During the lazy days of August, these desserts keep things cool

August 20, 2008|By Elinor Klivans | Elinor Klivans,Special to the Sun

Frozen desserts may not have any appeal in January, but in the dog days of August, they are exactly what we crave.

In addition to keeping their cool, frozen desserts turn down the heat in the kitchen, and can be made well in advance. In fact, they have to be made at least hours, and often days, in advance. The base of these ice-cream desserts is store-bought ice cream - that's a head start right there - and any other sauces or additions fall into the keep-it-simple category.

Granita is a simple and quickly made ice with a slushy, grainy consistency. It is made with sugar, water and either coffee, wine or fruit juice. The freezer, rather than a machine, is all that is needed to make this granita.

The granita mixture is chilled, then frozen to a slushy state. Stirring the mixture during the freezing process prevents it from becoming ice-block hard. Once the granita reaches the proper consistency, it is best if served at once. But, chunks of frozen granita can be stored for up to three days in the freezer and softened for about 15 minutes at room temperature to regain the desired soft consistency.

Granita is often served on its own, but this version layers espresso granita with whipped cream. It's like a frozen espresso sundae.

A banana split made with salted pecans and toffee sauce must be assembled at serving time, but the pecans and toffee sauce can be prepared ahead of time. The salted pecans can be cooled and sealed in a tightly covered container for up to a week. Toffee sauce can be cooled and refrigerated for up to a week, then heated over low heat to warm it.

Ice-cream flavor choices can be whatever is available and what suits your tastes. For banana splits, using three flavors of ice cream is traditional; the choices can vary.

Ice-cream cakes are let-your-imagination-run-wild desserts. Think about combinations that appeal to you, and feel free to mix and match both flavors and mix-ins. Start with an ice-cream flavor or two or three. Then add a sauce or crunchy addition that goes well. Pieces of brownies or chocolate-covered candies work well with ice-cream cakes. The Milk Chocolate Haystack Ice-Cream Loaf is layered with homemade milk-chocolate and toasted-coconut haystacks, and the Mint-Chocolate Chip Crunch Ice-Cream Cake is layered with a crunch made with crushed mint sandwich cookies mixed with chocolate coating.

A good-quality, rather than a premium, ice cream is the best choice to use. Premium ice creams are too rich for these over-the-top desserts. The new slow-churned ice creams work quite well and are a good way to save some calories.

When you're assembling an ice-cream cake, the ice cream should be just soft enough to scoop easily. If the ice cream needs softening, a good method is to put the ice cream in the refrigerator until it reaches the proper consistency. Depending on how hard the ice cream is, the process takes from 15 to 30 minutes.

If an ice-cream cake does not release easily from its pan, press a hot dish towel against the pan for 15 to 30 seconds. Any leftover ice-cream cake should be wrapped in plastic wrap and returned to the freezer promptly before any melting occurs. Each of these ice-cream desserts has flavor suggestions, but feel free to mix and match your favorite combinations. To cut an ice-cream loaf or cake easily, let it sit for about five minutes at room temperature to soften slightly.


Find an ice-cream loaf recipe at

Salted Pecan Banana Splits With Warm Toffee Sauce

Makes 6 servings


1 cup pecan halves

1 tablespoon butter,


1/2 teaspoon salt


1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 pint chocolate ice cream

1 pint strawberry ice cream

1 pint banana or banana-walnut ice cream

6 bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise

Have ready 6 shallow dishes; oblong or oval shapes work best. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the pecans: In a small bowl, stir the pecans, butter and salt together. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, stirring once. The pecans will be toasted and the salt will cling to the nuts. Cool.

For the sauce: Heat the cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Put a scoop each of chocolate, strawberry and banana ice cream in each dish.

Place 2 banana halves along the sides of the ice cream. Spoon warm toffee sauce over the ice cream. Sprinkle pecans over the sauce and serve.

Elinor Klivans

Per serving: 874 calories, 9 grams protein, 50 grams fat, 24 grams saturated fat, 103 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 130 milligrams cholesterol, 304 milligrams sodium

Espresso-and-Cream Granita

Makes 6 servings

3 cups hot espresso

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

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