Dessert Repertoire: Essential Recipes
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A few weeks ago we had over dear friends and their son for dinner. For dessert, I threw a few dark chocolate bars* on the table and let the adults help themselves. For the children, I baked off chocolate chip cookie dough balls I had portioned earlier and stashed in the fridge.
But when the children finished their cookies and ran off to play, leaving a few unclaimed cookies on the sheet, all four sets of adult eyeballs zeroed in. We shared the remaining few, and then I immediately baked off half a dozen more (and later, half a dozen more).
My point is not that, when entertaining, there should always be dessert on the table; my point is that dessert can be simple. No one would have been disappointed with the chocolate alone. But who can pass up a warm chocolate chip cookie? Sometimes I wonder why I bake anything else.
Confession: I love baking but I bake less often these days. As life gets busier and busier, sweet endeavors are the first slashed from my never-ending must-try list. With less time to experiment, I find myself turning to my reliable favorites. I’ve included them below.
Friends, what are the essential recipes in YOUR dessert repertoire? I’d love to make something new for Valentine’s Day. Tell me your dessert staples in the comments.
*Dark chocolate bars: I have two favorites: this one and this one.
PS: Do you love to bake?
Dessert Repertoire: 16 Essential Recipes
1. Foolproof Pie Dough: There is nothing tricky about making pie dough. This one is made in the food processor and relies on a cool trick to prevent over processing. This is the only pie/tart/pastry dough I make anymore.
2. A good brownie: My Favorite: Fine Cooking’s Rich, Fudgy Brownies
3. A good blondie: Brown Butter Blondies with Sea Salt
4. A good chocolate chip cookie: My Favorite: Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
5. Something fruity and summery, like this blueberry Cobbler from Cook’s Illustrated
8. A Good Flourless Chocolate Cake
9. A very good almond torte: Chez Panisse Almond Torte
10. A good olive oil cake, such as this Orange and Olive Oil Cake + many other cakes made with oil: The Case for Baking with Olive Oil (as Opposed to Butter)
11. A good apple cake: This is my favorite: Teddie’s Apple Cake
12. A Fruit Galette: Foolproof Pastry Dough + Frangipane + Fruit (all made entirely in the food processor). I’ve made countless variations of this theme from apple to rhubarb to peach to pluot.
13. Pots de Crème Two Ways: Chocolate (stovetop method) and Vanilla Bean (water bath method)
14. A good chocolate buttercream.
15. One-Bowl Buttermilk Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
16. Vegan Chocolate Mousse — astonishingly light and satisfying, this one is made with whipped aquafaba (chickpea cooking liquid) and almond milk. In addition to being vegan, this one is dairy-free, too.
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28 Comments on “Dessert Repertoire: Essential Recipes”
You might like this Italian jam tart for Valentine’s Day. I’ve made variations for 4th of July (four berry jam), Thanksgiving (cherry preserves), and Christmas (raspberry jam). Made in a square or rectangular tart pan, it can be cut into bars for gift-giving or a dessert buffet. Quick, unfussy, adaptable, and utterly delicious: https://food52.com/recipes/25289-cindy-mushet-s-italian-jam-shortbread-tart-fregolotta
Lynne, this looks SO good!! Thank you for sending. I might try it with lingonberry jam. Yum.
I love a jam tart! My favorite is from the Splendid Table. It is also a good way to use all the odds and ends from the bottoms of my jam jars.
I am so excited by both of these jam tarts! So perfect for winter. Thank you both for sending along these recipes.
Hi Ali! I find I’m baking bread more so than sweet treats because my husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth but unfortunately my little one definitely has mine! We have to be careful with him. That being said, our favorite is my great grandmother’s brownies – they’re half brownie-half sheet cake in texture with a frosting. Normally, not my favorite way to go about brownies, but we are all addicted, and they’re the only ones Miles eats. I love loaf cakes and “snacking cake”. 🙂 And since we’re in Hawaii, I’ve been making tons of mochi and bringing it to Miles’ school for teachers. It’s actually quite fun…..hmmm…. maybe I am baking a lot! PS I STILL make your spanakopita strudels often.
How fun you’ve learned how to make mochi?! I wouldn’t know where to begin. And your gramma’s brownies sound heavenly. I love that they’re the only ones Miles eats. Sweet. xoxox
Oh, I forgot to mention the best part of living here…. They really do grow cocoa here and go from growing to making chocolate – great chocolate – and if I ask my favorite makers to make a 1 lb (vs 2 oz) bar of my favorite chocolate, they say – give us a couple weeks! And I get my chocolate! It’s so awesome!
