Summer is in full swing, and the lazy heat is an invitation to spend more time outside. For many, summertime’s greatest pleasures include a comfortable spot in the garden with a good book and a bowlful of flavorful ice cream. It’s hard not to be tempted by refreshing desserts like ice cream, cool custard and juicy fresh fruit. The lines to buy a scoop of ice cream may be long, so consider making it at home.
Visit a local farmers’ market to enjoy the luscious tastes and fragrant aromas of ripened fruits, which are star ingredients in many summer desserts. Few are sweeter and tastier than fresh South Carolina peaches, which are now in season. Fresh peach ice cream and Watermelon Raspberry Granita – a flavorful shaved ice – capture the very essence of summer. Grandmother may have made hers with an old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream machine – still great fun – but there are also a number of inexpensive, electric models on the market. July is National Ice Cream month so it’s time to get cranking!
Susan’s Espresso Cream Cake is a tempting, elegant refrigerator dessert made in the spirit of tiramisu. It’s delicately flavored with a small amount of chèvre or goat cheese, giving it a special flavor. The best type to select for this recipe is a soft, young, fresh cheese with a mild flavor.
Ice box pies with crumb crusts are a Southern favorite, named after the old fashioned 19th century ice box but popularized in the early 20th century when electric refrigeration became commonplace. The recipe for Lemon Ice Box Pie, a cousin of key lime pie, is offered here with a choice of crumb pie crusts, both with coconut. The slight saltiness of the soda cracker crust offers a nice flavor and texture contrast to the tangy-sweet pie filling.
Panna cotta is an elegant, eggless Italian custard that is easy to make and even easier to eat. Lighter than baked custard, it pairs well with fresh fruits and fruit sauces. Mold the custards in custard cups or ramekins, then turn them out onto pretty individual serving plates. Or pour the panna cotta mixture into fancy martini glasses or stemless wine tumblers. Decorate with a favorite topping for a spectacular presentation that will impress family and guests.
Mango Banana Ice Cream
There are two seasons for mangos, making it possible to enjoy them year-round. In the United States, mangos grow in tropical climates like Florida, Puerto Rico, California and Hawaii. If not completely ripe, allow grocery store mangoes to ripen on the counter until fragrant and juicy. Or, put them into a paper bag to hasten ripening. The most common commercial variety, Tommy Adkins, is a bit fibrous so puree the ice cream mixture in a blender to make it smoother. Alphonso mangoes are sweet and juicy with deep rich color; buy them in Indian markets.
2 large ripe mangoes, pureed to make about 1 3/4 cups
1 small banana, well-mashed
1 9.6-ounce can mango nectar
1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, to taste
2 cups half-and-half or milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
fresh mango cubes for garnish
In a large bowl, whisk together mango puree, banana and mango nectar. Mix in condensed milk and then the remaining ingredients. Chill mixture two hours then pour into the freezer container of an electric ice-cream/yogurt machine. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Scoop out ice cream and put into a freezer container; let ripen 1 to 2 hours in the freezer to develop the flavor. Scoop into bowls and garnish servings with fresh mango cubes.
South Carolina Peach Ice Cream
It’s peach season in South Carolina, which is the second largest U.S. producer, right after California. In fact, the peach is the official state fruit. Tree-ripened peaches have the finest flavor and should have a perfumed, floral odor. These are most often available from roadsides and farmers’ markets. To peel the peaches, dip them in boiling water up to 60 seconds to loosen the skins. Drop into ice cold water and then remove for easy peeling. For an extra special flavor surprise in this recipe, fold in 4 to 6 small, crumbled, crisp Italian macaroon cookies or 2 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger. Or simply embellish a bowl of ice cream with a handful of fresh raspberries.
4 to 5 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and well-mashed
1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup peach nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Prepare peaches; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk condensed milk and lemon juice. Whisk in half-and-half, peach nectar, the extracts and salt. Mix in the mashed peaches. Chill ice cream mixture one hour. Pour into the freezer container of an electric ice-cream/yogurt maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Scoop out ice cream and pack into a freezer container; let ripen 1 to 2 hours in the freezer to develop the flavor. Scoop ice cream into bowls.
Watermelon Raspberry Granita
Watermelon is called the smile fruit in South Carolina because “it is the food that makes people smile.” It is high in lycopene, an antioxidant thought to benefit health and prevent some cancers. It is also high in vitamins A and C and contains potassium. Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and play a role in heart health. This fruity blend can also be frozen solid and cut into cubes to flavor champagne or sparkling wines and waters. Or freeze the mixture into popsicles for kids or adults. A tablespoon of tasteless vodka will help prevent the granita from freezing too hard.
