Fruit pies, ice cream, and fresh berry salads are summer staples, and you’ll never catch us turning any of those down. But even in the summer, the occasion may arise where you want to crank it up a notch. Whether it’s a bridal shower, anniversary party, or late-night after-party, a dessert buffet can be a fun, easy way to mark a special occasion.
Preparing a dessert buffet The Culinary Institute of America way requires less work than you might think. With just a little advance planning (and an empty freezer), you can wow your guests with an array of sweet treats and eye-popping details.
Since the summer heat can present a special challenge when serving frozen or chilled desserts, we’ve created a clever way to keep your desserts cold without the eyesore of an ugly ice bath. Decorative ice bowls studded with garnish-like vibrant fruit slices or edible flowers are show stopping centerpieces that are as functional as they are elegant.
To create these bowls, just choose two metal bowls (glass and plastic may crack as the water freezes), one of which is smaller than the other. Fill the larger bowl with water and place the second bowl inside of it. Using masking tape, tape an “X” over the top of the two bowls, to hold the smaller bowl in place. Freeze for at least 24 hours, or until the water is frozen solid. Run the bowl (not the ice) under warm water or wrap in a warm towel to release the ice from the bowls.
Depending on the items you are serving, you can either use the ice bowls in place of an ice bath, setting a serving bowl inside of the hollowed opening. Or, you can use the ice itself as a serving bowl for items that won’t suffer from direct exposure to the ice. You can even make a container in an ice bucket or tall pitcher to hold milk or creamer for your coffee service.
Now that you have the bowls, you need to think about what goes in them. CIA baking and pastry instructor Chef Didier Berlioz says a dessert buffet menu should have choices for everyone, from serious chocoholics to people who prefer lighter, fruitier desserts. And remember that the summer heat begs for cool and refreshing flavours and ingredients. Balance a creamy frozen souffle (like homemade ice cream, without the ice cream machine!) with the tart, bright flavours of a fresh citrus salad.
You may worry about the ice bowls leaking on your beautifully set table. But have no fear. Sure, they’ll melt eventually (science, after all), but with a plate underneath to contain the dripping, you’ve got more than enough time. After all, how long can you keep a table full of delicious desserts full?
FROZEN GRAND MARNIER SOUFFLE
Start to finish: 12 hours 40 minutes (Active: 40 minutes)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur
Zest from 1/4 orange
Prepare eight 3-inch ramekins or two 6-inch bowls (see note). Cut one strip of parchment paper per serving dish that is long enough to wrap around the entire diameter of the dish and wide enough to extend about 1 inch above the rim. Wrap the paper around the outside rim of the dish, creating a “collar” that extends over the top of the bowl. Tightly secure the collar to the dish with tape. Transfer to the freezer to chill while you prepare the souffle.
Whip the cream by hand or with an electric mixer, just until soft peaks form. Refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, liqueur, and orange zest. Place the bowl over a gently simmering hot water bath and, whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar granules have dissolved fully, about 4 minutes.
Using the whip attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy and has cooled completely, about 4 minutes.
Gently pour the whipped cream over the beaten egg mixture and gently fold to combine. Evenly divide the mixture among your serving dishes, adding enough so that it extends over the rim of the bowl against the paper collar.
Transfer to the freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours, or overnight. Remove the paper collar before serving the souffles. If serving family style, serve one bowl at a time, since the mixture will soften quickly.
Chef’s Note: In this recipe, the serving dishes are prepared so that the finished product has the appearance of a traditional souffle, where the sides of the dessert raise above the rim of the dish. You can skip this step, if you like, and serve the mixture in any bowl.
The souffle can be prepared in individual portions or in larger, “family-style” serving dishes. The shape and depth of your bowl will affect how much of the souffle mixture to use. It may be helpful to have a spare bowl prepared with a collar, in case of any leftover mixture.
1 Cara Cara orange
1 navel orange
1 blood orange
1 pink grapefruit
1 Meyer lemon
2 tablespoons sparkling wine (optional)
10 1/4-inch strips candied orange peel
Cut off the base and top of each fruit until you can see the colored flesh. Stand the fruit up on its flat end and use a knife to slice downward, removing the skin and white pith. Work your way around the fruit, rotating as you go, until no skin or pith remains. Carefully slice the fruit, between the membranes, to cut out each segment and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Squeeze any remaining juice from the membranes into the bowl of segments.
Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Stir in sparkling wine, if using, and top with candied orange peel just before serving.
Chef’s Note: Use any of your favourite citrus varieties in this salad. You can make your own candied orange peel or purchase it at a specialty shop or online.
2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large stainless steel bowl) in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Add the cream, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl and whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute
Remove from the mixer. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until use. If the cream has softened, gently whisk by hand to bring it back together before serving.
Nutrition information per serving of souffle: 298 calories; 190 calories from fat; 21 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 261 mg cholesterol; 54 mg sodium; 21 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 20 g sugar; 5 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of salad: 66 calories; 1 calorie from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 0 mg sodium; 16 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 1 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of cream: 215 calories; 200 calories from fat; 22 g fat (14 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 82 mg cholesterol; 23 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein.