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Food & Entertaining

Smokin' Sweets

Author: Karen Fernau
Issue: September, 2016, Page 144
photography by Rick Gayle

Grilled berries and sugary poundcake combine for a sweet twist on the traditional Tuscan salad. Pastry chef Tracy Dempsey tops her Grilled Stone Fruit Panzanella with a scoop of cool pistachio gelato.
Add Sizzle to Your Backyard Barbecue—and Impress Your Guests—With a Tasty Trio of Grilled Desserts

As summer glides into fall, fire up your grill to turn the season’s ubiquitous fruits into dessert with the help of pastry chef Tracy Dempsey. Her retro-inspired creations—s’mores, shortcake and stone fruit panzanella—combine the freshness of berries, plums, apricots, cherries and peaches with the sweetness of cream, chocolate, marshmallows and caramel.

“This is a great time of year to bake outside on the grill. The fire and charring brings out the natural sugars of the fruits,” says Tracy, owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals in Tempe. “The same grill that cooks our salmon and burgers throughout the summer is quite capable of turning out dessert for family and friends.”

An Arizona State University instructor turned baker, Tracy is known for combining tradition and whimsy, creating such irresistible treats as potato chip ice cream and bacon chocolate chip cookies. She brings the same unexpected twists to her summer grilling finales.

For her s’mores, Tracy deconstructs the campfire staple by dipping fresh, grilled fruit into chocolate and caramel sauce and coating with graham cracker crumbs, chopped peanuts, toasted coconut flakes and crushed chocolate toffee bits. What could be more fun than inviting friends over for a straight-off-the-grill s’mores fondue party?

“This dessert is so playful and interactive. It’s great for kids and grown-ups and lets everyone customize their own dessert. You pick the fruit, as well as the sauce and dipping flavors,” says Tracy, who creates desserts for top Valley restaurants, including Crudo, The Gladly, Nook Kitchen and The Stockyards, all in Phoenix, and Citizen Public House in Scottsdale.

Of course, dessert doesn’t always have to follow an evening meal. Enjoy afternoon tea with strawberry shortcake made with grilled berries and rosemary and olive oil scones. The light, fruity flavor of the oil in place of butter in the scones magnifies the sweetness of the berries. With a handful of easy changes, this summer staple can also be turned into a brunch entree. Simply swap Greek yogurt for whipped cream and top with granola.

For a one-of-a-kind dish that will have your guests exclaiming “buon appetito,” the grilled stone fruit panzanella is a playful take on two time-honored dishes: the fruit, cheese and nut dessert platter and the eponymous Tuscan bread and tomato salad. Tracy’s fresh alternative features grilled apricots, peaches, plums and cherries, as well as pistachios and fresh mozzarella. Mix the ingredients with sugar-coated, fire-kissed bites of pound cake and top with pistachio gelato for a flavor that you’ll crave year-round.

With the season of apples, pears and pumpkins just around the corner, Tracy notes, “These desserts are a nice finish to summer meals, and a nice finish to summer.”

Pastry Chef Tracy’s Grilled Stone Fruit Panzanella

Serves 4

2 ripe but firm apricots, rinsed and dried
2 ripe but firm peaches, rinsed and dried
2 ripe but firm plums, rinsed and dried
1 cup fresh sweet cherries, rinsed, dried and stems removed
Juice of ½ lemon
¾ cup local honey, such as mesquite or orange blossom, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, rinsed, dried and thinly sliced
4 thick slices poundcake
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 ounces fresh miniature mozzarella balls
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ pint pistachio gelato
2 tablespoons roasted and salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Known for her flavorful treats, pastry chef Tracy kicks dessert up a notch by grilling it.
Use a paring knife to split apricots, peaches and plums in half over a bowl to catch any juices. Remove and discard pits. Place the fruit in the bowl. Add cherries. Gently toss fruit with lemon juice. Next, add 3/8 cup honey, olive oil and sea salt. Set aside for about 30 minutes. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place the poundcake slices on a sheet pan. On each side, brush with olive oil, then sprinkle and press on granulated sugar. Set aside. Lightly oil hot grill and place fruit on grill, in batches if needed. Grill 1-2 minutes on each side, or until grill marks appear. Remove and return fruit to bowl. Add cherries to the grill. (If too small, grill cherries in a basket.) Grill about 1-2 minutes. Return to bowl. Place poundcake slices on grill. Grill 1-2 minutes per side or until both sides are marked by the grill. Remove the cake to the sheet pan. Allow cake to cool to touch. Cut grilled cake slices into sixths. Place cake cubes in a bowl. Add grilled fruit, basil, mozzarella balls, 3/8 cup honey and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Gently toss mixture together to coat with honey and olive oil. Divide mixture among 4 dessert plates. Top each serving with a scoop of pistachio gelato and a sprinkling of coarsely chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.

