Each of these desserts are so quick that you can pull them together in less than an hour and cook dinner at the same time. They're all oh-shoot-we-have-company desserts - pretty, elegant, but unpretentious and easy.
Most involve fruit and good presentation. If you keep a set of little ramekins around all you have to do is put a scoop of warm, homemade pudding in each, add a dollop of whipped cream and presto - you've made your guests very happy.
- Fresh berries macerated in wine or liquor with whipped cream This is the most basic theme for spring desserts, and there are many variations. Macerate fresh strawberries or blueberries with a little Kirsch, brandy, or rum; add some sugar or chopped mint. Serve with whipped cream, or make biscuits and serve strawberry shortcake.
- Homemade vanilla or lemon pudding Homemade cornstarch-based pudding is very quick and lacks the unmistakable from-a-box aftertaste of the packaged stuff. Here's our recipe; it takes about 15 minutes from beginning to end.
- Pears roasted with cream cheese or lemon Stilton A twist on the roasted fruit concept. Try our pears with cream cheese mashed with lemon zest, or the lovely Lemon Stilton.
- Jam galette or crostata Let's say you don't even have fruit in the house, and there's no time to buy any. You need a fast dessert with cupboard-only staples. Hopefully you have a good jar of jam around, because you can make our biscuit-crust galette and smear with jam and sprinkle with almonds for a light, quick treat. Try making them individually for an even nicer presentation. • Apricot and Biscuit Crostata - Substitute jam, Nutella, powdered sugar and nuts, or whatever else you've got.
- Baked fruit crumble or crisp All you need is a good recipe for crumble or streusel. Cut up fruit, dot with butter and sugar, and top with streusel and bake. Try this recipe from Bon Appetit: • Nutmeg-Walnut Streusel
- Pain au chocolat This one is simple and sublime. Take slices of good French bread, toast slightly and smear with good chocolate. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with chunky sea salt. • Toasted and Bread and Chocolate at Fine Cooking
- Vanilla ice cream with a homemade hot fudge and a sprig of mint Storebought ice cream gets a homemade twist if you make the topping. Here's our ten-minute recipe: • DIY Hot Fudge Sauce
- Greek yogurt with stewed cherries Cherry season is just beginning, and oh how good this looks! Just a bit of thick, creamy Greek yogurt and home-stewed syrup and fruit. This could all be done ahead of time - no sweat. We found the recipe and idea here: • Cherries, Cherries, Cherries: Cherry Syrup at What Did You Eat
- Apple sauce or rhubarb puree with a meringue top We have always thought this recipe from Orangette was brilliant. Take any stewed fruit - applesauce, rhubarb, berries - and cap with a bit of meringue and bake until it's a crispy shell. Warm, crisp, and homey. • Vanilla Applesauce with a Crunchy Meringue Cap at Orangette
• Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake
• DIY Pudding
• Also see this Cardamom Pudding with Mango.
• Roasted Pears with Lemon Stilton, Walnuts and Honey
(Images: Faith Hopler; James Carrier for Sunset; Faith Hopler; Blueberry Galette by Flickr member fille_de_photo, licensed under Creative Commons; Mark Thomas for Bon Appetit; Scott Phillips for Fine Cooking; Faith Hopler; What Did You Eat?; Molly Wizenberg of Orangette)