Delicious desserts for the non-baker

    Betty Crocker I am not. I find baking is a tedious, time-consuming process. It also requires so many tools (who really has a whisk?) you would have to spend a fortune to do it regularly.

    So what are your alternatives? Sure, you could just grab a box of cupcake mix and a can of frosting at CVS, but what about making something scrumptious from scratch that will wow your guests and can be whipped up in minutes? Here are a few simple options that put Becky Crocker to shame:

    For the Chocoholics
    A delicious and decadent dessert with only five ingredients?! It may seem too good to be true, but this killer Oreo chocolate pie is sure to be a hit with your friends and taste buds.

    First, place an entire package of Oreo cookies in a large Ziploc bag. Make sure the bag is completely sealed and then, using whatever means necessary (a hammer, your fists, your bio textbook…), crush the Oreos until they are the consistency of breadcrumbs. Pour the crumbs into a pie plate (you can pick up a cheap one at Whole Foods or Jewel) and combine with ½ stick of melted butter. Mix thoroughly, then press the crust against the entire surface of the pie plate. You may need to use more butter if your crust is too dry.

    Cover and place the crust in the refrigerator. In a large bowl, combine a pint of heavy whipping cream and two tablespoons sugar. Beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks (until it looks like whipped cream). Next, add a one-pound container of store-bought chocolate pudding (or homemade, for the adventurous). Fold the two ingredients together until combined. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and top it with the chocolate mixture. Cover and place the pie back in the refrigerator for a few hours. And bam! Chocolatey goodness!

    “Faux” Baking
    If you have a special occasion coming up and want to make a dessert that will impress your friends (and is a cinch to make), try this light and elegant option. It will look as good as it tastes! The ingredients in this dish are a little expensive, so save this one for when you really want to show your stuff. What you’ll need:

    • One muffin tin (if you don’t have one, you can pick up a disposable version at the supermarket).
    • Phyllo dough, a paper-thin Greek dough that comes frozen. You’ll want to thaw the dough prior to assembling the dessert.
    • Mascarpone cheese, a rich, thick Italian cheese. It has the consistency of cream cheese but a milder flavor. If you’ve ever had Tiramisu, this is the base of the cream filling. Mascarpone cheese can be expensive, so if you’re making this dish for a crowd, you might want to replace it with ricotta cheese.
    • Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries or Peaches. Preferably fresh, but you can buy them frozen if they’re out of season. If that’s the case, just make sure to fully thaw and drain the fruit before using them in the dessert.
    • Fresh mint, for garnish and added flair!

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. First, prepare the muffin tin by brushing the insides of the muffin compartments with melted butter. You’ll want to make one or two desserts for each guest so keep that in mind. Next, remove the phyllo dough from its packaging and immediately cover it with a damp cloth (or else the dough will dry out). Take three sheets off the pile and lay on a flat surface. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into six squares. You might need to repeat this process depending on the number of guests, but remember to always keep the dough covered when you’re not using it.

    Now comes the fun part! Take one square of dough and place it on top of a muffin cup. Using your finger, press the middle of the square into the cup so the phyllo forms its own cup-like shape. Repeat the process until all of the compartments have been filled. Don’t worry if the phyllo spills over the edge- it will look fine once baked! Brush the phyllo cups with a little more melted butter and place in the oven for about eight minutes, or until the cups are golden brown. When they’re finished cooking, be sure to let them cool before filling. Speaking of the filling…

    In a bowl, combine a one-pound container of mascarpone cheese with a quarter cup of sugar. Mix together until the ingredients are fully incorporated and set aside. Depending on what fruit you bought and whether you bought it fresh or frozen, you will either need to slice the strawberries and/or peaches, leave the fresh berries as is or drain the frozen fruit. Either way, set aside once you have done so.

    To assemble, remove the cooled phyllo cups from the muffin tin and place on a serving platter. Spoon one or two heaping tablespoons of the mascarpone filling into the cups and top with the fresh fruit. Place a mint sprig on top and your elegant dessert is ready to serve!

    Ice Cream Fake Outs
    As any devoted Food Network viewer will tell you, don’t be afraid to steal a little creativity from your supermarket — especially when it can be disguised as your own creation! While making your own ice cream can be a labor of love, there’s no harm in spicing up the store-bought version. For a fun and festive dessert, I love to make homemade ice cream sandwiches. It’s a great way to get your guests involved, and with these creative tips, you can turn that make-your-own sundae party into a hip ice cream sandwich soiree!

    If you don’t have the patience to bake cookies, don’t worry — just buy them! Be sure to pick out non-processed brands (no Chips Ahoy, Oreos or Keebler). Instead, experiment with funky flavors like ginger, almond or lemon poppy seed. And go for cookies larger in diameter since they’ll have to hold a scoop of ice cream.

    For the ice cream, buy the basics like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or coffee; then, let your guests customize their own flavors! Pick up a few exotic “mix-ins” so your guests can pick and choose. Make sure to remove the ice cream from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before your guests arrive so that it will have time to soften. When you’re ready to assemble, place the ice cream in bowls and let your guests go crazy making their own flavors. Once they’re satisfied with their concoctions, place one scoop of ice cream onto each cookie and top with another cookie. Place the sandwiches back in the freezer for at least another 30 minutes so that they have time to set. Just in case the creative juices aren’t flowing, here are a few suggestions:

    • For that extra caffeine jolt, add chocolate-covered espresso beans to coffee ice cream. For a cool kick, you can also add a few teaspoons of Kahlua as well.
    • For an Asian twist, add chopped crystallized ginger and chopped lychee nuts (you should be able to find them in the canned foods or Asian foods aisle) to vanilla.
    • For even more chocolate (yum), add chunks of chocolate biscotti or swirl some Nutella into your chocolate ice cream.
    • For pseudo-strawberry shortcake, add bits of pound cake or angel food cake and sliced strawberries to your strawberry ice cream.

    There you have it: your very own anti-baker’s recipe guide! The next time you’re about to reach for that box of Duncan Hines, why not try one of these recipes instead? They’re quick, original and sure to impress!


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