Dessert generally isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about cooking outdoors. But pastry chef Carissa Jones thinks a grilled dessert is a beautiful thing, especially during Sacramento’s scorching summers. “In summertime, the last thing you want to do is add heat to the house,” she says. So after she cooks her main course on the grill, Jones takes advantage of the residual heat to toast pound cake. It’s a great way to caramelize sugars and add flavor, she says.
The most popular grilled dessert, of course, is the s’more, the campfire concoction that features a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers. For an elevated take on the s’more, Jones makes marshmallows from scratch (“they beat the pants off any store-bought ones,” she says), then makes toasted marshmallow panna cotta with graham streusel and chocolate ganache. “It’s all the textures and flavors of a s’more but in a very unexpected way,” explains Jones, who recently left the restaurant industry to teach a culinary program inside Sacramento County Juvenile Hall.
For a simpler preparation, she grills fruit. “Grilled fruit satisfies the desire for a sweet bite at the end of the meal, and it’s super quick and tasty,” she explains. Figs and pears are excellent candidates for the grill. “A lot of people think of pears as a fall fruit, but the Courtland Pear Fair is in July. And a nice, bright, juicy pear is a beautiful thing,” Jones says. You can top a grilled pear half with crumbled blue cheese and a drizzle of honey for a standout first course or dessert.
But her favorite summer fruits for grilling are stone fruits such as peaches, plums and apricots. To accompany the fruit, she offers up a “no-fail recipe” for vanilla ice cream. If you really want to get fancy, she says, try infusing the sweetened condensed milk in the recipe with your favorite breakfast cereal. Cap’n Crunch, anyone?
Grilled Stone Fruit and No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream
Grilling peaches, plums or apricots is a great way to make use of the leftover coals from making dinner, says pastry chef Carissa Jones. She pairs the fruit with an easy, no-churn vanilla ice cream—no special equipment required! Serves 4
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
2 cups heavy cream
4 peaches, plums or apricots, halved and pitted
½ cup Amaretto
To make ice cream:
In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.
In a separate large bowl, whip cream to firm peaks.
Whisk half of whipped cream into milk-vanilla mixture. Fold remaining half of whipped cream into mixture. To ensure ice cream is light and fluffy, be careful not to overmix.
Transfer mixture into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours, whisking to combine halfway through.
To make grilled fruit:
Place fruit halves in a bowl and toss with Amaretto. Set aside.
Prepare grill by cleaning and oiling grates. Grill fruit halves over medium heat, turning once, until lightly charred and tender, about 3 minutes per side.
Remove fruit from grill and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.