You may argue that desserts aren’t necessarily frugal or good for you. I’ll argue that sometimes you need a little something to feed the soul as well as the body. I’ll be adding to my collection of family favorites over time.
One frugal/health note: by implementing a rule years ago that we would make, rather than buy our desserts, dessert eating has proved to be somewhat self-limiting. We also save the really over the top desserts for special occasions.
Apple Cake with Rum Sauce: Similar to a Sticky Toffee Pudding, this is an amazing cake: The top is a little browned and crunchy, the inside moist, dense, a bit chewy and a bit cake-like, all at the same time. The beautiful sauce envelops this somewhat homely concoction…some of soaks in the top as the rest pools around it on the plate.
Black & White Biscotti: Half chocolate, half plain, drizzled with a bit of chocolate and vanilla…Biscotti are frugal by nature, but so delicious. They’re perfect for someone who wants just a bit of something sweet but doesn’t want to go overboard. The beauty of Biscotti? About three dozen can be made for the cost of one at a coffee shop, they make great gifts, and keep for a long time.
Rich & Chewy Brownies: Deep, dark chocolate, with or without additional chocolate chunks, these are a bit homely, but make up what they lack in looks by their intensely chocolate taste. Not a refined brownie – if these brownies were a person, they’d be Melissa McCarthy in Identity Crisis. A bit loud, bordering on obnoxious, have a glass of milk on hand. These brownies earned me a proposal once. Disclaimer: Your results, of course, may vary.
Bosc Pears with a Balsamic Reduction: Here’s a dessert one doesn’t have to feel too guilty about! Use the best Balsamic you have and you won’t be disappointed – but these pears are good even with a grocery store Balsamic. A few toasted pecans, a chiffonade of basil or a few thyme leaves and a dab of sour cream send this dessert over the top. Impressive and inexpensive…this recipe is also very quick and easy to prepare.
Butterscotch Sauce: Here I’ve culled two of my favorites, one a bit easier, the other more traditional, both simply delicious. Very close to a Caramel Sauce and using most of the same ingredients, Butterscotch Sauce has fallen out of favor, ignored and dismissed, the black sheep of the family. If you’re not familiar with a home-made version of this sauce, it will be apparent you’ve been missing out all your life.
Chocolate Pots de Creme: This little custard like puddings are extremely rich and a perfect ending to an elegant meal. They come together in minutes in the blender and have a relatively short chill time, so they’re also a perfect save if company is coming for dinner on short notice. Elegant in a cordial glass and darling in a demitasse cup, I’ve even served these to a crowd in small plastic flutes from the party store. This, by the way, is a fantastic recipe for a new cook who’d like to put out a dessert for a dinner party.
Chocolate Pudding: This really is the best home-made version ever – If you’re not loving chocolate pudding, it’s likely you’re eating the premade or the mix, both of which pale in comparison to the real thing. Worse of all, those awful puddings have lowered expectations – no longer is the humble pudding the ultimate comfort food. Let’s change that!
Cracked Black Pepper and Honeydew Sorbet: Simple and easy, this recipe makes a wonderful sorbet (although this is low in sugar so the texture will be more icy than creamy) and better popsicle. The flakes of pepper dance off your tongue and give interest to the sweet, mellow flavor of the honeydew. It’s absolutely lovely (and a bit sophisticated) floating in a glass of a clear pop or club soda.
Fregolata Tart with Jam and Almonds: Simply one of the best tarts you’ll ever make, and one of the easiest. One bowl, press in the pan dough, spread with your favorite jam and a nut of your choice. After all, why limit yourself to any one flavor! You’ll look and feel like a Goddess or God in the kitchen. Don’t nobody want to hear how easy it is! No need to tell at all. Just bask in the glory. Truly simple ingredients transformed.
Fresh Strawberry Sorbet: I feel sorry for anyone who’s never tasted a concoction like this: the strawberry flavor is literally amazing…the color is deep and gorgeous, the sorbet almost creamy, and it costs a mere fraction of a grocery store sorbet, let alone one from a high-end store or shop. This little recipe also produces a sorbet that tastes better than any sorbet I’ve ever had from any carton or shop.
Inner Sanctum Flourless Chocolate Cake: Don’t let the looks of this cake deceive you – this is by far one of the most decadent (and easy) chocolate cakes you’ll ever make. A little homely, I admit, but absolutely a chocolate lover’s dream… I call it “Inner Sanctum” because this is the cake I serve at home to friends and family; the one I serve to those that can look beyond appearance, the lucky few.
Intensely Chocolate Syrup: Beautifully dark, sweet without being overwhelming, this is a wonderful dessert sauce. It also makes a wonderful chocolate milk or hot chocolate. Best of all, its made in minutes with pantry ingredients that most people have on hand. It’s also fun to experiment with different cocoas in this Syrup and tasting the flavor nuances, although I’ve developed a bit of preference for Hershey’s Special Dark.
Lemon Thyme Popsicles: Long a family favorite, this little recipe makes the creamiest, dreamiest popsicle with only four ingredients. The thyme is more suited for adults, so leave it out if you’re in any doubt your children might find it offensive. This recipe, by the way, has a dirty little secret: the creaminess comes from buttermilk. My kids, to this day, don’t have a clue about the buttermilk…shhh…
Pumpkin Bread: While I suppose some consider quick breads to be a snack, in my mind, they’re really a dessert. This is my Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread, easy, simple and perfect just as it is, but sometimes we dress it up with a bit of sauce and a dab of whipped cream. This pumpkin bread is a bit dense, super moist and has the most amazing flavor…this recipe makes two loaves, one to eat and one to freeze or give.
Shortcakes: These are simply lovely, almost a scone and close in taste to a “cream biscuit.” Do not confuse these with some Bisquick drop biscuit. Shortcakes can be the base for a number of desserts, so don’t feel limited to making the Mixed Berry Shortcakes, below, for which these were designed. Spread with a little lemon curd, eat like a scone, or add dried berries or fruit to the recipe.
Sour Cherry Compote: A little tart and not terribly sweet, this Sour Cherry Compote will have you rethinking your ideas of what Cherries are all about. Not only is this a fantastic dessert sauce, it is tart enough to double as a savory accompaniment for grilled or sautéed chicken or pork. Think of this drizzled over my Spider Cake, Ice-Cream or Cheese Cake. Perhaps napped across a custard.
Spider Cake – A delicious corn bread with a creamy custard center, great as a savory bread on a special occasion, but its slight sweetness lends itself well to a brunch dish or even a casual dessert. Is it a bread? Is it a cake? It’s just delicious.The name comes from the old cooking method, when it was baked over coals in an eight legged cast iron pan called a spider. Very easy to make, too.
Three Berry Shortcakes: This is our tried and true dessert made every year on Independence Day…not only are they the perfect over the top desserts for a summer’s party, they are a festive red, white and blue. Although the shortbread biscuits may look mundane, they are anything but: rich and moist, they always seem to come as a surprise to everyone who tries one.