For as long as I've known Faith Durand, she has been ever so slightly obsessed with no-bake — a.k.a. bakeless — desserts. There's her love of panna cotta, and her tendency to layer delicious things with whipped cream. Of course, we also have her no-bake strawberry icebox cake, which has become one of our top recipes here on The Kitchn.
Faith has now taken those years of playing with custards, fluffs, and other sweet stovetop creations, and she's put them into her latest book: Bakeless Sweets, which is being released today! So we thought we'd do an interview with Faith and get a peek into how she got hooked on these desserts, her favorite kitchen tools, and which recipes you should try first.
What is a bakeless sweet?
Bakeless sweets are any desserts that don't need the oven! So, pudding, panna cotta, fruit jellies, fluffs and whipped cream desserts like strawberry fool, no-bake cookies, and of course the ever-popular icebox cakes.
Was there a moment when you knew you were hooked on bakeless desserts?
When I was a kid, my mom used to make old-fashioned puddings and custards from scratch, and there was something that felt so special and pleasurable about it. I had a secret love for instant pistachio pudding, too — the green stuff! — although since then I've come to love the homemade version so much more.
I also remember making my mom's chocolate and vanilla icebox cake for some friends in college, and how they ate it in total silence; and how a neighborhood kid refused a glass of milk after eating one of her chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies, saying he "didn't want to wash the taste" out of his mouth. No-bake desserts were clearly the biggest crowd-pleasers in my mom's dessert repertoire.
But I think the moment I really knew that these were my own favorite desserts was when I learned how to make panna cotta, and I realized how dead easy it is. It's been my go-to dessert ever since.
While you were developing the recipes for Bakeless Sweets (all 125 of them!), what ended up being the most-used tool in your kitchen?
Whisks! Most puddings and creamy desserts call for a whisk at least once, and I am obsessed with whisks. My latest acquisition is an ingenious Joseph Joseph whisk that twists flat for storage.
Nutella Pudding with Hazelnut Brittle
What ingredients should we always have in our cupboard for whipping up an easy no-bake dessert?
You can make homemade pudding with just milk and cream (or half and half), sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Panna cotta can be made with any dairy, gelatin, and sugar.
What is your favorite recipe from Bakeless Sweets for a weeknight dessert?
Sour Cream Panna Cotta, with or without the Clementine Curd it's paired with in the book. The sour cream gives the pudding such a nice tang, and it takes literally 5 minutes to make and less than an hour to chill.
What is your favorite dinner party recipe from Bakeless Sweets?
Any of the icebox cakes! The showstopper of the book is the S'mores Icebox Cake (pictured above), which has layers of chocolate pudding and graham crackers, with little marshmallows torched and smoky in there too. Crazy good, and huge. It'll feed a party. I also love the Lemon Cream Icebox Cake (we'll give you the recipe for that tomorrow).
If someone has never picked up a whisk before and want to try making no-bake desserts, where should they start?
Definitely panna cotta. It's such an elegant dessert, and it sounds and looks intimidating, but that's so deceptive because it's such an easy thing to make. It doesn't require anything more than dissolving a little gelatin and and sugar in milk. You can even add fresh fruit juice to lighten it up. It's also so amenable to different dietary needs and preferences; it's always gluten-free, and it can be made vegetarian and dairy-free too.
One last question: Pudding skin — yes or no?
Ha! While writing this book I came to realize that so many people feel so strongly about pudding skin! Either they love it or just can't stand it. For me, it depends on the pudding. I like that thicker layer on top of chocolate puddings, but on vanilla or butterscotch puddings, no skin for me, thanks.
→ Bakeless Sweets is out TODAY, May 7! Find Faith's book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Bakeless Sweets: Pudding, Panna Cotta, Fluff, Icebox Cake & More No-Bake Desserts by Faith Durand
→ See more photos at the book's website: BakelessSweets.com
(Images: Jay Gullion; Faith Durand; Stacy Newgent for Stewart, Tabori & Chang)