Desserts That Cook Slow and Never Fail to Delight

Sunday May 1, 2016

photo courtesy Los Angeles Times

Desserts in a slow cooker sounds kinda weird, but once you have gotten used to using the appliance, the sky’s the limit. When Julie and I went to research and test dessert recipes we had a problem we had not predicted—there were too many things to make instead of not enough. We did creamy sweet puddings, seasonal fruit compotes, poached whole fruit, and bread puddings, all which benefited from the slow cooker environment.

First off, we wanted recipes that could be made directly in the crock.  These are the desserts that work nicely in the slow cooker without fuss or extra equipment. Either dump it all in the crock and stir, or mix beforehand and pour in. That’s it. Also the large 6-quart slow cooker comes in handy for most of these desserts.

One of the stars is the sponge pudding. Sponge puddings end up the best of both worlds—it has a creamy pudding sauce on the bottom and a delicate souffle-like cake on top, separating into two separate layers during the baking process. There are all sorts of flavors, but chocolate and lemon are the top picks. This is real old-fashioned spoon pudding and I got my first recipe from a boyfriend’s mother who was a Home Ec teacher (remember that class in high school).

We have a number of fresh fruit crumbles, the British version of our crisp with a slightly heavier, cakey topping, usually with rolled oats added.  Remember that baking in the slow cooker crock does not encourage browning, so the crumbly top will be pale, but cooked through.  Also the butter/flour/sugar combo doesn’t crisp like in an oven, it stays rather more soft and fluffy from the steaming. Apples are a year round fruit, but a winter staple with so many different types to choose from, that makes one of the most beloved crumbles.

The slow cooker world of baking has its boundaries.  It will not make sponge cakes, traditional pies in a crust, meringues, or drop cookies, but it has its genre of desserts all its own that are delicious and old-fashioned.  While there are specially made insertable pans (Rival has an aluminum one called the Bread ‘N Bake Pan) touted to turn your slow cooker into a mini oven specially made for baking cakes and breads, many desserts can easily be made directly in the crock with a regular cake pan that is a standard in any kitchen of a cook who bakes. Cakes are always one layer affairs.

Our single layer cakes, which are baked directly on the crock floor rather than being steamed in a water bath, take on the shape of the bottom of your cooker crock. I like the round crock of the large cooker for these. Nothing fancy, just plain cake. All have a firm enough batter to hold up in the cooker.  We like to put a round of parchment in the bottom for easy removal.  You can serve the cakes with a complementary sauce, whipped cream, sport a favorite frosting, powdered sugar sprinkled on top, or just plain.

We just didn’t have enough space to do a larger section on desserts in the book it ended up so much fun to keep creating, but one of the finest little desserts out of the slow cooker is traditional cheesecake. The texture is so smooth you will want to keep the whole cake for yourself. It is a small cake, 6- or 7-inch round springform and it fits just right in a large slow cooker. There is a special technique needed, putting a layer of paper towels under the lid, so that the accumulated moisture doesn’t fall back down on the top of the cake and make it watery.

So in the dead of winter, crank up the crock pot for some homey, soul satisfying, lick the plate desserts.

Recipes

Apple Crumble with Maple Creme Fraiche

Sour Cream Almond Cheesecake with Winter Berry Purees

Carrot Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream and Amaretto Cherries


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