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Bless Your Spoon: From scratch desserts worth the effort

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Today’s recipes include some old-fashioned favorites with a twist or two. These no-fuss, scratch puddings, homestyle pies, and cakes are sure to please any crowd.  Don’t be intimidated by the “from scratch” idea of it all – tell yourself you can do it and try. You’ll be a better cook because of it.

It certainly wouldn’t be a spring holiday without an array of light, cool, and refreshing citrus desserts bursting with flavor. I love anything with lemon, lime, and orange, plus pineapple and coconut – all fruits. Serve a little coconut macaroon alongside a bowl of old-fashioned rice pudding – a favorite dessert that does a good job feeding a crowd.

No matter your choice, celebrate the season with a delicious dessert as your grand finale.

As a little surprise, I’ve included a couple of dessert syrups – always a great addition to any homemade confection. I’m sure you’ve had flaming dessert sauces with bananas and cherries, right? Think Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee. If you like these, you’ll love the hot dessert sauce that replaces rum with tequila. Now you’re gonna impress some folks. Practice makes perfect. Try the syrup over any pudding or cake.

Just a little drizzle will do ya.

IRON SKILLET PINEAPPLE -COCONUT CAKE

3 beaten eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. pineapple juice

½ cup melted, salted butter

1 cup brown sugar

¾ cup toasted coconut

Small can of drained, sliced pineapple, juice retained

Jar of maraschino cherries

¼ cup toasted coconut

In a mixer, beat eggs. Add sugar and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and pineapple juice. Mix well.  Fold ¾ cup toasted coconut into batter and set aside. In an iron skillet, melt butter. Add brown sugar and blend well. Arrange pineapple slices in skillet with cherries placed in center of fruit slices. Sprinkle ¼ toasted coconut over fruit.

COCONUT AND CREAM PIE

½ cup whipping cream

1 ½ cups whole milk

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. extract

1 ½ cups toasted, flaked coconut

6 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/8th tsp. salt

¼ cup coconut or dark rum

4 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

1 ½ cups ground chocolate cookies

6 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

Whipped cream

2 Tbsp. toasted, flaked coconut

In a saucepan, add cream, milk, and bean seeds plus bean. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Fold in toasted coconut. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. In a mixer, beat egg yolks. Add sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well. Whisk into coconut mixture. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in 4 Tbsp. butter until blended. Cool. For crust, crush cookie crumbs. Melt 6 Tbsp. butter and add to crumbs. Press over bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes to set. Cool. When filling is cool, pour into cooled crust. Cover and chill for 4 hours. Serve with whipped cream and sprinkled toasted coconut.

CINNAMON-RAISIN RICE PUDDING

1 cup water

1/8th tsp. salt

1 cup long-grain white rice

½  stick cinnamon

1 cup sugar

¾ cup cream or whole milk

¼ cup dark raisins

2 egg yolks

½ lemon peel

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ cup chopped toasted pine nuts

In a saucepan, add rice and cinnamon stick to salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to steam for 10 minutes or until rice absorbs water. Discard cinnamon stick. Lightly fold in sugar, milk, and raisins to the rice. Cover and allow to stand 10 minutes to allow milk to be absorbed. Beat egg yolks and fold slowly into the rice mixture. Stir in grated peel and vanilla. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Chill. Top with nuts.

HOMEMADE ALMOND MACAROONS

3 cups chopped blanched almonds

¾ cup sugar

10 egg whites

In a processor, grind almonds and sugar together. Gradually add egg whites until a soft dough forms. On a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, drop dough by teaspoonful. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes, and tips are golden.

APPLE-RAISIN BREAD PUDDING

½ lb. ¾-inch cubed, French bread

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

½ cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

½ stick salted butter

4 cups water

1 cup golden or dark raisins

6 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese

2 peeled, cored, sliced ¼-inch, Granny Smith apples

On a baking sheet, spread bread cubes and nuts in a single layer and bake for 8 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Cool. In a pot, bring sugar, cinnamon, cloves, butter, and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until it’s syrupy.  Remove from heat, strain, and set aside. In a glass baking dish, toss bread nuts, raisins, cheese, and apples. Pour strained syrup over bread mixture and stir to mix. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until toasty. Serve warm with whipped cream.

THE CLASSIC KEY LIME PIE

3 large egg yolks

3 Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup Key lime juice

14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs

6 Tbsp. softened salted butter

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 ½ cups whipped cream

4 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, beat egg yolks. Add sugar and mix well. Add lemon juice, key lime juice, condensed milk, and salt. Mix well and set aside. For the crust, combine cookie crumbs, butter, and sugar to blend. Press crust into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch glass pie plate. Bake to set in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. Cool. Pour lime mixture into cooled crust. Bake in a 275-degree oven for 30 minutes. Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours. Top with whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla extract.

DELUXE CITRUS CHEESECAKE

5 8oz. pkg. Softened cream cheese

2 cups sugar

¼ tsp. salt

7 large eggs

3 cups sour cream

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

3 Tbsp. lemon peel

¼ tsp. salt

2 cups crushed gingersnap or another cookie

6 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

In a mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Beat in sugar and salt. Beat eggs in one at a time. Add sour cream, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Beat until mixed well. For the crust, combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of 9-inch cheesecake pan with at least 3-inch sides. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 13 minutes. When completely cooled, pour filling into cake crust. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Center should only slightly move when shaken. Cool for 2 hours. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover and chill 24 hours. Make one day ahead.

ANY KIND OF CAKE SYRUP

2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp. ground anise

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, melt sugar over low heat. Add ground anise and vanilla. Mix well. Pour warm syrup over any kind of cake, pudding, or confection.

FLAMBE DESSERT SYRUP

1 cup lime juice

1 cup light Karo corn syrup

1 tsp. cayenne

¼ cup Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado Tequila

In a saucepan, add lime juice, corn syrup, and cayenne. Heat until boiling. Add tequila and quickly ignite with a match. Shake pan until flame extinguishes.  This syrup is a delicious sauce served over any fruit, ice cream, pastry, or dessert.