With summer in full swing, I prefer to keep my oven usage to a minimum—and, on the hottest days, even turning a burner on doesn't appeal. That may spell trouble for my long-term eating plans (though, with this collection of hearty salad recipes, I'll still be pretty well set), but it's no obstacle at all if I just want a refreshing dessert. No-cook, no-bake sweets tend to have a lighter nature that suits my appetite on a hot day, and they're often some of the easiest recipes around, too. To both placate your sweet tooth and keep you cool, we've got a fruit mousse that takes just minutes of your day (but is pretty enough to serve guests), eggless strawberry ice cream, and an airy chocolate cake that you can make in your microwave. Read on for those and 10 more summery treats, and get ready to start salivating.
Light and Easy 5-Minute Fruit Mousse
True, no-cook doesn't always mean easy, but this bright-pink dessert is just about as simple as they come. Combine frozen fruit, sugar, and egg whites in a food processor, and you'll have a velvety-smooth, fluffy, company-appropriate mousse in just a couple of minutes, literally. The mousse pictured here contains raspberries, but the recipe will work with just about any fruit you'd like. To fancy it up a little, serve it layered with fresh whipped cream.
Summer Strawberry Pie
A really good baked strawberry pie has a rich, jammy quality in its filling, but a no-bake pie has the advantage of giving you the brightest, freshest strawberry flavor. This recipe takes care of both: Its filling includes both a strawberry purée and sliced berries macerated in sugar, and is thickened with gelatin. (The latter does require a bit of microwaving—but hey, that's not really cooking!) It all goes into an easy graham cracker crust, then refrigerates until set.
Easy Icebox Strawberry Shortcake
This dessert is inspired by strawberry shortcake, but doesn't require baking any biscuits (not even the super-quick biscuits we use in our five-ingredient strawberry shortcake recipe). Combine fresh strawberries and orange juice in a food processor, then layer the berries with homemade whipped cream and graham crackers, and refrigerate overnight—just a few minutes of work, for a cool, tangy, and creamy treat the next day.
Mango Icebox Cake
This fun retro-style cake surrounds a light, airy fruit semifreddo, flavored with both fresh and dried mango and enriched by mascarpone, with Italian ladyfingers (savoiardi). A topping of flower-like curls of fresh mango provides an elegant garnish for this stunner of an icebox cake.
No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake
No-bake cheesecakes are a great alternative to the traditional egg-based variety. The filling here is a simple blend of cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, and confectioners' sugar, folded into whipped cream. Spread it over the three-ingredient graham cracker crust you've pressed into your pan, top the cake with a layer of warm apple jam and whole fresh berries, and chill it until it's time to dig in.
Apart from being a reliable sweet refresher, sorbet is also a breeze to make. This recipe requires just four ingredients—fresh strawberries, tart lemon juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt—and an ice cream maker. Because there's nothing to mask the flavor of those berries, make sure they're the best and sweetest you can find.
The Best Strawberry Ice Cream
In most ice cream recipes, an egg custard is responsible for adding richness and body to the finished dessert. But for better strawberry ice cream, we omit the eggs to avoid overpowering the fruit flavor, and replace them with corn syrup and half and half. The focus remains squarely on the berries, so we use only impeccably ripe, in-season ones, and keep the purée uncooked so its flavor is clean and undiluted.
30-Minute Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream
The strawberry ice cream recipe above was derived from this fast recipe for Philly-style ice cream, which is characterized by a light, fresh, fluffy nature due to its lack of eggs. Though it takes just 30 minutes to make, it's also quick to turn icy, so you'll probably want to eat it all the day you make it—which we doubt will pose much of a challenge.
No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake
For this rich and creamy no-bake chocolate cheesecake, the basic technique of beating together cream cheese and sugar is the same as for our strawberry cheesecake. But, for a double dose of flavor, we incorporate melted bittersweet chocolate into the filling and use chocolate wafer crumbs for the crust instead of graham crackers. Actually, make that a triple dose—we dust the cheesecake with cocoa powder for good measure.
No-Bake Chocolate-Nutella "Cheesecake" Verrines
Each of these cute, party-ready individual desserts is a mini chocolate cheesecake in a glass. We start with a crushed-Oreo crust as a base at the bottom of each glass, then layer on two different cheesecake fillings—one pure chocolate, its flavor deepened with cocoa powder, and one made with Nutella. Get as creative with the garnish as you'd like—we recommend homemade whipped cream and crushed Oreos or toasted hazelnuts.
Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie
If you love the interplay between sweet and salty flavors, this no-bake pie will more than satisfy. Its foundation is a crust of crushed pretzels and butter, which nicely offsets the sweet filling of vanilla ice cream and peanut butter. Top it with an extra layer of peanut butter in the center and crushed pretzels or salted peanuts, then freeze.
Better Than Snickers Milkshake
For a summer sweet that still feels like a real, hard-hitting dessert, there's not much better than a cool, chocolaty milkshake gliding down your throat. This one gets its flavor scheme from the ingredients in a Snickers bar: caramel, chocolate, and peanuts. Caramel ice cream forms the base, and the shake gets plenty of nutty flavor and crunchy texture from both peanut butter and chopped peanuts. And, to keep it from becoming too sugary, we use unsweetened cocoa powder for the chocolate element.
Microwave Rocky Road Sponge Cakes
Since we've established that punching a couple of numbers into your microwave doesn't really count as cooking, we can include this recipe in our list—and you'll be glad we did. The first microwave sponge cake recipe, developed by Albert Adrià (younger brother of Ferran Adrià), used a whipped cream dispenser to make incredibly light and fluffy cakes in a flash. But a whipped cream dispenser is a pretty esoteric gadget that most of us don't own. These cakes, instead, get their lightness from whipped egg whites. Toasting the walnuts in the microwave is quick and easy, and blending mini marshmallows into the batter provides leavening, for an especially buoyant crumb.
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