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From Mother, Dessert With Love
Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 13195 times

Story and photography By Lori Ross

honey cake

Imagine how times have changed. When I was a child, my stay-at-home mother baked a cake, pie, or cookies every single day! At Halloween and Christmas, she made fudge, peanut brittle, popcorn balls, and other candies, and every year for my birthday she made my favorite cherry cheesecake dessert: Cherries in the Snow! She made everything from scratch with real butter, milk, cream, sugar and eggs. Having suffered through the depression and World War II rationing, my parents enjoyed the bounty of fresh and rich ingredients available in the 1950s, so our house always smelled of vanilla, sugar, butter and spices. In the summer, my Dad often came home with fresh berries and other fruits from gardener friends or local farm stands. The next day, the fruit would be turned into a delicious warm pie, cobbler or cake by dinnertime.  For me, dessert always reminds me of home.

Like my mother, I'm an avowed foodie. But unlike her, I've long been "weight-challenged," so I rarely make desserts as she once did. But, being my mother's daughter, I confess to having a repertoire of standards that we enjoy on Seaworthy. I have several criteria for inclusion. Dessert recipes must be quick (max 15 minutes to prepare, 60 minutes to cook); recipes must be simple (fewer than 10 simple ingredients); recipes must have only a few steps and no fancy equipment; and recipes must be flexible (if I don't have lime, I can use orange or lemon, and so on). Ergo, I don't make soufflés, flambéed dishes, complicated pastries, or dough. I have a wire whisk and a small Cuisinart food processor/blender combo, but keep no other special appliances such as counter-top mixers and ice cream makers. The desserts I make aboard are basic, and have endless variations based on what I can find at port or aboard.

MY DESSERT PANTRY

I keep the boat stocked with the following items when I'm preparing for an extended cruise:
1) Dry and canned goods (dry milk, flour, superfine, brown and confectioners sugar, honey, baking powder, baking soda, nuts, confectioners sugar, dried fruits, condensed milk, canned fruit and pie filling, jellies and jams)
2) Spices and flavorings (vanilla, lemon and juice, citrus peel, vanilla extract and beans, ginger, cocoa, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, semisweet chocolate chips and baking chocolate)
3) Dairy (milk, eggs, butter, sour cream, heavy cream, cream cheese
4) Frozen (ice cream, frozen berries and other fruits)
5) Fresh produce (seasonal fresh fruit, lemons, limes, oranges, fresh herbs

PLANNING DESSERTS

Always balance the dessert against the meal. With hors d'oeuvres, salad, and a hearty main course (meat, sausages, burgers, stews, beans, potatoes, pasta, or rice), sliced or poached fruit or fruit ices work beautifully. With a main-course salad, or with fish, chicken or seafood accompanied by a salad, soup or light hors d'oeuvres, offer something more substantial for dessert (cookies, cake, tart, fruit and cheese, chocolate). If you find a special ingredient, or you're making a wonderful, rich dessert, work backward and create a meal that builds up to it!

FRUIT, CHEESE, NUTS AND CHOCOLATE

My absolute favorite and guilt-free dessert is a platter of fresh fruit, assorted cheeses, and sweet or plain crackers, nuts, chocolate and coffee, tea, Port, Madeira or other sweet dessert wines or drinks. It's easy to prepare and takes advantage of what you have available. The key is to balance the sweet and creamy flavors with some salt, smoke, and acidity. Below are my favorite combinations.
 

Fresh For Spring:

-- Whole strawberries dipped in chocolate or rolled in sour cream then in brown sugar
-- Pineapple with mint sugar (crush ½ cup fresh mint leaves with 1 tbsp sugar in a
   mortar and pestle or food processor until the sugar turns green, then sprinkle on
   sliced pineapple)
-- Frozen grapes (pop fresh grapes in the freezer for several hours and serve frozen)
-- St. Andre, Roquefort, and fresh goat cheese drizzled with honey, hazelnuts and almonds
-- Chunks of white or milk chocolate
-- Chilled ice wine or mint tea

Fresh For Spring:
-- Whole strawberries dipped in chocolate or rolled in sour cream then in brown sugar
-- Pineapple with mint sugar (crush 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves with 1 tbsp sugar in a mortar and
    pestle or food processor until the sugar turns green, then sprinkle on sliced
    pineapple)
-- Frozen grapes (pop fresh grapes in the freezer for several hours and serve frozen)
-- St. Andre, Roquefort, and fresh goat cheese drizzled with honey, hazelnuts and almonds
-- Chunks of white or milk chocolate
-- Chilled ice wine or mint tea
 
Refreshing For Summer:
-- Fresh blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries, sliced peaches, apricots or plums
-- Ripe camembert or brie, Marscapone, and soft gorgonzola
-- Salted macadamia nuts or pecans
-- Chunks of milk chocolate
-- Iced or hot coffee with cream and/or sweet dessert wines such as Beaume de Venise,
   or California late harvest wine or (if you can get it) a German Beerenauslese

