Make these 3 desserts for a delicious Labor Day – Orange County Register – Tricks and Tips

Make these 3 desserts for a delicious Labor Day – Orange County Register

For many, Labor Day signals summer’s last hurrah. Maybe yes, maybe no. But certainly, it’s a chance for family and friends to get together to enjoy casual picnics, barbecues and pool parties.

And it’s an opportunity to kick up your heels in a relaxed and easy-going atmosphere, before a more regimented schedule kicks in. Ribs and burgers, brats and hot dogs are traditional Labor Day fare. The warm weather menu probably includes cold salads with plenty of crunch, as well as some tasty nibbles to snack on.

To finish the fare, here are recipes for some easy-to-bake desserts. They are low-labor treats. Fudgy brownies — smooth rich chocolate without nuts or other distractions — used as a base for strawberry sundaes. Or for cake-like, two-tone bars, Zebras may be the ticket. Dark and light layers give these treats their name, a handle that can charm the kids. Or shortbread, the traditional Scottish biscuit, is a cinch to make. Pair the shortbread wedges with late-summer fruit, ice cream or sorbet. Or augment the dough with minced rosemary and serve the wedges with cheese.

Fudgy Brownie Strawberry Sundaes

Of course, you can substitute your favorite brownie maDe from a mix, but here’s a recipe for fudgy brownies. Either way, the brownies can be topped with strawberry ice cream and fresh strawberries to make summery sundaes. When I entertain, I like to make the scoops of ice cream in advance and freeze them in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. That way the assembly is much speedier.

Yield: About 12



Soft butter for greasing pan

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, see cook’s notes

2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

Glaze: 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips plus 1 tablespoon butter


1 quart strawberry ice cream

3 to 4 cups strawberries, halved or quartered

Optional: Store-bought chocolate sauce, whipped cream

Cook’s notes: If using salted butter don’t add additional salt. If using unsalted butter add 1/4 teaspoon salt when flour is added.


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with soft butter. In small saucepan on medium-low heat, melt chocolate and 1/2 cup butter, stirring until smooth (just get it warm enough to melt when stirred). Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl (or bowl of electric stand mixer), combine sugar, vanilla, and eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt if using, and chocolate mixture. Mix until just blended and spread in greased pan.

3. Bake for 31 to 38 minutes. Do NOT over-bake. Remove brownies from oven while they are still barely moist in the center. They will continue to firm up as they sit on the countertop. Cool at least 1 hour or until completely cooled.

4. Prepare glaze: In small saucepan melt chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon butter on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cooled brownies. Let stand until set.

5. Cut brownies into large squares or rectangles to fit the bottom of dessert bowls or stemmed glasses. The first bar is often ornery. I use a small offset spatula to coax it out. Place a brownie in each bowl or glassware. Put a scoop of ice cream atop each brownie and scatter strawberries on top and/or sides. Top with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and whipped cream if desired. Serve.

Source: Adapted from “Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, $19.95)

Zebras are homemade, cakey bars that can be topped with chocolate chips or squares of bittersweet chocolate. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)


To make cutting these two-tone, cakey bars easier, line the baking pan with aluminum foil, letting ends extend a few inches on two sides (the overhand will serve as handles for the “sling”). When cool, remove the “cake” in one piece from the pan lifting the extensions of foil. Place on cutting board. Remove foil and cut using a large, serrated knife using a sawing motion. They can be stored layered between waxed paper or parchment paper in an airtight container at cool, room temperature up to 3 days.

Yield: 24 bars


Aluminum foil

Soft butter for greasing pan

1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided use

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

Cook’s notes: If you look closely at the photo, you may notice that I used bittersweet chocolate chunks atop the Zebras instead of semi-sweet chips. The chunks were on hand in my pantry, so I made the substitution. The Zebras were a tiny bit less sweet but still delicious.


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, letting the ends extend over both ends of the pan. Lightly grease foil.

2. In a small saucepan, melt 1 cup chocolate chips over low heat, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

3. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and baking powder. Stir in flour, mixing  just until blended. Scoop half of the dough into a second bowl.

4. Stir the melted chocolate into the remaining batter until blended. Spread the chocolate batter into the prepared pan. Drop tablespoons of plain batter over the chocolate batter. Spread gently into even layer. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips and nuts.

5. Bake until edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

6. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift the foil by the ends of the foil onto cutting board. Remove foil. Cut into bars.

Source: Adapted from “Woman’s Day Desserts” (Viking, $25.95)

Homemade shortbread without rosemary is still delicious to serve with berries or peaches, but adding rosemary gives the dish a sophisticated herbal edge. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Homemade Shortbread — With or Without Rosemary

With or without rosemary, wedges of homemade shortbread are winners. Without the addition of rosemary, they are delicious served with fresh berries tossed with a little sugar, or sliced peaches, as well as ice cream or sorbet. Team the basic dough with chopped fresh rosemary and the crisp, buttery cookie takes on a sophisticated herbal edge, making the wedges delicious served with cheese.  I love them accompanying either Brie or Manchego.

Yield: 12 servings


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

Optional: 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter on low speed until light in color, about 1 minute. Add sugar and salt; beat until well combined, about 1 minute on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula or silicone spatula as needed.

3. Add flour and beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down sides as needed. If using, add rosemary and mix until well distributed throughout dough.

4. Pat dough into a 7 1/2- to 8-inch round disk on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Score edge with tines of fork or crimp edge. Prick shortbread decoratively with tines of fork. Use sharp knife to make shallow indentation where shortbread will be cut into 8 to 12 wedges. Bake in middle of preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden around the edges. Slide shortbread on parchment onto cooling rack. Cool.

5.  Transfer to cutting board. Cut into wedges following shallow indentation made before baking.

Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)

Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]