Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Dessert Tips

Enlightened Desserts Image Gallery Don't be a "fool" -- frozen desserts are more than just sherbet and ice cream. Check out these enlightened desserts pictures.
©2007 Photodisc

Q. There are so many great fruit desserts, but the names are so confusing. What's the difference between a betty and a buckle, for example?

A. The incredible bounty of summer fruit will inevitably tempt you into the kitchen -- even if it's just long enough to whip up an irresistible (and easy!) fruit dessert. The only hard part will be choosing what to bake -- besides crisps, crumbles and cobblers, there are betties, fools, grunts, slumps, buckles and pandowdies. What do they all mean?

  • Betty: Baked fruit dessert made with layers of fruit and buttered breadcrumbs
  • Buckle: Cake with fruit folded into the batter before baking and a crumbly streusel topping
  • Cobbler: Baked fruit dessert with thick biscuit crust
  • Crisp: Baked fruit dessert with crisp, crunchy topping
  • Crumble: The British name for a crisp or crunch with oatmeal in the topping
  • Crunch: Baked fruit dessert with fruit sandwiched between two layers of sweetened buttered crumbs
  • Fool: Dessert made of chilled puréed fruit folded into whipped cream
  • Grunt (or slump): Fruit dessert topped with biscuit dough and stewed or steamed
  • Pandowdy: Baked fruit dessert topped with biscuit dough which becomes crisp and crumbly after baking

Q. I have a lot of extra fruit, and I'd like to make a dessert that's fairly low in calories. Any ideas?

A. For a refreshing frozen summer treat, place 2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped ripe peaches or nectarines in a food processor or blender. Add one of the following: 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar-free fruit juice or 8 ounces flavored sugar-free yogurt.

Purée until the mixture is well blended, and divide evenly among 6-ounce paper cups. Freeze until partially frozen, then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze until mixture is solid. For variation, replace all or part of the peaches with other fresh fruit.

Q. I love the idea of making homemade ice cream for dessert, but I find it hard to get the right consistency with my ice cream maker. What can I do to improve the quality of the ice cream?

A. The following tips will help produce smooth, creamy homemade ice cream:

  • Thoroughly chill the ice cream mixture before freezing it to ensure a smooth texture. Chilling also cuts freezing time.
  • Fill the canister no more than two-thirds full to allow the mixture to expand.
  • The ice cream mixture must be constantly stirred during the freezing process.
  • After freezing, the ice cream needs to stand for at least four hours to develop flavor. This can be done in the ice cream maker by packing it with additional ice and salt (4 cups ice to 1 cup salt -- the higher proportion of salt lowers the temperature of the ice cream). The alternative method is to transfer the ice cream to a covered freezer container and place it in a 0 degrees F freezer.

Homemade ice cream when properly made is smooth and creamy with fine ice crystals. For best results, carefully read the manufacturer's directions for the ice cream maker. Homemade ice cream develops large ice crystals after two or three days, resulting in a coarse texture, so try to eat it within a day or two of making it.

There are three basic types of ice cream makers: bucket models, cylinder freezers and self-cooling units.

  • Bucket Model: This classic machine uses salt and ice to cool the ice cream container. They can be electric or manual operating, requiring you to crank the motor for churning the ice cream.
  • Cylinder Freezer: The container on these types is surrounded by a layer of coolant that is liquid at room temperature and freezes when placed in your freezer for several hours. These too can be electric or manual operating.
  • Self-Cooling: Expensive and large, these are the easiest makers to use and generally produce the best results. All you need to do is add your ice cream mixture and push a button.

For more great dessert ideas, see: