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Frozen Desserts

August 27, 1987|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

I was a brand new bride who couldn't cook when I discovered frozen desserts.

I'd been working as a free-lance artist and full-time clerk in the home economics department office at Cornell University during the '50s while my husband was stationed at an Air Force base nearby.

One of my jobs was to illustrate booklets of recipes and instructions for student use. One day, there were the frozen desserts. Dozens of recipes for them. My, they sounded good. Frozen Chocolate Wafer Delight. Frosty Strawberry Roll. Do-Ahead Lemon Freeze.

A dessert you could do ahead and forget until you needed it? A dessert that didn't give you the heebie-jeebies whenever you entertained? A dessert that didn't cost an arm and leg on a meager airman family's budget? A dessert you didn't have to cook?

I was in seventh heaven.

In those days refrigerators came with only enough space on top to cram two ice cube trays, but that didn't stop the freezer dessert craze. Everyone was doing freezer desserts. Even those who, like me, couldn't cook. Food companies capitalizing on the craze printed freezer dessert recipes on packages of their products. Homemakers, 66.1% of the female population who stayed home in 1950, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, were exchanging recipes at kaffeeklatsches and club meetings. Newspapers were featuring them left and right.

I certainly took to freezer desserts. I not only illustrated them with the extra flourish they suggested, but made them when I got home, too. Our tiny freezer compartment was jam-packed not with ice cubes and the obligatory pound of hamburger meat, which was about the only thing I knew how to cook, but with Lemon Freeze. Joyful Raspberry Royale. Things like that.

Well, here I am again, face to face with freezer desserts, after they'd been put in deep-freeze for a couple of decades out of sheer, shameless neglect. They were dropped like a hot potato. Passed over for the newest craze--31 flavors, I think it was. Freezer desserts simply drifted away to the big icicle in the sky never to return--until now.

Now everybody's doing them again. Lemon Freeze is back with a vengeance. So is Chocolate Wafer Delight.

They're back because, for some strange and hard-to-figure reason, the '50s are back in style. Besides, freezer desserts work. They work very well for the work-away-from-home bunch, who today have reversed the stay-at-home population of the '50s. In 1985 54.4% of workers were women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This bunch, especially those who entertain spontaneously but don't want to bother cooking at the last minute, will love them. You just do them a day, week, or month in advance and you have a dessert to bring out any time. Best of all, you still can be a no-cook cook and get away with it.

We've dug out a few favorite '50s frozen desserts for your amusement and use. They're good and pretty, too.

The Old-Fashioned Wafer Roll made with wafers and pudding mix is an ideal freezer dessert you can make and forget until needed. A similar recipe, by the way, is printed on a chocolate wafer box today. The Nabisco people featured a similar dessert recipe in the '50s, and it's still printed on the company's box of chocolate wafers. The Nabisco people won't swear to it, but they think it was they who developed the first recipe for the roll because the dessert is associated only with chocolate wafers, and Nabisco was one of the few making them at the time. The roll is pretty when cut to reveal the striped pattern, created by stacking the cookies with cream and cutting them horizontally. The roll is frozen, but the moisture of the cookies keeps the texture soft enough to put a fork through it easily. Using dessert whip won't work as well as whipped cream for reasons unknown to the Nabisco people.

Lemon Crumb Dessert

Then we have another '50s favorite--Lemon Freeze, a frozen lemon crumb dessert made with a crumbled homemade cookie crust and lemon custard filling. It was originally a refrigerator dessert called lemon fluff and also was one of those desserts printed on a wafer cookie box for years.

We have also added variations on freezer dessert themes, with recipes such as cantaloupe shells filled with cantaloupe cream, which you can slice as you would fresh cantaloupe into any size desired, from a tiny sliver to a big, fat wedge. It makes a lovely surprise dessert and a refreshing one, too--and it's easy to make.

Another variation on a theme is a frozen dessert made with molded ice cream stars, which also decorate a plate. Any size gelatin molds can be used. The raspberry puree piped on the plate to resemble shooting stars is part of the dessert, to be dished up as the sauce for the stars. It's slightly crazy but fun. That's an easy one, too.

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