This week, Gwen poses a Scenario and asks for some ideas.
I have a couple hours or unexpected guests are coming. What is a quick easy sweet something to make?
I love this, because it means I get to put on my thinking cap and come up with some short cut desserts for unexpected company. If any of you guys would like to add to the list, please leave your ideas in the comments.
Short Cut Desserts for Unexpected Company
- Whenever you make cookies, make more dough than you will need. Scoop or portion it all and then freeze the extra unbaked cookies to bake when Aunt Earlene decides to drop in after her canasta game. This bake-from-frozen idea works great with almost any and every kind of cookie. Freshly baked cookies in about 15 minutes. Works for me. And Aunt Earlene.
- Keep a box or two of puff pastry in your freezer. You can buy the Pepperidge Farm kind. It’s widely available and works really well. If you would rather have an all-butter option for puff pastry, the Dufour brand is available at Whole Foods around here. I think that Trader Joe’s has an all-butter option as well, but it might be seasonal. Now that you own puff pastry, a vast array of speedy desserts are at the ready. Take the puff out of the freezer and let it sit out at cool room temperature for about 30-45 minutes. As soon as it’s pliable (and it can still be a little bit frosty) roll a sheet out into a 12″ square, and you’re ready to go.
- Cut the square into 9 smaller squares with a pizza cutter and make little turnovers. Add maybe 1 tablespoon of preserves of any sort–or even canned pie filling–fold over and press the edges together really well, first with your fingers and then with the tines of a fork. Brush them with a bit of milk or egg wash, sprinkle on some coarse sugar and bake at 400F for maybe 20-25 minutes until puffed, golden brown and beautiful. You can also plan ahead and make little puff turnovers and keep them in the freezer and bake from frozen just like you did Aunt Earlene’s cookies.
- Cut the puff into circles with a sharp cookie cutter. Fit each circle into a cavity in your mini muffin tin. Add a few chocolate chips or maybe some jam or Nutella or sweet peanut butter spread and bake for 20 minutes or so at 400F.
- Roll the sheet of puff pastry in cinnamon sugar–both sides–until you have a ton of sugar pressed into the dough. Cut in strips, twist and bake or cut out like cookies and bake. Puffy, crispy, cinnamon sugar goodness.
- Roll the puff in sugar or cinnamon sugar as before, but this time fold one edge of the puff in by about 1 1/2 inches. Do the same on the opposite side. Fold the first side in again, et cetera, until they meet in the middle. Fold in half, cut in 1/2-3/4″ pieces, put them on their sides on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press them down slightly and bake. You have just made palmiers.
- Put some pre-made pie filling or fresh fruit along with a bit of sugar and flour (spices if you have time) in individual ramekins. Top with a round of puff pastry and bake until golden brown and the fruit is all bubbly and lovely.
- Shortcake. Any combination of whipped cream with some quickly macerated fruit (let it hang out in some sugar and maybe a squirt of lemon juice until it gets nice and juicy) over sweet biscuits. That’s traditional anyway, but since these folks didn’t give you any warning, there is no reason not to use whatever you have lying around. Cut some bread really thick (brioche or challah, if you have it) and make cinnamon toast. Plop on some of the cream and fruit, and you’re done. Or use pound cake if you have some.
- Pudding! I love pudding, and it’s a quick treat that is super easy to make without a recipe. Honest. You can make it with egg or without (I like mine with). For vanilla pudding, I put one cup of whole milk (you can use 2% if you’d rather), 1 Tablespoon of corn starch (use flour if you want) and one egg yolk (optional but it adds some richness and color) in a pan. I like about 1/4 cup sugar per cup of milk, but you may like less. Add three tablespoons of sugar, taste, and then add more if you need to. Nothing bad will happen if you add a bit of sugar at the very end after cooking, so don’t worry too much about it. Add a healthy pinch of salt and bring everything to a boil, whisking constantly. Allow the pudding to boil for a few seconds and then strain it into a bowl. Add 2-3 teaspoons of good quality vanilla and maybe a tablespoon or two of butter if you’re feeling kicky. Stir until smooth and serve in espresso cups or other wee bowls. You can scale this up and use 2 cups of milk and increase all the other ingredients accordingly. Regardless, commit this easy pudding to memory and you can have it ready in about 15 minutes.
- You can make a really quick fruity dessert by whipping cream and then folding it together with some good quality jam. Add a couple of shortbread cookies (store bought is completely fine) and you’re done.
- If you have ice cream in the house, soften some up, bake those cookies you had frozen and then make ice cream sandwiches. Put them back in the coldest part of your freezer until your guests arrive.
- Ice cream sundaes. Turn ice cream into a bit more of a treat by making a couple of quick sauces. Here are some ideas:
- Chop good quality chocolate into small pieces. Heat to boiling 1 1/2 times the weight of the chocolate in cream (4 oz of chocolate? 6 oz of cream). Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth and emulsified. Quick ganache chocolate sauce.
- Heat equal amounts of heavy cream and corn syrup to boiling. Remove from heat and stir in chopped chocolate until it’s as thick as you want it. Another easy chocolate sauce.
- Heat frozen strawberries or raspberries with some sugar to taste and a squirt of lemon juice or lime juice. Bring to a boil and let simmer a couple of minutes. Puree and strain. Fruit sauce.
- If you’re feeling really spunky, heat sugar and a bit of water until boiling. Let boil until it starts to turn golden. Swirl the pan and allow it to cook until a very deep amber color. Carefully pour in some heavy cream and stir off the heat until smooth. (I use half as much cream as sugar. If I used 4 oz sugar, I’ll use 2 oz cream, but you do it to your taste. That’s just a place to start). Add a tiny pinch of salt, maybe a tablespoon of butter and a little vanilla and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Caramel sauce.
- Cheese. No, it’s not sweet, but folks like a little nibble, so cut up 2-3 different cheeses and serve them with a little jam, maybe some honey and some fresh fruit. Cheese plate on the fly.
- Chocolate-dipped anythings. Melt some chocolate or chocolate chips and then dip the bottoms or one half or whatever you want into the chocolate. Store them in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Do this with dry fruit (like whole strawberries as opposed to cut pineapple) or dried fruit (like dried apricots), cookies, pretzels, potato chips, whatever. You can add sprinkles if you want, too. If you don’t want to store them in the fridge, use good quality coating chocolate instead of chocolate chips or chocolate.
- Fruity parfaits. Layer fresh or canned fruit with some Greek yogurt or sour cream and some brown sugar and refrigerate. The brown sugar melts down into a lovely sort of caramel sauce. So good.
- Fruit Dip. Similar to the parfaits, mix yogurt or sour cream with brown sugar. Let sit and then stir until sugar is dissolved. Add a wee splash of vanilla if you want. Serve with fruit for dipping.
I think that gives us a pretty good start, but I know that you guys have some more ideas. Please tell us what you would serve as a quick, short cut dessert for unexpected company, because sooner or later, it happens to all of us!
Thanks so much for reading. I hope you found it helpful. And please, if you have a question you’d like answered for What Can I Do For You Wednesday and it’s not time-sensitive, please fill out my short survey and I’ll add your question to my list.
Take care, and have a lovely day.