How to Make Dessert Even When You Think You Can’t, According to Alison Roman

How to Make Dessert Even When You Think You Can’t, According to Alison Roman
Composite of Alison Roman and her cookbook Sweet Enough

Composite of Alison Roman and her cookbook Sweet Enough

Chris Bernabeo

Plenty of us meal plan our weeknight dinners—but very few of us give dessert the same consideration, despite the fact that we always want it (sometimes, we want it more than the meal). But why shouldn’t we? That’s the question Alison Roman seeks to answer in her new cookbook, Sweet Enough, which is full of desserts that come together easily and quickly.

“You don’t need a reason or an occasion for dessert,” says Roman, a former pastry chef. Following the success of her cookbook Dining In and The Cookie (one of her claim-to-fame recipes), her editor pushed her towards a dessert collection. “The hardest part was figuring out what should be [included] that I love. I wanted the book to feel very personal and specific to me,” Roman says. Luckily, for those of us who want to make dessert, but don’t always have the time, inspiration, or professional-level skills, “there are lots of recipes that are pretty easy,” she says.

Often, we think baking requires a lot of time or fancy equipment—but in Sweet Enough, Roman reminds us that there are plenty of desserts that don’t require specialty ingredients or next-level skills to be delicious. You just need to have the right essentials on hand and a few tricks up your sleeve to make something sweet happen.

Related: Quick Dessert Recipes You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less

Ingredients to Always Have on Hand

If you want to be prepared when the whim to bake strikes, make sure to have these basic ingredients at the ready. “Really, you just need butter, eggs, buttermilk, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder,” Roman says. “If you have the bare bones, you can do a lot of stuff.”

Basic Equipment

You can also do a lot with basic equipment, like a whisk, mixing bowls, and a dough scraper, plus the right pans, like sheet pans, a pie plate, a springform pan, a loaf pan, and a tart pan, says Roman. She also suggests purchasing an oven thermometer and a scale, especially if you hope to bake more frequently.

The Most Important Rule

Roman’s top tip for baking success, whether you’re making dessert just because on a Tuesday or prepping something for a dinner party, is to read the recipe from start to finish before you begin. It’s more than a tip—it’s a rule to live by. Roman emphasizes this step so much, she includes it in the “Read Me First” section of Sweet Enough. “You will have a better understanding of what happens when, what ingredients go where, and how long you should plan to be indisposed with sweet treat making,” she says.

7 Shortcuts and Tricks That Will Help You Get Dessert on the Table Fast

Roman includes plenty of dessert tricks in her book. She points to recipes where you can use store -bought jam instead of homemade to make a festive frozen yogurt—or use frozen fruit instead of fresh to make an easy sour cherry crumble pie. You’ll even find cake recipes that take just a few minutes to get into the pan.

Here are seven of her best tricks for making dessert, even when you think you can’t:

  1. Make a pie crust out of cookies: Instead of making a pie crust, chilling it, and rolling it out, you can smash a bunch of cookies in a bag, mix with butter, and press it into a pan or pie plate for a crust.

  2. Turn failed pies into cobbler: If a pie falls apart, slumps, or spills, scoop it into a bowl, cover with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, and pretend it’s a cobbler. “Trust that no matter what it looks like, your dessert will taste delicious. It is scientifically impossible for a crust made with butter, flour, sugar, and salt to taste bad when baked around good fruit tossed with sugar and lemon,” says Roman.

  3. Fold handpies like empanadas: Rather than making handpies with two crusts cut and fitted together, make them turnover or empanada style from one piece of dough folded onto itself. It saves you from having to be very precise with the crusts.

  4. Make a foolproof cream-cheese frosting: Make a quick cream-cheese frosting by combining 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and a good pinch of kosher salt together in a medium bowl. Use this to frost or fill any cake.

  5. Don’t overlook cake mix from the box: Use yellow cake from a box to make a quick and easy upside-down cake with fresh pineapples or the fresh fruit of your choice.

  6. Frost fast and flake: You don’t have to spend a ton of time frosting a cake. Simply smear frosting on the outside of your cake, then cover it with flakes of gently toasted coconut or sprinkles (or whatever else you have on hand to hide the frosting). Do so, and it will look like you know how to frost a cake like a pro.

  7. Set up a DIY sundae bar: Use store-bought ice cream and store-bought toppings like sprinkles, crushed cookies, and cherries. You can also add some homemade toppings into the mix if you have them.

berry dessert on plate from Sweet Enough cookbook

berry dessert on plate from Sweet Enough cookbook

Chris Bernabeo

The Joy of Making Dessert

Don’t take dessert so seriously that it puts you off a baking project altogether, says Roman. “Acknowledge that it takes time and it might not be effortless, but it’s also just dessert,” she says. “If it doesn’t turn out the way you thought, you’ll learn something from that and the more you do it, the more you’ll feel empowered to do it.”

Plus, sometimes the beauty of dessert is the baking process itself. It forces you to be present and simply focus on the task at hand, with instructions you have to follow closely. “It’s a different style of making food. It’s not jazz, it’s more classical. You have to follow instructions and sometimes that’s nice,” she says.