outdoor temperatures have reached what feels like the surface of the sun doesn't mean you don't want a little sweetness at the end of the day. If the very thought of turning on your oven makes you want to take a cold shower, take heart! There are plenty of summertime desserts that can be made without turning your house into a hotbox.

Summer has such a bounty of fresh fruits that cooking and baking desserts are almost unnecessary. Visit your local farmers market to get the best of what's in season, but if you can't, be on the lookout for berries, melons and stone fruits, such as peaches and nectarines. If what you get seems a bit tart, you can add a few tablespoons of sugar to the fruit, which has the added benefit of teasing out the moisture in the fruit, creating a lovely fresh fruit syrup.

Chantilly cream is your friend. What is Chantilly cream? Heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla extract added to taste. It's whipped until a soft peak holds. It is a snap to make and tastes so much better than anything in a can. Be sure to sift the powdered sugar first, as it does have a tendency to clump. Chantilly cream can accompany fresh fruit, a Jell-O dessert or a sponge cake. A great summer dessert is a sponge or angel food cake served with fresh fruit and Chantilly cream. Simple, scrumptious and (almost) healthy.

Any sort of stone fruit and pineapples can be grilled. Grilling will bring out the natural sugar in the fruit and add a nice smokiness. Serve grilled fruits with ice cream for a quick dessert at a barbecue.

Speaking of ice cream, if you have an ice cream maker, then the flavor combinations are endless. Why restrict yourself to vanilla when you could have lemon grass pecan? How about blackberry mint or strawberry caramel? The best part is you can make and store the ice cream base for several days and then just try different flavors out.

Any flavor you make can always be used to make ice cream sandwiches. If you don't feel like making the cookies yourself, either go to a bakery or just get store-bought ones. Pepperidge Farm cookies make excellent ice cream sandwiches. Homemade ice cream sandwiches should last about a week in the freezer. Just make sure that the ice cream you are using has softened before you assemble the sandwiches.

Have little ones at home (or really finicky eaters) on whom the subtleties of using fresh herbs in ice cream will be lost? Don't have an ice cream maker? No problem! Make ice cream pie. Rice Krispies treats usually work best as the crust, but you can always add a cup of melted chocolate or a half-cup of peanut butter if you want to change the flavor.

After you've made the Rice Krispies treats, press them into a 9-inch springform pan. You can use two pie plates if you don't have a springform pan. Soften your favorite ice cream, and spread it over the cereal base. You probably will need at least 2 pints. Cover it, and freeze it for several hours. Then enjoy!

There is a reason ambrosia is considered food of the gods -- because it is delicious! It also requires no heat to make and, therefore, no cooking. Traditional ambrosia salad uses canned pineapples, not fresh, because the enzymes in fresh pineapples would cause the cream to curdle.

To make ambrosia salad, drain two cans each of pineapple chunks and mandarin oranges and two jars of maraschino cherries. While those are draining, combine 4 ounces of sour cream with 1 pint of Cool Whip. Fold in the fruit, as well as a half-bag of mini marshmallows and a can of coconut flakes. Chill for several hours.

This is just the beginning. Experiment! With any of the desserts listed above, try different fruits or flavors. See what is fresh and enticing at the market, and take it home. After all, long summer days deserve sweet summer nights.

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