Busy crafting a nice dinner for yourself and your boo this evening? Don’t worry, we’ve got dessert covered. Here are five ideas for after-meal sweets, little morsels that come together quickly so you can focus on the main event.
Michelle Stark, Times food editor
Almond Cutout Cookies
Got your heart-shaped cookie cutters handy? Put them to work on these almondy cookies, which you can then decorate with your sweetheart — or your kids. To make, cream 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar together in a medium bowl, then add 2 eggs, ¾ teaspoon almond extract and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix well, then stir in ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 3 cups all-purpose flour. Roll out dough on a flat surface to ½-inch thickness and cut out shapes with cookie cutters; if you don’t have any, a drinking glass turned upside down works well to create circles. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then freeze for 5 minutes. Remove from freezer and bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool, then top with various icings, sprinkles and other festive doodads.
’Tis the season! For strawberries, that is. You’ll notice prices starting to creep down in grocery stores as the crops in Plant City and beyond start to flourish. It’s a perfect time to buy a big batch and treat them simply, letting them shine in this dessert. To make, toss 1 to 2 pounds berries — I like a combination of sliced strawberries and blueberries — in a bowl with ? cup sugar. Stir well and let sit while you eat dinner. (Refrigerate if that’s more than an hour.) Just before serving, in a medium bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar with a whisk or, ideally, a mixer until it resembles whipped cream. Cook 8 store-bought biscuits according to package directions or make your favorite homemade recipe the day before and let them cool. Split one biscuit in half, spoon some berries on the bottom half, top with whipped cream and top with the other biscuit half. Repeat with as many biscuits as you want. Serve with a sprig of mint.
Brown Sugar Banana Sundae
Give your usual scoop of ice cream some oomph by adding caramelized bananas. To a medium skillet set over medium heat, add a handful of unsweetened coconut and a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, then return skillet back to stove. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Cook until butter is melted, then stir in 2 tablespoons light brown sugar. Peel 2 bananas, then quarter them. Add bananas to skillet and coat with the butter-sugar mixture. Let cook for a few minutes to get nice and caramelized. Remove from heat. Scoop some coconut ice cream or sorbet into two bowls, then top each bowl with some bananas and a sprinkling of coconut. Serve right away. Recipe adapted from Real Simple. e_SClBCoconut Macaroons
Not to be confused with macarons, the French sandwich cookies, macaroons are way easier to make at home. This recipe contains just three ingredients, and they come warm out of the oven begging to be drizzled with chocolate or paired with ice cream. To make, heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 2 large egg whites, at room temperature, and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. The mixture will get a bit frothy after a few minutes. Stir in 1 (7-ounce) bag sweetened shredded coconut until combined. Scoop about 1-inch spoonfuls of mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. This should make about 32 macaroons. Recipe adapted from Real Simple.
Red Velvet Brownie Bars
These brownie bars are less involved than a red velvet cake but have just as much flair. To make, heat oven to 350 degrees. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave 4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate and ¾ cup butter in 30-second increments, stirring after each go-around. Keep going until the chocolate has just melted. Whisk in 2 cups sugar and 4 large eggs. Stir in 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and (this is what makes red velvet cake so dramatic) an entire 1-ounce bottle of red liquid food coloring. Stir well, then pour into a rectangle or square pan, like an 8- by 8-inch pan, sprayed generously with cooking spray. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the batter comes out clean. Let cool completely. While the brownies bake, mix 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together in a large bowl. When brownies are cool, slather frosting all over the top, then cut into squares. Recipe adapted from My Recipes.