Now that warmer weather is finally here, we can linger over dinner in our backyards. Don’t rush inside for dessert. After grilling some steaks or fish kebabs, use the heat of your barbecue to make a sweet al fresco treat.
Classic campfire desserts like s’mores and banana boats are welcome after a meal of burgers and hot dogs. But there are dozens of recipes that pair well with other outdoor mains.
Making a grilled chicken Caesar salad? Follow with Italian-style fruit and mascarpone bruschetta. If spicy grilled fish tacos are on the menu, serve a refreshing grilled pineapple tart.
Most fruit can be placed directly on a cleaned (you don’t want your peaches tasting like chicken) and well-oiled grill. Other desserts require different cooking surfaces and vessels. Disposable aluminum baking pans come in a variety of shapes and eliminate the need for scrubbing later on. Or wrap your regular baking sheet or pan in heavy-duty foil and then toss the foil away after grilling. For real campfire style, there’s nothing like the rustic look of a cobbler, brownies, or a giant cookie served in a cast-iron skillet.
Delicate items like cookies, brownies, cakes, and pie dough, require indirect heat. Preheat your grill, and then just before baking turn off one of the burners (if you have three burners, turn off the middle one). If your grill has a built-in thermometer you can adjust the heat so that it approximates the right oven temperature for your particular recipe. If not, don’t worry. Medium or medium-low should be about right. Set your baking pan on the cool part of the grill and cover, checking often (but not too often — you don’t want your outdoor oven to lose too much heat) and adjusting the temperature as necessary.
Cookies or brownies on the grill: Yes, you can bake drop cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter) on the grill. Simply place chilled balls of dough on a sheet of heavy duty foil, flatten them slightly, and cook over indirect heat. Check the cookies often, but they should take about 8 to 10 minutes to cook through. For brownies, wrap a baking pan completely in heavy-duty foil (or use a throwaway aluminum pan), and cook over indirect heat on a medium grill until just set, about 30 minutes.
Grilled fruit: Brush halved and pitted peaches or nectarines with butter, grill cut side down, turn, brush with more butter and sprinkle with sugar, and continue to grill until soft. Or wrap mixed berries with a little sugar in foil and grill inside the foil packets until softened. Serve on top of slices of grilled pound cake and/or with scoops of ice cream.
Cobblers and crisps: Your favorite cobbler or crisp recipe can easily be baked outdoors. Use a disposable aluminum baking pan or a cast iron skillet and bake on the cool side of a grill preheated to medium. Cover the grill and rotate the pan every 15 minutes for even cooking and to make sure your topping isn’t overbrowning, adjusting the heat a necessary.
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Two 4 1⁄2-ounce sleeves graham crackers, broken into halves
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries
1. Set a small stainless steel bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Combine the cream, butter, and chocolate chips in the bowl and heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Turn off the heat and keep the bowl on top of the warm water so the chocolate sauce remains warm, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, layer the graham cracker halves and marshmallows. Place on the grill, cover, and heat until the marshmallows are melty and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce and sprinkle with berries. Transfer to a trivet, and serve immediately right from the pan. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
TIP: You can use a disposable aluminum cake pan for this recipe. Just take care to hold it from the bottom (with oven mitts on of course) when you lift it from the grill so that it doesn’t buckle.
Sweet Bruschetta with Strawberries
Four ½-inch-thick slices crusty country bread
4 ounces mascarpone
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat a gas grill to medium. Combine the mascarpone and vanilla in a small bowl.
2. Spread both sides of the bread with a little bit of butter. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
3. Clean grill grids thoroughly with a wire brush. Grill bread slices until bottoms are golden and marked by the grill, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and grill another minute or two. Transfer to a serving platter.
4. Spread the mascarpone over bread slices. Arrange strawberries on top of cheese. Drizzle with vinegar and sprinkle with black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
TIP: If you can’t find mascarpone, a smooth and slightly tangy Italian-style cream cheese, use regular cream cheese blended with a little bit of heavy cream.
Grilled Pineapple Pizza
One 16-ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough or 1 pound homemade sugar cookie dough
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 10 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup caramel sauce or dulce de leche
3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
1. Preheat a gas grill to medium. Coat a 10-inch-round cast-iron griddle or pizza pan with nonstick spray. Press the dough into an even layer over the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
2. Brush the pineapple slices with the butter. Grill the pineapple slices until tender, 4 to 6 minutes, until tender, turning them over once halfway through grilling. Set aside to cool. Cut each round into quarters.
3. Arrange the pineapple pieces on the cookie dough, overlapping slightly.
4. Turn one of the burners off. Place the pan on the cool part of the grill and bake until the pastry is golden, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan several times so the crust bakes evenly. Place pan on a rack to cool for a few minutes. Drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with coconut before serving warm or at room temperature with ice cream if desired. Makes 6 servings.
TIP: Store-bought sugar cookie dough makes this recipe extra-quick. To save even more time, buy a pre-peeled and sliced pineapple.