Cooking By Feel: What Are Your Best Fast Desserts?

As we talk about cooking without recipes and cooking by feel, one thing that tends to fall by the wayside is dessert. Cooking dinner without a recipe is simple; anyone can make a pot of pasta, toss with fresh garden herbs, olive oil, Parmesan, and lemon zest (as we did last night), and call it dinner. But when we think dessert we think complicated baking and finicky cakes - we think recipes.

Dessert - how do you whip that up quickly, without referring to a multi-step recipe? We actually think this is not only possible but often preferable. We went looking through Epicurious recipes to get some inspiration, and we're interested in your good ideas too...

There are two secret ingredients to nearly-instant desserts (and no, they are not instant pudding and packaged cookie dough).

Number one, good fruit. Number two, whipping cream.

Keep a bit of fresh fruit around and some fresh cream, and you can have a lovely dessert ready in literally no time. Spring is the ideal time for this too, since fresh berries with cream, a touch of sugar and perhaps a little mint are a treat of the purest kind.

If you want to go slightly more in-depth, here are two excellent fast recipes from Epicurious, both also involving fruit.

Pineapple, Honeydew, And Mango With Ginger And Fresh Herbs - Not too sweet, and different enough from an everyday fruit salad to be a little more sophisticated and right for dessert. Add a touch of ginger whipped cream and a dessert wine and it's fancy enough for a party!

Five-Minute Vanilla Ice Cream Pie With Warm Berry Compote - This recipe relies on another last-minute dessert staple: vanilla ice cream. Press into a homemade graham cracker crust, add warm berries and you have a special yet quick dessert.

These are also desserts that are not reliant on recipes. You can take sugar, fruit, and cream and toss for an instant and memorized treat. You can memorize a basic recipe for streusel, sprinkle it on a few sliced apples and bake for quick apple crumble. You can whip whipping cream until very stiff and fold with stewed fruit for an instant fruit fool - that classic British dessert.

What other quick, easy, nearly-instant homemade desserts do you like to make?

Related - More Cooking By Feel
Cooking By Feel: French Ingredients and Flavors
Asian Ingredients and Flavors
Italian Ingredients and Flavors
Latin American Ingredients and Flavors
Indian Ingredients and Flavors
Italian Template Recipe: Pasta, Meat, Greens and Cheese
Cooking Without Recipes

(Images: Craig Cutler and Victoria Pearson for Bon Appetit)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.