There isn’t a home cook around who doesn’t like to have a few tricks in his/her kitchen for an interesting tasty dessert that will appeal to those who have to watch their calories. The secret is to have desserts that fill this need, but don’t taste like it. Dessert making is the culinary genre with a dash of the alchemy of befoolery. You want to have the appeal be richly irresistible, but have the element of ease of preparation, too. If you can throw in the element of not-so-fat-laden that cannot be detected by the tongue, you are a kitchen wizard to be sure.
There are two cool classic desserts that are in this category, simple yet beautiful—a frozen non-dairy chiffon-style pie and a fresh fruit tart that is on the caliber of a French bakery. These recipes appeal to me because they are incredibly simple and are virtually no-bake. The ingredients are not hard to find and no fancy equipment is needed. You can make either one of these desserts without a high level of skill. That is always important to me. If you are a wiz in the kitchen, these pies will have you whipping them up any ol’ time.
Flavor is the ultimate imperative. Take three delicious flavor innovations, exotic yet homespun at the same time—lime, banana, and chocolate. What makes an uncooked pie taste so darned good? The flavors. The cold creamy textures really add to the esthetic joy of devouring a slice.
Bananas and chocolate run somewhere between appealing to the sophisticated palate and being a childhood favorite. While the lime pie is fluffy and high, the banana tart is thin and boasts a host of complementary flavors with the bananas, chocolate, apricot, and whipped cream with the faint whisper of rum in a graham cracker crust. Sort of like a sundae in a crust. Crumb crusts are terribly easy to make as there is no worry of messing up; you just press into the pan. While the crust is hot, you sprinkle it with some chocolate chips, which will automatically melt and make a hair-thin layer for the bananas to rest on. This replaces the layer of custard in traditional French tarts. There is an elegant refinement to this tart.
The Frozen Lime Pie will keep in the freezer for up to 3 days and came from my mother’s neighbors for 30 years, Bob and Margie Beardsley, who are incredible cooks. There is always something new cookin’ at the Beardsleys. I almost passed by this recipe since it uses Cool Whip. For decades I was a stolid real whipped cream girl. Then the non-dairy alternative became relevant to so many people’s diet who shun dairy, are watching calories or carbs, or have dairy allergies, so I had to give in. I found the flavor remarkably good and it stabilizes the frozen pie filling in a way whipped cream can’t. Here it is mixed with canned sweetened condensed milk, which is a throw-back ingredient to the 19th century when there was no way to refrigerate milk. You can use Key limes if you can find them in season. Of course they are the most diminutive of fruits (looking more like green marbles) and there is a bit of labor getting them juiced to make 3/4 cup, but you can store the juice in the freezer until you are ready to make the pie. Persian limes work just as well and are available year round. There is no substitute for the fresh lime juice though. Fresh is a must since it is the dominant flavor. I think the original recipe had a dash of green food coloring added to frozen limeade, but I like the pale quality of the natural color that goes with the fresh flavor. The finished product is wonderfully smooth and creamy. While it is good on by itself, it is also nice with some fresh blueberries or strawberries on the side.
I always wanted to write a dessert cookbook, but it wasn’t to be. But I still have amassed a great repertoire to share. After all, I started my food career as a pastry chef in a small bistro. So for the dog days of summer coming up, here is an early posting so you can try something new–the end-of-summer cool pies.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.