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1 6-ounce package fresh raspberries or 1 1/2 cups halved small strawberries
1/3 cup sugar or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice
fresh mint leaves
fresh blueberries or pomegranate seeds
Puree watermelon then raspberries separately in a food processor or blender. Strain raspberries through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds. In a large bowl, combine fruit purees with the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Pour into an 8-inch square pan and freeze 1 hour. Use a fork to stir and mash any frozen chunks. Freeze 2 to 3 hours and use a fork to scrape mixture into icy flakes about every hour. To serve, scrape frozen granita into small dishes. If making ahead, cover and freeze up to two days. Garnish with mint and blueberries. Recipe can be doubled; freeze in a larger pan. Makes 4 servings.
Susan’s Espresso Cream Cake
Sweetness is the Italian flavor of passion and delight. This luscious cake is especially creamy and light; goat cheese adds a special richness. This is a favorite recipe from Susan Fuller Slack’s cookbook, A Taste of Italy, The Collector’s Series (American Cooking Guild).
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 ounces fresh, mild goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream, whipped
2 3-ounce packages ladyfingers
1/4 cup espresso or strongly brewed coffee
1/4 cup coffee liqueur
4 tablespoons chopped toasted hazelnuts
If the ricotta cheese doesn’t hold shape when unmolded, firm it up by spooning into a colander lined with cheesecloth or a large coffee filter; drain two hours. Sift chocolate chunks to remove chocolate powder; reserve both. With a mixer, beat ricotta, cream cheese, goat cheese and sugar until smooth. By hand, fold in 2 cups of whipped cream and chopped chocolate. Brush the flat side of each ladyfinger generously with a blend of espresso and coffee liqueur. Line the sides and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with ladyfingers, soaked sides inward. Pour in half of the cheese mixture; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons hazelnuts. Add a layer of soaked ladyfingers. Pour in remaining cheese mixture. Pipe remaining whipped cream into dollops on top. Sprinkle with reserved chocolate powder and cinnamon. Chill overnight. Run a knife between pan and cake and gently remove ring. Decorate with unsprayed edible flowers like pansies, johnny jump-ups or nasturtiums. Makes 12 slices.
Lemon Ice Box Pie
Lemon ice box pie is popular throughout the South and often served in seafood restaurants along the East Coast. Light as a cloud, it can even be frozen for a special treat on Columbia’s hottest days. Sweetened condensed milk was developed in the United States in 1853 as a source of healthy milk for children. It thickens when combined with acidic fruit juice. The soda cracker crust is unusual but is found to be especially tasty by adding coconut.
1 Coconut Cracker Crust or Coconut
Wafer Crust (see recipes below)
1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand® Sweetened
4 large egg yolks
grated zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
grated lemon zest for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare either of the crust recipes below. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla until well combined. Pour into pre-baked crumb crust; bake 15 to 17 minutes or until the filling is set but a little tacky when touched. Remove pie from oven. Cool then cover; refrigerate three hours or overnight. Before serving, whip cream with remaining teaspoon vanilla and sugar to form soft peaks. Spread over pie and add garnish. Makes 6 to 8 servings
Coconut Cracker Crust
1 sleeve of saltine crackers (about 35 crackers)
1/3 to 1/2 cup coconut
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Put crackers into a zip top plastic bag, pressing out air. Crush well with a heavy rolling pin. In a large bowl, combine crushed crackers, coconut, brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Pat the mixture over the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch pie pan. Chill 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 8 minutes or until light golden brown.
Coconut Wafer Crust
2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup coconut
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, sugar, coconut, salt and melted butter. Combine well; pat mixture over the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch pie pan. Chill 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 8 minutes. This crust is especially good with icebox pies, chiffon pies, cream pies and ice cream pies.
Cream Cheese Loaf with Berries
Dense and rich, this buttery cake makes a splendid July 4th dessert, along with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, divided in half, at room temperature
zest from 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon each vanilla extract and almond extract
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
fresh berries, as desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, 4 ounces of the cream cheese and lemon zest until smooth. Add sugar and salt, beating about 5 minutes, until mixture is fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in extracts. Pour in half the flour; mix until just combined, then add remaining flour. With a spatula, scoop batter from the bottom of the bowl and fold over 1 or 2 times to make sure it is well blended. Coat a 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; dust lightly with extra flour then tap out the excess. Add batter; gently tap pan on the counter 2 or 3 times. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If the cake browns too quickly near the end of the baking time, tent the top with a piece of foil. Cool cake then carefully turn out of pan. To make frosting, beat together the remaining 4 ounces cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Spread frosting over the top, letting it drip down the sides. Serve with fresh berries.
