Warmer days are here, which means it’s time to start thinking about switching up your menus to match the brighter, longer days. Summer’s all about al fresco dining (if the weather permits) and keeping customers cool and refreshed with desserts that use the best seasonal fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and citrus fruits.
Desserts are a chance for chefs to really showcase their skills and bring some theatre to the end of a meal. But that said, they don’t need to be complicated. With a few flourishes, you can make show-stopping desserts that will really wow your guests. And if desserts aren’t really your hotspot, then at least make sure the freezer is stocked with a good selection of ice cream and sorbet, which you can jazz up with fruit, chocolate, and crushed biscuits or indulgent brownie pieces.
Here are five of our favourite recipes to inspire your dessert creativity.
Potted Strawberry and Cream Cheesecake
- 200g buttery biscuit (like shortbread or oat biscuits – try ginger biscuits for a bit of a kick)
- 200g full fat cream cheese
- 200ml double cream
- 6 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 500g strawberries, halved or quartered
- Fresh mint
- 8 jars / pots
- Smash the biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin or blend in a food processor, then divide between the jars.
- In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese, cream, 5 tablespoons of icing sugar, and the vanilla extract until softly whipped. Tip half the strawberries and the remaining sugar into another bowl and crush with a fork to a purée (or blend if you want it really smooth).
- Ripple the purée through the cream and divide between the jars. Top each cheesecake with the remaining strawberries and some fresh mint.
- Keep cool in the fridge until service – you could save a little biscuit crumb and add this to the top too for some crunch, or even a sprinkling of meringue – add just before service otherwise it will go soft in the fridge.
The pastry makes double because sometimes it’s good to have a little extra but either halve it or put the rest in the freezer for another time.
- 500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 140g icing sugar
- 250g unsalted butter, cubed
- 4 egg yolks
For the filling
- 5 eggs
- 140g caster sugar
- 150ml double cream
- Fresh lemon juice (about 100ml/3.5fl oz) and 2 tbsp lemon zest
- Fresh mint or basil
- To make the pastry, mix the flour and icing sugar in a bowl then rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly.
- Mix in the egg yolks.
- If the pastry is feeling a little dry, add 1-2 tbsp water until it comes together.
- Roll into a ball and divide in half (freeze one half).
- Flatten out the pastry with your hands, wrap the dough in cling film, then chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
- While the pastry is chilling, make the filling.
- Beat all the ingredients, except for the zest, together. Sieve the mixture, then stir in the zest.
- Take your pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin, then lift into a 23cm tart tin.
- Press down gently on the bottom and sides, then trim off any excess pastry.
- Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for 30 mins.
- Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3.
- Line the tart with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the tart tin from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 20 mins until biscuity.
- When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven, pour in the lemon mixture and bake again for 30-35 mins until just set.
- Leave to cool, then remove the tart from the tin and serve chilled with fresh, thick cream and some fresh herbs like basil or mint.
To really dial up this dessert, you could serve it with a basil sorbet or thin layer of basil jelly on the top!
Raspberry and Pistachio Semifreddo
- 400g raspberries + extra for topping
- 75g caster sugar
- 3 eggs, separated
- 400ml thickened cream
- 75g pistachios, chopped + extra for topping
- Place a 1.5L loaf tin in the freezer to chill.
- Place half the raspberries in a food processor and blitz until smooth.
- Press the raspberry puree through a sieve set over a bowl, discarding seeds then set aside.
- Place sugar and egg yolks in a mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk until pale and creamy.
- Transfer to a bowl and wipe the stand mixer clean for the next step.
- Place the cream in the mixer and whisk to soft peaks, then transfer to a separate bowl.
- Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk, then add your egg whites and a pinch of fine salt, and whisk to very firm peaks.
- Gently fold the whipped cream and the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture until just combined.
- Remove your loaf tin from the freezer and add half the semifreddo mixture.
- Spoon over half the raspberry sauce, rippling it through with the back of a spoon, then scatter with half the pistachios and half the remaining fresh raspberries.
- Repeat the layering process with the remaining semifreddo and raspberry sauce, then scatter with remaining pistachios and fresh raspberries. Freeze for 5 hours or overnight until firm.
- When ready to serve, remove semifreddo from the freezer and stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or until slightly softened.
- Scoop into bowls and serve immediately and top with extra pistachios and raspberries.
- If you want this in a log format, so you can cut slices, line your tin with cling film before placing the mixture inside, so you can lift it out then cut it to serve.
- 20 heads of elderflower, freshly picked
- 300g caster sugar
- 2 lemons, halved and juiced (reserve the halves)
- Pick only the elderflowers with clean, creamy white petals, snipping the stalk just before the flowers fan out.
- In a large pan, add the elderflowers, sugar, 550ml water, the lemon juice and the juiced halves of the lemons.
- Bring to a gentle simmer, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse (and the sugar to dissolve) for at least 1 hr or up to 5 hrs.
- Line a large sieve with muslin and set over a bowl or pan.
- Strain the mixture and discard the flower heads and lemons.
- Pour into a freezable container and freeze for 2-3 hrs until semi-frozen.
- Scrape the semi-frozen mixture into a food processor or blender and blitz to break down the lumps of ice – you may need to scrape down the sides a few times.
- Put the sorbet back in the container and freeze for another 1-2 hrs.
- Repeat this process another two or three times. The more times you blend the sorbet, the smoother it will be.
- To serve, remove from the freezer and leave to stand for 5 mins before scooping.
You could make an elderflower and mint syrup to serve over the sorbet for a sweet yet refreshing twist.
- 50g soft salted butter
- 50g light brown soft sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 100g ground almonds
- 5-6 peaches or nectarines
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 tbsp peach jam / honey glaze / basil glaze / lemon verbena glaze / lemon thyme glaze
For the pastry
- 250g plain flour, plus more to dust
- 200g cold butter, in small cubes
- 65g light brown soft sugar
- 2 eggs, 1 yolk only + 1 whole egg beaten for the glaze
- 2 tbsp demerara sugar, for sprinkling
Thick double cream, vanilla ice cream or a basil / mint sorbet, to serve.
- Start by making the pastry. Put the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of cold water, then pulse again until it forms a ball.
- Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
- For the frangipane, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add the egg, before whisking again, then adding in the ground almonds to make a paste.
- Cut the peaches into thin slices, then toss in a bowl with the lemon juice, cornflour, vanilla and icing sugar.
- Mix gently until the fruit is coated and the cornflour dissolved.
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and heat a large baking sheet on the middle shelf.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out in between two pieces of baking parchment to a large disc – about 5mm thick and 35cm in diameter.
- Remove the top layer of parchment, draw a 30cm circle onto it, cut it out, and use it as a template to cut out a disc of pastry. Alternatively, roughly trim the pastry into a circle by eye for a more rustic look.
- Smooth the frangipane over the middle of the pastry with a spatula, leaving a 5cm border around the edge.
- Arrange the peach slices over the top in a pattern, either in a circle or little fans of fruit.
- Fold in the edges of the pastry to slightly overlap the fruit. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the demerara, then transfer to the hot baking sheet using the parchment.
- Bake for 30-35 mins until the pastry is golden and the fruit looks soft.
- Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Before serving, glaze your tart. Either do this with the jam or a homemade fragrant syrup – lemon verbena is our recommendation!
- Serve with your choice of cream, ice cream or sorbet and garnish with fresh herbs like mint, basil, lemon verbena or lemon thyme.