Let's face it: Dessert just won't go away. No dire warning about excess calories or sighting of the latest model-waif can compete with its allure. At the end of the day, the long-term fantasy of a sleek body and the longing for immortality are rarely as compelling as the immediate gratification supplied by, say, a double-fudge brownie.
Why is that? Well, there is, in fact, a physiological component in the human desire for sweet tastes: We actually have an inborn preference for them.
And in American culture, the act of eating is ominously freighted with moralism. Prepared sweet treats hold the dubious distinction of being the primary target of the bulk of this dietary condemnation. Think about it: How often is a dessert a "temptation"? Is there a sweet indulgence remaining that isn't labeled as "decadent," "sinful" or "wicked"?
What to do, then, to reach and maintain a healthy weight while not denying ourselves the pleasure of our deeply rooted cravings? First of all, it's probably wise to accept the fact that eating has primal associations for humans that far outstrip the function of merely fueling the body. And the aesthetically challenged diet fare of yesterday -- epitomized by the canned pear half topped with a maraschino cherry -- doesn't cut it anymore.
But there is a way to control the fat and calories while staying in touch with the essential gratification that food can bring. The recipes below are delicious and satisfying, and have 200 calories or less.
Makes 6 servings
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for preparing dishes
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup low-fat milk
5 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
confectioners' sugar for dusting
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil six 6-ounce ( 3/4 -cup) souffle dishes or ramekins or coat them with nonstick spray. Dust with sugar, turning to coat and tapping out the excess. Set aside.
Melt chocolate over barely simmering water or in the microwave. In a small bowl, dissolve espresso powder (or instant coffee) in vanilla. Sift cocoa, cornstarch and salt into a large bowl. Add banana, brown sugar and milk, whisking to blend. Add melted chocolate and coffee/vanilla mixture and blend well.
Place egg whites in a clean, grease-free mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat on low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar, raise the speed to medium and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and beat on medium-high until the whites hold stiff, but not dry, peaks.
Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Gently but quickly, fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula. Spoon into the prepared souffle dishes or ramekins.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until souffles are well puffed and browned, but still jiggle slightly when shaken. Remove from oven and sift confectioners' sugar over the top. Serve immediately.
195 calories per serving: 5 grams protein, 3 grams fat (0.2 gram saturated fat), 39 grams carbohydrate; 145 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1 gram fiber
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 large egg white
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups water
4 almond-flavored herbal tea bags
5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 firm Bosc pears
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat it with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, mix together sugar and orange zest; set aside.
In another bowl, whisk egg white until frothy; add almonds and toss to coat thoroughly. Drain almonds in a sieve, then toss with sugar/zest mixture.
Spread coated almonds on prepared baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Stir well, spread almonds again and bake 5 minutes. Stir again and bake until toasted and crisp, about 2 minutes more. Loosen almonds from baking sheet with a spatula; set aside.
Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Let steep for 10 minutes. Squeeze out the tea bags, letting the liquid drip into the pan, then discard bags. Stir brown sugar, orange juice and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into tea; set aside.
Peel pears, halve lengthwise and cut out core. Toss with the remaining 3 teaspoons lemon juice. Place pear halves, cut-side down, in 4 individual gratin dishes and put the dishes on a baking sheet. Spoon tea mixture over and around pears.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until pears are tender, basting from time to time. Sprinkle reserved sugared almonds over pears. Serve immediately.
200 calories per serving: 4 grams protein, 8 grams fat (0.7 gram saturated fat), 32 grams carbohydrate; 20 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 3 grams fiber.
Pub Date: 1/12/97