Mocha Fudge Sauce
Mocha fudge sauce makes almost anything taste wonderful and is especially delicious drizzled over ice cream or ice cream pies. For adult tastes, stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons Kahlua, Myers Dark Rum or Grand Marnier.
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup Lyles golden syrup, light agave nectar or light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1 4-ounce semisweet chocolate bar, broken into small pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water and syrup to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and whisk in cocoa. When blended, add chocolate pieces and stir constantly until smooth. The mixture should stay warm but don’t allow it to become too hot. Whisk in cream, salt and vanilla until smooth. Pour chocolate sauce into a wide-mouth, 2 cup jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Sauce thickens to a soft truffle candy consistency when chilled. To thin, reheat and stir in a double boiler bowl over hot (not boiling) water 2 or 3 minutes, or heat in the microwave on medium-low power 10 to 15 seconds. Stir sauce and if necessary, microwave a few seconds more. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.
Mocha Fudge Crunch Ice Cream Pie
The hardest part of making an ice cream pie is deciding which flavor of ice cream to use. Ice cream pies can be put together quickly using a favorite kind of ready-made or homemade ice cream, sauce and sweet embellishments. Try to layer the ingredients as they are prepared in this recipe.
Mocha Fudge Sauce (recipe above), slightly warm
1 9-ounce package chocolate wafers, crushed into crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 pints quality ice cream or gelato (French vanilla and coffee OR chocolate and coffee)
3 bars chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Heath Bars), coarsely crushed
1/2 cup roasted pecan halves, coarsely chopped
Prepare Mocha Fudge Sauce. In a medium bowl, combine crumbs, cinnamon and melted butter. Combine well; pat mixture thinly over the bottom and up the sides of a lightly buttered 9-inch pie pan. Chill 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 6 to 8 minutes then cool. Freeze shell 30 minutes. (Crust can be made days in advance; wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen.)
Remove 1 pint French vanilla ice cream from the freezer and soften 20 minutes in the refrigerator. With a wooden spoon, stir ice cream then spread over the bottom of the frozen crust. Scatter half the chopped toffee and pecan pieces over ice cream. Drizzle with 1/3 to 1/2 cup Mocha Fudge Sauce. Freeze at least 20 minutes. While pie is in the freezer, soften the pint of coffee ice cream. Remove pie from the freezer and spread with remaining ice cream. Scatter remaining toffee and pecans over the top; drizzle with Mocha Fudge Sauce. Freeze about 30 minutes then cover with plastic wrap and freeze several hours or overnight. Before slicing, let pie sit in the refrigerator about 10 minutes to soften slightly for easy cutting. Makes 8 servings.
Variation: Instead of drizzling Mocha Fudge Sauce over the entire pie before freezing, drizzle it over individual slices when served.
Coconut Panna Cotta
Panna cotta is a lovely Italian custard with a silky smooth texture. The phrase means “cooked cream” in Italian. Serve portions with a favorite fruity sauce or sliced fresh fruits like berries, kiwis, cantaloupe, passionfruit and papaya. Or, substitute other favorite yogurt flavors.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream (or half milk and half cream)
1/3 cup sugar
2 6-ounce cartons coconut-flavored yogurt (like the Greek-style Liberté brand)
1 teaspoons each coconut extract and vanilla extract (or 2 teaspoons vanilla)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
toasted coconut, if desired
Sprinkle gelatin into 1/4 cup of the cream in a small bowl. Let gelatin “bloom” and soften 10 minutes. Put remaining heavy cream and sugar into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until mixture begins to simmer, whisking to dissolve sugar. Whisk in the gelatin until it dissolves. (Do not allow to boil.) Cool mixture to lukewarm then whisk in yogurt, extracts and salt. Pour into 5 or 6 custard cups or ramekins that have been lightly coated with vegetable spray. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. To unmold, run a thin knife around the custard cup edges. Or, try dipping the bottom of each cup quickly into hot water then pat dry. Place an individual serving plate on top of each custard and invert onto the plates. Garnish with toasted coconut. Serve at once. Custards can also be served in the custard cups. Makes 5 to 6 servings.