Usually found playing second fiddle as an accompaniment or garnish, whipped cream has an incomparable texture and flavor that make it a great - if often overlooked - basis for dessert. In fact, the cream requires little more than gentle sweetening, a meeting with a beater, and a complementary ingredient or two, so whipped cream-based desserts also qualify as being genuinely easy to make. The oven need not even rouse from its slumber. Take that brownies, cookies, and cake!
VEILED COUNTRY LASS
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs, preferably homemade or panko
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 cups chunky applesauce
1/3, cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the cinnamon; stir to coat the crumbs evenly with butter. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are dark brown, crisp, and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool the crumbs to room temperature.
When ready to serve, with an electric mixer (or a whisk), beat the cream until it begins to thicken and beaters leave a trail. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until the cream is thick, nearly doubled in volume, and forms medium-firm peaks. To assemble desserts, spoon about 1/4 cup of applesauce into each of 4 serving glasses, then about 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon crumbs over the applesauce, spreading the crumbs into an even layer. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the whipped cream over the crumbs, spreading the whipped cream into an even layer. Repeat the layering, using up the remaining ingredients, but in this order: crumbs, applesauce, then whipped cream. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, and serve at once.
FOOLISH RHUBARB-CARDAMOM PARFAITS
This is a riff on fool, a classic English mixture of fruit puree - usually berries - and whipped cream. When we worked together at Cook's Illustrated, my friend Raquel Pelzel showed me that layering the fruit and cream rather than combining them gives each a stronger voice in the dessert.
3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, tough strings removed, and stalks cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons grated zest and
2 tablespoons juice from 1 large orange
7 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup heavy cream, cold
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring rhubarb, orange zest and juice, and 6 tablespoons of sugar to a strong simmer. Reduce heat and simmer gently, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar dissolves and rhubarb begins to break down, about 6 minutes. Off heat, mash any large rhubarb chunks against the walls of the pan, add vanilla, cardamom, and a pinch of salt, stir to combine, transfer the mixture to a medium nonreactive bowl, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once the rhubarb mixture has cooled, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, with an electric mixer (or a whisk), beat the cream until it begins to thicken and beaters leave a trail. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until the cream is thick, nearly doubled in volume, and forms medium-firm peaks. To assemble parfaits, spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of the rhubarb mixture into each of 4 serving glasses, then spoon about 1/4 cup of the whipped cream over the rhubarb. Repeat the layering, using up all of the ingredients and finishing with a dollop of cream. Serve at once, or cover very loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 hour before serving.
ICEBOX WHIPPED CREAM AND WAFER ROLL
MAKES ONE 11- TO 12-INCH ROLL
This is an adaptation of the recipe printed on the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers box. Experimentation proved that Nabisco wafers really are the best cookie for the job, but Anna's Thins also showed respectably. Anna's come in a variety of flavors and are widely available in supermarkets. They are a bit thinner than Famous Wafers, so shave about an hour off the refrigerator time.
Match the jam flavor to the cookie flavor; with chocolate cookies, I like raspberry or cherry jam or orange marmalade. Inevitably, some of the wafers in a package will be broken; you can crush them into fine crumbs to sprinkle over the cake as a garnish just before serving.
1 3/4 cups heavy cream, cold
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
36 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers or Anna's Thins from 1 package
5 to 6 tablespoons jam, flavor of your choice
With an electric mixer (or a whisk), beat the cream until it begins to thicken and beaters leave a trail. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the cream is thick, nearly doubled in volume, and forms medium-firm peaks.
Working gently (the wafers are fragile), spread about 1/2 teaspoon of jam on each wafer. Dab about 2 teaspoons of whipped cream on each jam-spread wafer and make 6 stacks 6 wafers high. Turn a stack on its side and place it on a serving platter; carefully add the remaining stacks in a row, pressing them together gently as you go, to form a loaf. With a long, thin spatula, frost the sides and top of the roll evenly with the remaining whipped cream.
Cover the roll loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 6 hours (but no less than 4 hours). Remove the plastic, smooth the whipped-cream frosting, if necessary, and garnish with cookie crumbs, if desired. To serve, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut the roll diagonally into inch-thick slices.
Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at firstname.lastname@example.org.