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5 dessert recipes you can make outdoors

Ramona King

Southern Kitchen's cast iron skillet chocolate chip cookie


5 summertime dessert recipes that are best eaten outdoors

With longer daylight hours upon us, we're fully into outdoor dining season. As the sun sets on your outdoor dinner party, don't head indoors for the sweet finish — just make these five timeless dessert recipes that kids and adults alike will enjoy at the patio table, on a picnic blanket or by the campfire.

Think of outdoor desserts as those that require minimal preparation and are often best served chilled as you enjoy the late summer sunset. Many such treats carry brighter flavors to combat the warmer weather, while others are designed to appeal to kids of all ages.

Summer Fruit Pizza
If you’re seeking a dessert that the kids will love, look no further than this summer fruit pizza. The crust is essentially a giant sugar cookie, while the “sauce” component evokes the flavors of cheesecake. You can use any fruits that you prefer; however, berries make the best topping, primarily because they do not give off much moisture and are naturally bite-sized. Avoid fruits that could potentially oxidize and brown, such as apples, pears and bananas. Anything else is fair game.
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Key Lime Mousse with Blackberry Compote
This key lime mousse is ideal for outdoor dining because the parfait-style dessert improves as it sits in the refrigerator. (In other words: You can totally make this ahead of time.) Turning naturally sweet-tart blackberries into a compote amps up their sweetness, making them a better foil for the citrusy zip of the key lime juice. As you fold the unsweetened whipped cream into the key lime curd, it transforms the mixture into an airy mousse with a silky, cloud-like mouthfeel. Whenever you’re ready for dessert, simply run to the refrigerator, grab the assembled glass, and take it outside for a taste of summer.
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Butterfinger lush
Butterfinger Lush
Chocolate and peanut butter are such a fantastic combination, and a multi-layered confection with different textures that highlights the two star flavors is even better. You’ll need a night to allow this to properly set up in the refrigerator before serving, but your patience will be well-rewarded. The dense peanut butter mousse against the creamy chocolate pudding provides a decadent mouthfeel that's only somewhat lightened by fluffy whipped cream. If you’d prefer more texture on top than simply crushed Butterfinger bars, chopped peanuts and chocolate chips make a fantastic addition.
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Cast Iron Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

Why make individual cookies when one giant, almost-cake-like cookie can be much more of a showstopper? Using a cast iron skillet will reward you with a crispy exterior and that gooey center that most of us crave in a cookie, except this will be much larger and worthy of cutting into thick wedges. If you’re hosting a crowd, make the cookie dough prior to your guests’ arrival, form it into the skillet, then bake closer to your desired serving time. Feel free to play around with the ratio of chocolate chips or add nuts if you prefer.
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Homemade Marshmallows
If you want to take your s’mores game to the next level, try making your own marshmallows. Working with boiling sugar may seem intimidating; however, once the sugar reaches 240 degrees, you’re simply pouring the mixture, with the addition of gelatin, into whipped egg whites, then whipping until thick and fluff-like. When you go to cut the marshmallows into shapes — or even spread them from the mixing bowl to the pan — place a small amount of oil on your hands, then on your spatula and knife to prevent sticking. One big advantage to making your own marshmallows: You're guaranteed a flat surface, which fits naturally on a graham cracker.
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Author image

Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”