Metro-East Living

In search of summer sweets

Chocolate cream pie with a saltine cracker crust.
Chocolate cream pie with a saltine cracker crust. TNS

You’d think it was all fun and games and parties this summer. Contrary to the usual warm-weather trend I see of requests for light dinner/grill recipes and healthy salads, the emails and calls have mostly been about dessert.

Maybe we all just need a pick-me-up and sugar is the way to deliver it!

I think any food editor, including this one, will tell you that searching out dessert recipes is much more interesting than the next week-night entree.

So, in the spirit of making readers happy, I found a chocolate pie with an amazing saltine crust and an ice cream treat made in muffin tins with a pound-cake bottom, chocolate wafers in between the layers and a hard-shell top. Kids will really get a kick out of helping make this dessert.

Contact me at sboyle@bnd.com, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

Chocolate Pie with Saltine Crust

32 saltine crackers

3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar, divided

5 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cup milk

2 egg yolks

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped in quarter-inch pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place crackers in a heavy-duty sealable bag and crush with a rolling pin into crumbs that resemble sand, leaving some larger crumbs for texture.

Pour into an 8-inch pie plate. Mix in 3 tablespoons sugar, then pour melted butter over all. With a fork, slowly blend the crumbs and butter until mixture is uniformly moistened. Press mixture firmly and evenly across bottom and up the sides of pan. Pressing with a small measuring cup (the one you used for sugar) helps pack the crust and makes a smooth, even surface. Bake 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk and yolks and add to dry ingredients. Over medium heat, and stirring constantly, cook mixture until bubbles appear around the edge. Cook for 20 more seconds as it begins thicken. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, stirring until it’s melted. Stir in vanilla and butter.

Pour filling into warm pie crust. Cool completely on wire rack, then carefully cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.

Serves 8, each with 340 calories, 17 grams fat, 230 mg sodium, 44 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams total sugars, 4 grams protein, 70 mg cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber/ Diabetic exchanges: 1 starch, 2 carbs, 3 1/2 fat.

Mini Ice Cream Cakes

2 pints ice cream

Cooking spray

1 loaf pound cake (see recipe notes)

12 chocolate wafer cookies (optional)

8 ounces chocolate chips*

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons sprinkles

Let the ice cream sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make sure there is enough room in the freezer for a standard 12-cup muffin tin to sit flat. Spray the wells of the muffin tin with cooking spray. Cut 12 (5-inch) squares of plastic wrap and line each well with a square (the cooking spray helps the plastic wrap stick to the sides).

Cut the pound cake lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide planks. Use a 2 1/4-inch-wide round cookie or biscuit cutter and cut out 12 rounds of pound cake. Place a cake round in each muffin well. (If you don't have a cutter, see notes below.)

Spoon ice cream from the first pint (about 2 scant tablespoons per well) over the pound cake and spread into an even layer (you will not use all of it).

If using, place a chocolate wafer in each well on top of the ice cream (don't worry if the cookies break).

Spoon ice cream from the second pint over the first layer of ice cream or wafers and spread into an even layer. Place the muffin tin in the freezer and freeze until solid, at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve, make the topping: Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on the low setting in 30-second bursts, stirring between bursts, until just melted and smooth. (Alternatively, melt on the stovetop.) If the mixture is very hot, let cool, stirring occasionally, until about body temperature.

Grasping the plastic wrap, remove an ice cream cake from the pan. Remove and discard the plastic wrap and place the ice cream cake on a serving plate cake-side up. Spoon the chocolate topping over the top of the cake to completely cover, letting excess drip down the sides. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of sprinkles. Repeat with the remaining cakes. (Work with only a few cakes at a time since the topping hardens quickly.) Serve immediately. Makes 12 ice cream cakes.

*If you don’t want to make a hard shell for the cakes at home, you can buy the product at the supermarket, or invent your own topping.

Pound cake: For this recipe, a 10.75-ounce package of frozen Sara Lee pound cake was thawed in the refrigerator. The pound cake slices more cleanly when it's cold.

Cutting the pound cake: If you don't have a round cutter, don't worry. Just cut the pound cake into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut each slice into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Trimming the strips as needed, line the muffin tins with a single layer of the pound cake, packing the pieces as close together as possible so that there are no gaps.

Make ahead: The ice cream cakes can be assembled and finished with the chocolate coating up to a month ahead. After the chocolate has hardened, immediately store the cakes chocolate-side up in a single layer in a hard-sided container in the freezer.

Christine Gallary, thekitchn.com

An easy recipe for making ice cream in a bag.

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