My mom makes Italian-style biscotti – no butter, no oil. I’d place three or four of them in a bowl and crush them with a potato masher into unevenly sized crumbs. Then I’d whip some cream to stiff peaks, fold the crumbs into it, and put the whole concoction into the freezer during dinner. It would freeze into a semifreddo-like dessert, studded with crunchy chocolate biscotti chunks and strewn with crumbs that turned the cream gray, like cookies and cream ice cream.
I’ve parlayed that idea into a real skill for creating spontaneous whipped cream desserts. Puddings and custards have a soft spot in my heart, so texturally I was destined for this route. I’ve streaked fresh whipped cream with tart lemon curd, folded chocolate mousse into whipped cream, and I’ve loosened (read: rescued) overly thick pastry creams with whipped cream. Cream on cream on cream: that is my motto.
Pay attention, and you’ll notice how many desserts play with this same theme: Eton mess (whipped cream and crumbled meringue and fresh fruit), trifle (often layers of custard and whipped cream), any mousse, zabaglione, and so on.
The technique works best with intense, bold flavors like citrus and chocolate. Whipped cream softens the sharp acidity of lemon curd and mellows the dark bitterness of chocolate. Try it yourself for a very fast dessert for guests: It looks sophisticated despite how simple it really is. Here are a few ideas:
Lemon: Whipped cream + homemade lemon curd + crushed ladyfingers
Chocolate: Whipped cream + powdered sugar + a pinch of espresso powder + melted bittersweet chocolate
Fruit: Whipped cream + strawberry puree + crushed meringue cookie
Banana: Make the banana yogurt loaf below. Chill the loaf, then cut it into small squares (or crumble them) and layer the banana bread with whipped cream and sliced bananas. OH YES.
Banana Poppy Seed Yogurt Loaf
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (see note)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
scant 1/2 cup brown sugar (more if you want a more dessert-like bread)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
Combine the mashed bananas, eggs, yogurt and vanilla in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and stir in the poppy seeds.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool before slicing.
*Note: I like to keep frozen sliced bananas on hand for smoothies and oatmeal. Just take some out, let them thaw, and mash them for the bread.