Tonawanda News

May 12, 2013

Bakers, keep you kitchens cool this summer with these slow-cooked treats

By Jonnie Downing lifestyle@gnnewspaper.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — We all have busy lives. Between working, taking care of our families, or simply taking care of ourselves by making sure we put balanced meals on the table, it’s hard to plan a dessert that is easy to make, requires little cleanup and can complement more than one meal. That’s where the slow cooker comes in.

Here I’ve compiled some delicious slow-cooker dessert recipes, many from my blog Crockpot Ninja — CrockpotNinja.com — that will satisfy the sweet tooth and be a hit with families, coworkers, and neighbors. Most of the recipes make several servings and keep very well in the refrigerator, so one dessert can last for several days — eliminating the need to rush out for a pint of ice cream, a frozen pie or some other store-bought confection.

The recipes below are from my new book “Slow Cooker Desserts,” which includes slow cooker recipes for fruit desserts, puddings, brownies, cakes and cobblers. Whatever your hankering, there’s a recipe here to satisfy and delight. All of the recipes have been tested, tasted and approved — and are easy to make in your slow cooker. Desserts generally taste best and make the most attractive presentation when fresh ingredients are used.

Sometimes, however, time is limited, so I’ve offered alternatives where possible. There is an “Emergency Desserts” chapter, including the recipe below for German chocolate cake, for when you need to just throw something in the slow cooker and go.  

Equipment

Slow cookers come in different sizes and shapes. You can find them from 4-quart to 8-quart capacity, either round or oval. All of the recipes in this book were tested in a 6-quart round slow cooker.

Corningware or other baking dish

Sometimes recipes call for these when a cake or pudding requires a water bath in order to remain moist. A 5- to 7-inch dish should fit in the 6-quart slow cooker.

Trivet

A springform pan or baking dish sometimes needs to be elevated above the bottom of the slow cooker. A good heatproof trivet or wire rack should do the trick.

Ramekins

For individual dessert servings, you can’t beat ramekins. Four standard 3-inch ramekins will fit into a 6-quart slow cooker.

A word about cooking times

While cooking times will be similar for most slow cookers, it’s good to check in on recipes from time to time to make sure your desserts aren’t being overcooked.

German chocolate upside-down cake

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup water

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup toasted sweetened shredded coconut, divided

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup light sour cream

1/3 cup applesauce

1 box German chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Coat the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray. Turn the slow cooker on high.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the water. Stir in the brown sugar until smooth. Pour into the slow cooker and sprinkle with half of the coconut.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy, then beat in the buttermilk, sour cream and applesauce. Add the cake mix and beat on low for 30 seconds to combine, then beat on high for 2 more minutes. Pour into the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 4 ½ to 5 hours, then remove the lid and cook for 30 minutes longer. Turn off the slow cooker and let the cake cool in the slow cooker for 30 minutes with the lid removed. Then turn out the cake onto a serving plate and top with the remaining coconut and the pecans, if using. Let cool completely before serving. Serves 10.

Traditional flan

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, divided

3 large eggs

½ (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 ½ cups whole milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat and then pour in 1 cup sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar melts and browns. Remove from the heat and spoon 3 tablespoons liquid caramel into each of 4 ramekins. Gently rotate the ramekins until the caramel coats the sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the condensed and whole milk, the remaining ¼ cup sugar and the vanilla, whisking to mix thoroughly. To produce an extra-smooth flan, strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh wire strainer. Pour over the caramel in the ramekins.

Set four ramekins in the slow cooker. Carefully pour in hot water to surround them, but not enough that any will get into the ramekins. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Carefully lift out the flans and let them cool on trivets or a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin and flip the chilled flans upside down onto individual serving plates.

Mini berry cobblers

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, divided

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup reduced-fat (2 percent) milk

2 cups fresh berries (I prefer blackberries and raspberries)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup hot water

In a bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and milk.

Mix thoroughly to make a smooth batter.

Coat the insides of 4 (3-inch) ramekins with cooking spray. Divide the berries among four ramekins, sprinkle them with the cinnamon and cover with the batter. Place a trivet in your slow cooker and set the ramekins on the trivet. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ¼ cup sugar and the water; pour over the cobblers. Cover again and cook on low for another 3 hours.

Chocolate lava cake

4 ounces bittersweet baking bar, chopped into ½-inch pieces, divided

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1/3 cup unsalted butter

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 large whole egg

2 large egg yolks

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Using a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over simmering, not boiling, water, melt 1 ½ ounces chocolate and combine with the cream. Whisk the mixture gently until blended.

Refrigerate for about 2 hours. Once it’s firm, form four balls out of it.

Spray four ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. 

Melt the remaining 2½ ounces chocolate in a double boiler (like above) with the butter.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the flour, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and sugar on high for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is nice and creamy. Fold the chocolate-butter mixture into the egg-vanilla mixture until it’s just combined — not mixing too much. Put the cake batter into the ramekins and drop one of your refrigerated balls of chocolate in the center.

Line your slow cooker with foil and place four ramekins down inside. Pour hot water around them until the water comes halfway up the side. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, until the cake is done. You’ll be able to tell if a toothpick, inserted into the cake BESIDE the place where you put the chocolate ball, comes out clean.

Keep in mind that the cakes do have a gooey center, so if the toothpick trick doesn’t work, press down lightly on the spongy rim of the cake. If it bounces back at your touch, odds are it is ready.

Lift the ramekins out of the slow cooker by gripping the ends of the aluminum foil and let cool a few minutes before inverting onto a plate. Serve warm.