Wow, amazing! That is so special.
Which Brownie recipe link were you speaking about? I find most brownie recipes are like undone cake. Thick! I would love to try a brownie that is not so heavy. Have a recipe? The one you described I would like to try! Please send link. Thank you
My husband gets a chocolate cake with penuche frosting every year. My son (38) asks for mud pie every birthday. My brother asks for and gets koulouria and kourambiedes at Christmas. My poor daughter has a birthday at Thanksgiving, she has had pumpkin pie more than once in lieu of a traditional cake.
So many things to address! I have never heard of penuche frosting till today — it sounds delicious! Just googled it. Mud pie used to be my favorite — I’m a sucker for a chocolate cookie crust. Are you Greek? My mom and aunt go through obsessive phases of trying to perfect koularia and kourambiedes around the holidays.
I save these for special times, since the batter becomes the consistency of cement before I’m done portioning it, but the recipe for Dark Chocolate Madeleines I clipped from the Washington Post in Dec. 1991 is a real treasure. It’s adapted from “Glorious Chocolate” by Mary Goodbody and the editors of Chocolatier Magazine (1989), and as long as you don’t overbake, the madeleines stay tender and spongy for 2-3 days–if they’re not wolfed down before then!
These sound absolutely delicious! I found the article online in case anyone reading the comments is curious: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/food/1991/12/29/memories-of-madeleines/b1357f4b-17dc-413b-9744-917fe54aec02/?utm_term=.b99593578ecd
Also, Nina Simonds wrote the article! Love her. Her Asian Noodles book is a treasure!
I have that cookbook! I need to look at it again.
My go-to desserts are, in no special order:
Flan served w/sliced fresh mango,
Hot mixed berry galette, Graham cracker brownies.
Just recently added your orange/ricotta pound cake to that list 😊.
Oh yay, happy to hear this re orange-ricotta pound cake!
I adore a berry galette as well 🙂
And flan! That probably should be added above. My mother makes an incredible creme caramel! She’s been perfecting it for years. I love it.
I don’s cook as much as I use to but still enjoy making a occasional dessert, I made tiramisu this past weekend for a group of friends and it was a hit, also love My Mother’s recipe for chocolate silk pie, which she would make in little tarts… they were heaven with real whipped creme on top! I will need to dig that recipe out. 🙂 thank you I do enjoy your posts and recipes.
My grandmother used to make chocolate silk pie, and her recipe for tiramisu is still what I use today. So funny! Thank you for your kind words 🙂
My “go to” is any pie. I learned to make pie crust at an early age and have been know to have a selection of pies for desert. That said, several years ago, I discovered the almond torte you mentioned and I just love it – especially when fresh peaches are available. Buttermilk panna cotta is another new addition to my list that most of my friends had never tried. I usually top it with raspberries. And I do love to bake. A local grocery store had a cookie-a-day recipe calendar a year ago at Christmas. The following new year, I had to start a serious diet!!!
Pies are SO festive. There is something truly special about a pie. And buttermilk panna cotta with fresh berries is a match made in heaven. Love!
appreciate this set of dessert recipes so much, especially fundamental ones like foolproof pie dough, baking is my weakest area in the kitchen so thank you!
I love to make lazy daisy cake at home. It is fast, fool proof, and absolutely amazing and has been my favorite cake for as long as I can remember. You should give it a try! https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/lazy-daisy-cake/
ohhh awesome …. thank you for this!! Love: simple, foolproof, good 🙂 🙂 🙂
Lemon\mint olive oil cake and lemon pie with flour added to form a top crust
I have three recipes for desserts that I produce over and over. Occasionally, I venture out to something new, but I always return to these.
Pavlova, with whipped cream and passionfruit (the contrasts of crisp, sweet, creamy and sharp are absolutely amazing). Then there is my Lemon Yoghurt Mousse, which is really light and refreshing. And of course, cheesecake, in many, many different flavours. It got to a point that every time I was invited, on the question “Can I bring anything?” the answer was always: one of your wonderful cheesecakes. I live in the Caribbean, so making pastry is more than a bit of a challenge with our heat and humidity.
Oh my goodness: pavlova + passionfruit sounds like a total dream. I love passionfruit but it’s so hard for me to find up here. All of your desserts sound absolutely wonderful!! What is the secret to your lovely cheesecake??
Everything has to be room temperature – eggs, cream cheese etc. And I quite often use Spekulatius (a European biscuit -cookie- that is sold at Christmas time for the base. It has cinnamon and other seasonal spices in it so adds some extra flavour.
Such good advice! Thanks so much. The cookie crust sounds lovely, too.