Soothing For Fall:
-- Slices of crunchy apple, grapes, soft pears, or ripe figs
-- Sharp cheddar, nutty Swiss, pecorino, goat cheese, and stilton
-- Walnuts or smoked almonds
-- Pieces of bittersweet chocolate
-- Hot cider, port, Madeira, or Armagnac brandy

Warming For Winter:
-- Apples, strawberries, grapes, bananas, pomegranates and dried fruit such as dates, figs, apricots, cherries
-- Nut brittle, pretzels or mixed salted nuts
-- Chocolate fondue for dipping fruit, brittle, pretzels, nuts
-- Irish coffee, hot-buttered rum, Madeira, or after dinner liquors (Grand Marnier, Bailey's, eau-de-vie, grappa Cointreau)

HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE DIPPED STRAWBERRIES (or other fruit)
Place 1lb. dark, white or milk chocolate (baking chocolate or quality chocolate bar) in a COMPLETELY DRY (melting chocolate will harden if it comes in contact with water) microwave safe bowl and heat on medium 50% for 2-4 minutes until almost completely melted.  Remove and stir. Dip whole strawberries that you have washed and patted dry. Place on wax paper or parchment or aluminum foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes until chocolate is hardened. Serve in basket or nice platter. You may also dip other pieces of whole berries or dried fruit, marshmallows, thin or medium pretzels, nut brittle, whole nuts, cookies or popcorn. If you use sliced fruit, the melted chocolate will harden more quickly.

MARINATED, ROASTED, AND BAKED FRUIT
Another favorite aboard Seaworthy is fruit marinated in liqueur, drizzled with sugar syrup, or poached in wine or sugar syrup. These three techniques offer an infinite variety of simple and delicious fruit desserts. To dress up perfectly ripe fruit, marinating in a little liqueur is best. For overripe, soft or delicate fruit, make sugar syrup first, and then while it's hot, simply pour it over the fruit.  Poaching is best for softening dried, under ripe or bland fruit, while keeping the fruit's basic shape, texture and flavor intact and enhancing its natural sugars. Roasting or grilling fruit concentrates its natural sugars and often caramelizes the fruit. Use your judgment based on the type and size of fruit to determine portion.

Fruit Marinated In Liqueur:
These require no cooking and little waiting. Serve as is, or with a topping of whipped cream or Greek yoghurt (see above):
-- Melon sliced and marinated in 1/4 cup port for 20 minutes
-- Watermelon cubed and marinated in 1/4 cup Campari for 10 minutes
-- Peaches sprinkled with brandy, kirsch, eau-de-vie, peach schnapps or grappa, and let sit for 5 minutes
-- Sliced bananas or pineapple in 1/4 cup rum sprinkled with brown sugar
-- Plump-up dried fruits such as raisins, dates, figs in equal parts water and rum

Fruit Marinated In Sugar Syrup:

Sugar syrup is easy to make on the stove top or in the microwave. Serve single or mixed fruit that's pitted and sliced in half and displayed on individual plates or a platter. This also works for dried fruit, plumped in water (microwave on medium for 2-3 minutes then let stand for 20 minutes, drain, and marinate. Marinate at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Syrup recipes are for approximately one pound of fruit. Combine 1 cup superfine sugar; ½ cup water and spices, herbs or flavorings to taste (see below). Simmer for 10 minutes on stovetop or on high for 3-5 minutes in microwave (until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is syrupy). Strain. pit and cut fruits in half on platter; drizzle with warm syrup and serve. Save remaining syrup in refrigerator.

Spices, Herbs, or Flavorings for Sugar Syrup:
-- For a ginger/thyme syrup, add three 1/4 inch slices fresh ginger, 3 tbsps of fresh thyme leaves; garnish fruit with fresh thyme sprigs
-- For rosemary syrup, add 3 tbsp of fresh rosemary leaves, 1 bay leaf, and 10 whole peppercorns; garnish fruit with sprigs of rosemary
-- For mint syrup, add 3 tbsp of fresh mint leaves or 1 tsp mint extract; garnish fruit with fresh mint leaves
-- For honey vanilla sugar syrup, add 3 T. honey, 1/2  vanilla bean or dash of vanilla extract
-- For Irish whiskey syrup, 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, 1 vanilla bean or dash of vanilla, and 1 tbsp Irish whiskey; sprinkle 1 tbsp of orange zest on fruit and syrup
-- For orange or lemon syrup, add 1 tsp of orange or lemon oil or 1 tbsp dried rind or 3 tbsps fresh rind

Roasted Fruit:

Ideal for roasting are apples, plums, peaches, pears, apricots, figs, bananas and pineapple. Fruit may be slow roasted uncovered in the oven or on the grill. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees or medium/low grill setting; pit and cut fruit in half or ½-inch thick slices, and place on baking sheet in one layer; drizzle over fruit melted butter and brown sugar, honey or maple syrup and, if you wish, liquor (rum, brandy). If you're roasting on the grill, set heat to medium and place fruit in one layer on shallow pan lined with aluminum foil. More delicate fruit such as figs, apricots, plums, and peaches may roast very quickly (5-10 minutes) while firmer fruits will require 20-30 minutes. Each oven and grill cook a little differently; check every 5 minutes to see if fruit is ready to serve (bubbling, browned, and edges are caramelized). Serve warm either plain or topped with ice cream, heavy cream, or yogurt. 

almond orange cakeA CAKE FOR ALL SEASONS

This recipe for basic vanilla cake has endless variations, and in 15 minutes you'll have a cake in the oven. Because my microwave is 10 years old, it takes as long to bake a cake as in a conventional oven, but some newer microwave ovens are faster and may save you time. Check manufacturer's instructions for details.

