Food of the Week: Dessert!

My Reader column has always focused on healthy eating, but I think it’s worth devoting a column at least once to dessert. Assembled here are several of my favorite desserts (I’ve excluded any that are long or complicated). That’s all I really have to say by way of introduction—usually I supply some nutritional information on the food of the week, but the only thing these recipes have in common is plenty of sugar. They are all free of trans fat, at least, unlike many packaged desserts. Enjoy!

Soda Cracker Candy

Don’t worry—these don’t taste like crackers. It’s hard to eat just one of these rich candies. I think this is an old “Taste of Home” magazine recipe.

35-40 soda (saltine) crackers    
1 c. butter    
1 c. packed brown sugar
1½ c. semisweet chocolate chips
1½ c. coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350°. Line a large baking tray with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place crackers on foil. In a saucepan, melt butter; add brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes. Pour over crackers and spread until completely covered. Bake for 5 minutes (crackers will float). Remove from oven and turn off oven. Sprinkle chips and nuts over the crackers, and return to oven until chocolate is melted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven; using a greased spatula, press nuts into chocolate. Cool completely before removing candy from foil.

Lemon Torte

A dessert I often ask my mom to make, one she got from her mother.

3 egg yolks                
1 can sweetened condensed milk    
2 lemons
½ lb. vanilla wafers
½ pint whipping cream
Sugar to taste

Crush the wafers finely and beat the whipping cream; set aside. Beat egg yolks; add milk, beating well. Add juice of lemons and the grated rind of one lemon; beat. Whip the cream and sweeten to taste. Put two-thirds of the crumbs in a 14x10-in. pan (or a 9x9 plus a small dish). Pour the custard in, spread the whipped cream on top, and cover with the rest of the crumbs. Refrigerate 6+ hours.

Hot Fudge
Chocolate Cake

Self-saucing and completely scrumptious. From a Hershey cocoa powder label.

1¼ c. sugar, divided        
1 c. flour                
½ c. cocoa powder, divided    
2 t. baking powder            
¼ t. salt    
½ c. milk
1/3 c. butter, melted    
1½ t. vanilla    
½ c. packed brown sugar
1¼ c. hot water    

Heat oven to 350°. Combine ¾ c. sugar, flour, ¼ c. cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk, butter, and vanilla; beat with a spoon until smooth. Pour batter into ungreased 9-in. square baking pan. Mix remaining ½ c. sugar, brown sugar, and remaining ¼ c. cocoa; sprinkle evenly over batter. Pour hot water over top. DO NOT STIR. Bake 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Let stand 15 min. before serving.

Cranberry Duff

Rich cake and tart cranberries—perfect for winter holidays but delicious any time of year. Plus, it’s fun to make and eat something with the cute little name “duff.”

½ c. unsalted butter, softened            
1 ½ c. fresh or frozen cranberries            
½ c. pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped        
1/3 c. plus ½ c. sugar
1 large egg
½ c. flour
¼ t. salt

1. Heat oven to 325°. Butter the bottom and sides of a medium glass baking dish using 2 T. of butter. Spread cranberries evenly over the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle pecans on top, then sprinkle with 1/3 c. sugar.  
2. Melt remaining 6 T. butter and set aside.  Put egg and remaining ½ c. sugar into a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in flour and salt.  Pour in melted butter in a slow, steady stream, beating until smooth. Slowly pour batter into pan to cover the cranberries. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Cinnamon-Plum Kuchen

Some kuchens are more custard-like than this one, but not only is this the most irresistible kuchen I’ve ever had, it’s one of the most irresistible desserts I’ve ever had, period. I’ve also made this with canned apricots instead of fresh plums.

12 plums with skins
1 c. brown sugar
2 T. tapioca
6 T. butter, softened
¾ c. flour
½ c. whole wheat flour
½ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
¼ t. nutmeg

Heat oven to 400°. Halve and pit plums. Mix ½ c. brown sugar with tapioca and combine with plums. For the crust, cream the butter and ½ c. brown sugar. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and reserve ¼ c. Press the rest into a greased pie plate or 10-in. springform pan. Arrange plums, cut side down, over the crust, and sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Bake 30-35 minutes, until brown. Reduce time if canned fruit used.

Almond Bars

Simple, rich, and so good!

2 sticks butter, softened
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 can almond paste
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients together and put into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Almond Cream Pudding

More sweet almond delight, from “Tastes of the Mediterranean Step-by-Step.” Try a food co-op for the ground rice.

2 c. milk
¼ c. caster (superfine) sugar
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. ground rice
¼ c. ground almonds
1 t. rosewater
2 T. honey (opt.)
2 T. chopped pistachio nuts (opt.)

Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Combine the cornstarch and ground rice with ¼ c. water and mix to a paste. Add to the milk and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the almonds (the mixture will be quite thick) and cook for 15 minutes, then add the rosewater. Spoon into four small shallow dishes and chill for 1 hour. If desired, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pistachios to serve.