Dessert does not have to be sinful to be good. There is nothing inherently luxurious about calories. Who in his right mind would not prefer a perfect pear to a poorly made pastry?
Unfortunately, fine fruit is hard to obtain. Furthermore, most American cooks opt for a grand finale, and shy away from plain fruit, a traditional way to end a continental dinner. But even if fruit is foregone, there are many light delectables that a host or hostess can prepare and serve with a clear conscience.
Here are five recipes for a variety fo goods that range from a low of 90 to a high of 200 calories per serving. All require only a minimal investment of time and, except for the zabaglione, can be made in advance. The results should be as satisfying as anything with double the calories -- perhaps more so.
8 extra large egg yolks
8 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons dry marsala wine
Beat egg yolks and sugar together with a whisk in top of double boiler or other stainless steel bowl until pale and creamy. Add marsala. This can be done a few hours in advance.
Just before serving, cook mixture, whisking constantly, over simmering but not boiling water until it thickens. Consistency should be that of a cake batter sauce. Spoon into wine glasses or custard cups and serve immediately.
(Approximately calories per serving: 185).
FROZEN PINEAPPLE MERINGUE
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineappel, packed in its own juice.
Put sugar with water in thin-bottomed saucepan. Cook over moderate heat until clear and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Solution should register 230 degrees on a candy thermometer or spin a thread when a small amount is dropped into cold water.
Meanwhile, beat egg whites and salt, preferably with an electric mixer, until stiff but not dry. Turn mixture off until sugar is ready. Then turn it on again and slowly pour in syrup. Beat until egg whites are glossy and cool, about 2 minutes.
Stir in lemon juice and pineapple, including juice from can. Pour into a 1-quart ice cream freezer and follow manufacturer's instructions; or leave in bowl, put in freezer and beat 3 times, every 1 1/2 to 2 hours to keep crystals from forming. Serve in chilled glasses.
(Approximate calories per serving: 90).
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cut whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
Line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Butter and flour foil. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
In a small bowl beat eggs and 3 tablespoons of sugar together until pale and creamy, about 5 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Sift over egg mixture and fold. Bake until top is golden but cake is not overdone and dry, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile beat ricotta, cocoa, 1/4 cup of sugar and vanilla together in food processor or mixer until sugar dissolves. Filling will be fairly thin.
Turn cake our onto a linen tea towel. Carefully peel off foil. Spread with filling. Roll up crosswise as tightly as possible. Put seam side down on a serving plate. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 1/2 hours. Sift confectioners' sugar over top just before serving.
(Approximate calories per serving: 175).