Set oven to 325 degrees. Blend 8 oz. butter and 1 cup superfine sugar. Add 3 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix in 2 cups flour sifted or blended with 2 1/2 tsp of baking powder until smooth. Pour batter into 8-inch square or round cake pan lined with parchment. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Dust with confectioner's sugar; or serve with a tbsp of fruit jam or jelly; or drizzle with a sugar syrup (see above); or drizzle with rum or another favorite liquor, and serve with marinated berries or fruit and top with whipped cream.

Cake Variations:

-- For honey cake, replace vanilla with 3 Tbsps honey; add 1/3 less sugar. Replace confectioner's sugar with 2 Tbsps of honey mixed with 8 oz. cream cheese or for a lovely and fragrant variation drizzle cake with 2-3 Tbsps of honey and if you can find it ¼ lb. chopped honeycomb with 1 Tbsp of dried lavender or 3 Tbsps of fresh lavender leaves sprinkled on top. (Maple syrup can also replace the honey)
--For lemon or lime or orange cake, replace vanilla with 2 tbsp grated lemon, orange or lime peel; replace confectioner's sugar with a lemon glaze (blend 1 cup sugar, ¼ cup lemon, lime, or orange juice, or Grand Marnier, and 1½ cups water in a pan; simmer on the stovetop for 5 minutes. Drizzle warm glaze on cooled cake.)

CHOCOLATE GANACHE CAKE
This is one of the easiest, prettiest and most delicious chocolate cakes I’ve had. You can make this cake a week in advance, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate. Glaze only the day you will serve it.

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
16 oz. Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325.  Butter and flour an 8" round cake pan or line with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar and add eggs, one at a time until well blended. Add syrup and vanilla, then mix in flour until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake for 40-45 minutes until just set in the middle (don't overbake).   Let cool in pan then refrigerate.

Glaze with a mixture of ½ cup heavy cream, 1 tsp instant expresso grounds and 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips that is microwaved at 50% for 2-3 minutes until melted. Stir glaze and flip your cake upside down so flat bottom becomes the top. Spread glaze evenly on top and sides of cake. Wait 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

FAST FUDGE FOR ANY OCCASION

My mother made terrific fudge and always used a candy thermometer to make it on a stovetop. These days I wouldn't know what to do with a candy thermometer! So, thinking fudge was a complicated process requiring alien equipment, I never even attempted it, until I found this recipe in my boat's microwave cookbook. It's delicious, a rich chocolate flavor, and very easy!

Place the following ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl:
3 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips; 14 oz. (1 can) sweetened condensed milk; 
1/4 cup butter. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) for 3-5 minutes until chocolate chips melt,
stirring every two minutes during the cooking. Pour into 8-inch square baking dish (I use
disposable aluminum pans) that's well-greased or lined with nonstick paper. Refrigerate
for 1 hour or until completely set. Makes 2 dozen pieces, and freezes beautifully!  (If you
wish, add 1 cup chopped nuts or 1 cup miniature marshmallows and mix into fudge
before pouring batter into baking dish or substitute 11/2 cups peanut butter or white
chocolate chips for half the chocolate chips)

CHERRIES IN THE SNOW (or easy no-bake cheesecake)

This recipe comes to me from my French Canadian mother's heart, made for me every birthday during my childhood. It uses simple ingredients that you're likely to have on hand, and makes a dramatic presentation when a dessert magnifique is required. – it is VERY sweet, so feel free to vary recipe to your taste.

1) Crust:
1-1/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter melted (3/4 stick)

 

2) Filling:
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind and 1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp milk
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

3) Topping:
1 can cherry pie filling, refrigerated (or other pie filling). Alternatively, for a less sweet
dessert use sliced fresh fruit, grated lemon, lime or orange peel

a) Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and pat in bottom of an 8-inch
square pan, or a round pie pan, or spring-form pan, to make crust. (Variations:
Add crushed walnuts to the graham crumbs. Or use crumbled ginger snaps,
lemon cookies, or chocolate cookies as alternatives to graham-cracker crumbs.)

b) Mix sugar, milk and cream cheese until smooth and spread this mixture over
graham crust. (Variation: Sprinkle with 1/2 cup walnuts or almonds or coconut.)
Cover with whipped cream.

c) Mix cherry-pie filling with _ tsp of vanilla or almond extract and pour evenly
over whipped cream. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours minimum before serving.


(Variation: Use low-fat alternatives, artificial sweeteners, skim milk, and light cream with good result. Consider topping the "snow" with fresh berries or marinated fresh fruit as described earlier, or another favorite pie filling.)
 





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