Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Firing Up Your Sweet Tooth

This article appeared in Summer 2008 issue of Flavours Magazine.

The main goal of summertime cookery is to get out of the kitchen as quickly and as often as you can. From June to September, the stove should be used as little as possible and if it is used, only for extra storage space.

Apart from tossing together a few salads and slathering some marinades (bottled or otherwise) onto hunks of meat, all the cooking should happen outdoors. The barbecue, whether it is a 4-foot stainless steel Cadillac or a teeny charcoal hibachi, is your best friend under the sunshine.

So, we have all figured out how to cook the perfect steak. We have aced salmon fillets, chops and chicken breasts. A few of us have even ventured into lamb legs and butterflied whole chickens. We have our favourite rubs, marinades and sauces. We even have the sides figured out with our foil wrapped potatoes and our grilled veggies. But what about dessert?

The most obvious summer dessert is ice cream. You can even make “adult sundaes” by drizzling a little liqueur on your crème glacée. But chef, what else is there?

Well, let me tell you. First of all, look to one of your camp favourites—s’mores of course. It’s time to improve that basic with banana, more chocolate and handfuls of marshmallows all tossed into a cast-iron pan and wrapped in aluminum foil. But for something a little more elegant, look to fruit. Grilled pineapple is a personal favourite. The grilling brings out the sweetness and adds a caramelized nuttiness to the fruit. Peel and cut into thick slices, brush with a little oil and grill on both sides until you have nice charred grill marks. Another fun barbecue dessert is a fruit kebab. Cut any firm fruit into cubes then toss in a marinade of honey, ginger, mint, citrus zest and a little oil or melted butter. Skewer the cubes, alternating fruit, and then grill.

Be warned, the fruit will get soft as it cooks, so remove skewers from the grill before they are in danger of falling off. Serve the fruit with a sweetened yogurt dip or melted chocolate.

If you are feeling really adventurous, try baking your favourite cake or pie on the grill. You’ll need a barbecue big enough to sit a cake pan on one side without any direct heat underneath. Then, light the opposite side and as soon as you close the lid, you have transformed your ‘cue into a convection oven (the dry heat makes great pie crusts). For best results, use a shallow cake pan or bundt pan to ensure the cake cooks through. Also be sure to rotate your cake a quarter turn every 15 minutes to ensure even baking.

But what if you want to go even further and make fancy desserts?

To do so, we’ll need to break it down into parts. First, grill some peaches and then a piece of puff pastry. Marry the two with a sticky sweet caramel sauce and suddenly you’ve got a mock tart tatin. Or try roasting some apples and then using them in an apple wood smoked crème brulée.

So while steak might be your first thought when it comes to cooking outdoors, try grilling a dessert instead.

Apple Wood Smoked Creme Brulee


  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 wedge of lemon
  • 2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar plus 4 tsp (20 mL) for caramelizing
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 cup (250 mL) apple wood chips


Heat one side of the barbecue, leaving the other side cool. Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes, then drain before you start. Cut apples in half and remove the cores. Rub with lemon and place cut side down on barbecue. Grill until nicely caramelized. Flip apples over to lightly char the skin. While the apples are grilling, combine cream, vanilla and sugar in a small pot and place on grill (or side burner) and scald the cream. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into cream. In a bowl, gently whisk egg yolks, then slowly pour hot cream into eggs, mixing well. Remove apples from grill and coarsely chop. Toss apples with brown sugar and cinnamon. Spoon apple mixture equally into 4, 4 oz (125 g) ramekins and fill each one with cream mixture. Place ramekins in a 9” x 9” (23 cm x 23 cm) metal baking dish and fill 3/4 full of water.

Wrap wood chips in aluminum foil and place on hot side of barbecue. Close the lid and wait until they begin to smoke. Place pan on the cool side of the barbecue and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. They should be just set and a little jiggly in the middle. Do not over cook as they will continue to set when they cool. Remove from heat and place in the fridge to cool for at least one hour.

When ready to serve, sprinkle each one with a little sugar, and using a blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.

Serves 4

Grilled Peach Gallets


  • 8 ripe peaches (or nectarines)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) orange juice
  • 1 cup (250 mL) golden brown sugar
  • 1 oz (30 mL) brandy or Grand Marnier
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 1 package puff pastry
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted


Cut peaches in half and remove the pits. Combine orange juice, sugar, brandy and vanilla. Add peaches to mixture and let marinate for a couple of hours (or overnight). Roll pastry out to 1/4” (5 mm) thickness and cut into 6” (15 cm) rounds. Dock pastry with a fork and brush both sides with butter. Clean and oil grill. Grill rounds of pastry over moderate heat. Flip when first side is golden brown and has formed a nice crust. Don’t worry if the edges burn a little, that’s all part of the flavour. Remove peaches from marinade. Pour the marinade into a small pot and place on the grill or side burner. You want to bring this to a boil and then reduce it to sticky syrup. Grill the peaches, cut side down, until caramelized and soft. Arrange peaches on pastry rounds. Smother in sticky sauce and enjoy.

Serves 4

Campfire Cast Iron Chocolate Banana Rocky Road Brownie


  • Brownie

    • 1/2 cup (125 g) butter
    • 8 oz (250 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 3/4 cup (175 mL) sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
    • 1 cup (250 mL) flour
    • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • Bananas

    • 2 bananas
    • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
    • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brown sugar
  • Toppings

    • 1/2 cup (125 mL) walnuts
    • 1 cup (250 mL) mini marshmallows
    • 1 cup (250 mL) chocolate chips


In a small saucepan set on a heated barbecue, combine butter, chocolate and sugar and cook until melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add eggs, one at a time, to chocolate mixture, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix to combine.

Melt butter in a 9” (23 cm) cast iron pan over grill. Fry bananas until they start to brown. Add sugar and cook, stirring gently to dissolve, until sugar caramelizes. Remove pan from heat.

Drop brownie batter by spoonfuls in among the bananas. Sprinkle brownie with nuts, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Return to heat and cook over low heat with the lid closed until brownie is cooked. It should be firm, but the bananas, chocolate and marshmallows will ensure it
stays gooey.

Serves 4