Desserts are practically mandatory on Valentine’s Day. Sweets have become synonymous with this pink and red, heart-studded holiday. This a challenge for folks like me who like to entertain, but are intimidated by baking. Fear not! This Valentine’s Day, I’ve conjured up 3 extremely easy desserts that don’t require careful measurements or an oven.
Easy, No Bake Dessert #1: The Chocolate Board
You’ve heard of a cheese board. Why not apply that same concept to dessert? Build your own fruity, nutty, and chocolaty crostini with a chocolate board.
For this one, I used tea biscuits and brioche toasts as a base. The three ceramics contain caramel, cookie butter, and Nutella. Sliced strawberries and pomegranate seeds provide a dose of acid, while almond and pistachio pieces contribute a nice textural contrast. A sprinkling of sea salt brings all of the flavors to the forefront.
Still, dozens of variations come to mind. Cookies would make excellent vessels. Nut butters, honey, and melted chocolate are easily spread over them. Raspberries always pair well with chocolate–as do hazelnuts. And how about sprinkling some orange zest over it all? What about adding jam or yogurt chips?
This easy dessert requires zero cooking and allows for variety and customization.
Easy, No Bake Dessert #2: Ice Cream with Fresh Fruit
Here’s another super low maintenance option: delicious ice cream with fresh fruit. Just scoop, chop, and sprinkle.
In this example, blueberry ice cream combines with strawberries (conveniently sliced to look like hearts) and pomegranate. But, again, you can substitute nearly any flavor of ice cream (or sorbet or gelato) and swap in nearly any fruit or berry.
Pump up your presentation by serving the ice cream in vintage teacups with demitasse spoons. Don’t have napkin rings? Bracelets will do the trick.
Easy, No Bake Dessert #3: The Perfect (Poached) Pear
For dessert #3, I poached pears in wine and served them alongside marscapone cheese, drizzled the entire plate with caramel sauce, and then finished with crushed pistachios and sea salt. The pears are like flavor sponges, absorbing the essence of the wine and manifesting it in a soft, slightly gritty body. The marscapone cheese delivers richness and creaminess. Caramel ushers in the sweet (since I used a dryer poaching liquid), intensified by sea salt. And the pistachios give you something to crunch on.
Unlike the first 2 suggestions, this dessert actually requires cooking…kind of. Let me put it to you this way: if you can boil water, you can make this dessert. Here’s the recipe for this particular incarnation with ideas on variations following…
2 pears, skinned, with the bottoms cut off (so they stand upright)
Poaching liquid: 1 bottle red dessert wine, 1 bottle dry sparkling white wine
2 tablespoons marscapone cheese
Caramel sauce to taste
1 handful of pistachios, crushed
Sea salt to taste
In a pot slightly taller than your pears, bring your poaching liquid to a boil. Add the pears (they should be mostly submerged), cover and reduce heat to a simmer. How long you poach the pears with depend on how ripe they are. Since my pears were pretty firm, they simmered for about 45 minutes. However, you should check them at around 30 minutes to be on the safe side. When done, they’ll be soft enough to cut with the edge of a fork.
Remove the pears from the liquid carefully and place on a plate with paper towels to absorb the excess liquid. At this point, I prefer to let them cool so that their heat doesn’t instantly melt the marscapone.
On a plate, drizzle caramel, then stand the pears side by side in the center. Add two scoops of marscapone to opposite sides of of the pears and drizzle more caramel. Add a dusting of sea salt and a handful of crushed pistachios.
Wine-based poaching liquids are a popular choice, but not your only option. Truth be told, I only used a 50-50 mix of dessert and sparkling wine, because I happened to have it on hand. In the past, I’ve used Moscato made sweeter with simple syrup and even spiced cider.
This was also the first time I used marscapone, caramel, and nuts. Previously, I’ve leaned on vanilla ice cream and a little cinnamon. Next time, I’ll try ricotta, blueberries, and walnuts.
In cooking–as in Jazz–improvisation elevates the art form. So, make it your own!