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GOOD COOKING

Summer Fruits : Two Serious Desserts

June 29, 1995|ABBY MANDEL

No matter what people say, even in the summertime, dessert is the highlight of any meal. I'm talking about serious summer desserts--more than just bowls of fresh fruit or berries (although I always place them on the table for their abundant effect and for those who are watching their sugar or fat).

The following desserts are special without being overly fussy or time-consuming. To their advantage, they can be either completely prepared in advance or quickly assembled at dessert time.

LIGHTLY GINGERED FRESH PEACH SHORTCAKE

Fresh peach shortcake is the quintessential summer dessert. Here, a tender shortcake dough is baked in a single cake; it's also lightly flavored with ginger, a great combination with peaches.

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SHORTCAKE

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Sugar

Salt

1/2 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces

2 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger root

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons molasses

1/4 cup buttermilk

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PEACHES

6 medium peaches, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch slices

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of peaches

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

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SHORTCAKE

* Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, butter and ginger in food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse processor until butter is cut into small lumps. Add 1 egg, molasses and buttermilk. Pulse just until dough clumps together. (Alternatively, combine butter, dry ingredients and ginger root in mixing bowl. Use 2 knives or pastry blender to cut mixture until butter is in small, lumps. Beat egg and add to mixture along with molasses and buttermilk. Stir with fork until dough clumps together.)

* Put dough on well-floured surface. Dough will be sticky. Use hands to compact together. Rotate to coat dough with flour. Knead dough about 10 times until smooth, by folding and pressing back on itself with medium pressure. Pat in uniform thickness into greased 8-inch layer cake pan. Make glaze by beating 1 egg with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lightly brush surface with beaten egg glaze. Do not let glaze drip down sides. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over.

* Bake at 425 degrees until browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool in pan 20 minutes. Gently invert and set on cooling rack, sugared surface up. Cool at least 1 hour. Shortcake is best served day made.

*

PEACHES

* Combine peaches, lemon juice, sugar and vanilla in 2-quart bowl. Gently toss with fingers. Chill at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours. Let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes so peaches are cold but not too chilled.

* To serve, barely warm shortcake on lowest setting in microwave oven or in 350-degree oven 5 minutes. Use serrated knife to slice shortcake in 2 layers, roughly 1/3 way down cake. Place thicker bottom layer on large serving platter, cut-side up. Spoon all but 1 cup of peaches and juice onto bottom layer. Place remaining shortcake layer on top. Spoon remaining peaches and juices over. Serve immediately. Cut into wedges.

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Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 6 servings contains about:

437 calories; 627 mg sodium; 113 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 65 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.68 gram fiber.

TOFFEE CRUNCH ICE CREAM PIE

1/2 pound fresh pound cake, cut into 1/4-inch wide slices

1 pint dark chocolate ice cream

1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped toffee

1 pint coffee ice cream

6 large egg whites, room temperature

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Dash salt

1 cup sugar

Hot fudge sauce, optional

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This is a winner of an ice cream dessert. You can combine any ice cream flavors you like, as well as low-fat (even fat-free) ice cream or frozen yogurt. For a cholesterol-free version, use angel cake and sorbets.

Line bottom and sides of 9-inch metal or glass pie plate with pound cake layers. Cut slices as necessary to fit so there are no gaps. Gently press cake seams together. Press slices firmly against bottom and sides of pan. Trim edge to rim of pie plate.

Let chocolate ice cream soften slightly at room temperature. Put in bowl. Use wooden spoon to mix until uniformly smooth but not runny. Fill pie shell, spreading evenly. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.

Sprinkle toffee evenly over surface. Gently press into place. Put back into freezer.

Soften and mix coffee ice cream as chocolate. Spread coffee ice cream over toffee, smoothing into slight dome. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours. Can be frozen up to 1 week, covered airtight.

To finish, use electric mixer to beat egg whites at low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add sugar, 1 tablespoon at time, until mixture is stiff, shiny and perfectly smooth when you rub it between your fingers.

Use spatula to spread 1/2-inch layer of meringue over frozen ice cream, extending it to crust. Be sure to cover all ice cream. Use large pastry bag fitted with rosette tip to pipe remaining meringue over pie. Alternatively, use spatula to spread and shape remaining meringue into swirls.

Bake at 475 degrees until meringue is lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately return to freezer several hours or overnight until completely chilled.

To serve, remove from freezer to soften slightly, about 5 minutes in hot weather. Place pie plate on large platter. Secure in place with double layer of damp paper towels under pie plate. Decorate edges of platter with leaves and few blossoms. Use sharp knife to cut into wedges. Spoon some hot fudge sauce onto plate. Use cake server to remove wedge from plate and center on plate. Serve immediately. Pass more sauce separately.

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Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Each of 8 servings, without hot fudge sauce, contains about:

550 calories; 290 mg sodium; 171 mg cholesterol; 24 grams fat; 73 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 0.53 gram fiber.

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