These sweets only look like they were created by professionals.
By Lynn Andriani
A Childhood Favorite With The Filling They Never Saw Coming
Christi Farr Johnstone
These ice cream cones don't require a freezer or even a scoop, since they only appear to be piled high with soft-serve. Instead, a small stack of chewy-style chocolate chip cookies piped with store-bought frosting takes their place. These tromp l'oeil treats from Christi Farr Johnstone's book Smart Cookie also include a chocolate coating, sprinkles and a gumball. They're a snap to create, and if any chocolate runs down the sides of the cones, don't worry; it only makes them look more real.
It's hard to go wrong with a spice cake; and this one, from What to Bake & How to Bake It by Jane Hornby, is no exception. Like all great desserts of its kind, it includes molasses, which is one secret weapon for guaranteeing a deliciously dense and sticky cake that keeps very well in an airtight container for at least a week. After it's cooled, you drizzle a two-ingredient lemon glaze on top, and scatter it with chopped crystallized ginger, so it looks a bit like edible streamers and confetti.
An Impressive Transformation For A Grocery-Store Staple
Petit four doesn't exactly translate to "fussy," yet we often think of these tiny cakes as involving a significant amount of work. However, there's a surprisingly simple shortcut to making the classic French desserts: You trim the crust off store-bought pound cake; use petit four (or, cookie) cutters to turn the cake into little diamonds, ovals and squares; drizzle a confectioners'-sugar glaze on top; and, finish with sprinkles.
A slightly pudding-like cake, this fruity treat is made in a serious-looking cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet. Despite the sturdy pan, though, the finished dish looks quite elegant, with thin slices of apple or pear fanning out to make a beautiful spiral pattern. The trick is to bake the cake until it's just barely done, because the heat from the pan will continue to cook it after you take it out of the oven. It's especially good warm from the pan with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The Extravagant, Creamy European Dessert That's Secretly A Snap To Make
Pots de crème -- which are basically individually portioned bowls or cups of loose custard with an impressive-sounding name -- take just 20 minutes to prepare (plus chilling time). This recipe includes clementine zest, which is a bright complement to the rich chocolate; reserve some and slice it into thin strips for a "wow" garnish. And if you don't have ramekins, just use assorted wine or martini glasses.
You could spend an hour making classic American strawberry shortcake, but John Keller, chef at Co-Op Food & Drink in New York, has figured out a way to cut the process down to 10 minutes. His secret ingredient: store-bought biscuit dough that comes in a tube. Strawberries, sugar, heavy cream and vanilla help transform any brand of the humble supermarket product into a guest-worthy treat.
At La Silhouette restaurant in New York, pastry chef Jeff Sytsma serves a peanut butter sabayon (a light, foamy Italian mousse) with warm chocolate cake. This more traditional version -- made with just brandy, water, egg yolks and sugar -- is a lovely complement to bright pink and orange winter fruits such as blood oranges, Cara Cara navels and grapefruit.
Chef Anthony Stewart of the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami transforms one of our go-to quick desserts -- a parfait -- by using unconventional ingredients, like apple juice concentrate and ginger root. Follow Stewart's recipe to keep it healthy or make it with vanilla bean ice cream instead of Greek-style nonfat plain yogurt for a richer dessert.
This dish may sound complicated, but Sabina and Lorraine Belkin, sisters and chefs/owners of Duo Restaurant & Lounge in New York, promise it comes together quickly: You can brown the bananas in just two minutes and cook the crepes in two more. In less than 10 minutes, you'll have the classic late-night Parisian street food right in your own kitchen.
Puckery lemon sherbet, crushed frozen strawberries and sparkling wine all poured into a single glass make for a gorgeous palate cleanser that falls somewhere between a slushy and a smoothie. A champagne flute or coupe is perfect for this dessert; top it with a sprig of mint.
Lemon Ricotta Bowls
Follow a rich meal with this unexpected choice, where ricotta -- which usually only shows up on the dessert menu in cheesecake -- gets the spotlight. Though it only takes a minute to stir two cups of cheese with a teaspoon each of lemon zest and juice, a half teaspoon of vanilla and sugar to taste, it's best if you make it before dinner so the cheese can absorb the bright flavors.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
The trick to making these standbys perfect is to use soft cookies. Country Choice Organic cookies are ideal and come in oatmeal raisin, oatmeal chocolate chip and double fudge brownie flavors. The fun is in dreaming up the perfect sandwich combination: Try chocolate chip with limited edition amaretto almond crunch, snickerdoodles with Ben & Jerry's cinnamon ice cream or chocolate cookies with any peanut butter ice cream.
Warm Chocolate Pudding
Author and Food Network chef Kathleen Daelemans says this pudding -- which you can whip up with pantry ingredients including sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, bittersweet chocolate and vanilla extract -- is best eaten just five minutes after it comes off the stove, when it's barely set.