Tips for Grilling Fruit
• When it comes to fruit, just like with baking, grilling demands the use of quality ingredients and precise attention to details. Begin by selecting fruits that are ripe but still firm.

• Prevent sticking by lightly brushing a clean grill with oil. Most fruits cook well over medium-high heat. The average cooking time is 1 to 3 minutes.

• Grilling on hot grates is best, but you can use skewers or a grill basket to prevent fruit from falling into the coals.

Pastry Chef Tracy’s Campfire S’mores.

Serves 4-6

12 large marshmallows
12 whole strawberries, rinsed and dried
12 skewers of fresh pineapple chunks
2 large bananas, peeled, cut in 2-inch-long pieces, tossed with lemon juice
2 cups chocolate sauce
2 cups caramel sauce
1 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup toasted flaked coconut
1 cup crushed chocolate toffee bits
Chocolate Sauce
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-process unsweetened
cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
7 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of sea salt

From grilled bananas with rainbow sprinkles to toasted marshmallows dipped in chocolate, pastry chef Tracy’s Campfire S’mores are fun and delicious for guests of all ages.
To prepare s’mores, heat grill to medium-high. Place ingredients on a large platter or tray. Allow guests to thread marshmallows, strawberries, pineapple and banana chunks on skewers to taste. Place skewers on plates and set aside. Prepare chocolate and caramel sauces. Place garnishes and sauces in bowls for dipping. Lightly oil grill and allow guests to grill their own skewers, about 2 minutes, turning at least once. Dunk the skewers into dipping sauces and garnish to taste.

For chocolate sauce, bring cream, syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt and chocolate to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla until incorporated. Cool sauce to warm. Refrigerate leftover sauce. Makes about 1½ cups.

For caramel sauce, place sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook without stirring until the sugar turns a medium amber color. At this point, remove pan from heat and very slowly add heavy cream to the mixture. The caramel will bubble up, so be very careful. Once the bubbling subsides, stir in salt. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftover sauce. Makes 1 cup.
Serves 4-6.

Pastry Chef Tracy’s Grilled Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 4

4 homemade rosemary scones
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound fresh whole strawberries, rinsed, dried and stems removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
Sea salt and fresh coarse ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup half-and-half
Rosemary Scones
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg
3/8 cup milk
1 tablespoon milk
Granulated sugar
Rosemary and olive oil scones perfectly complement the bright flavor of grilled strawberries in pastry chef Tracy’s Grilled Strawberry Shortcake.
For scones, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in chilled butter. In a separate bowl, whisk egg and milk together. Add mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until they come together in a dough. On a lightly floured work surface, gently press the dough into a rectangle. Using a 3- to 4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut rounds. Transfer the rounds to a sheet pan. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until firm but not dry. Place on rack to cool.

For shortcake, clean grill well and heat it to medium-high. In a medium bowl, gently stir whole strawberries with olive oil, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes. Place the heavy cream and sugar in a chilled mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the mixture on medium until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut scones in half, and brush the cut sides with the melted butter. Set scones aside. Lightly oil hot grill and place whole berries on grill grate. Grill 2-3 minutes, turning frequently with tongs, until the berries have grill marks on all sides. Return the grilled berries to bowl. Place scones buttered sides down on grill grate. Grill 1-2 minutes or until grill marks appear. Remove from grill. Crush about half of the grilled berries with the back of a fork. In each of 4 dessert bowls, place the bottom half of a grilled scone and evenly divide the grilled strawberries among the bowls. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Place the tops of each scone on the whipped cream. Pour ¼ cup of chilled half-and-half in each bowl. Serve immediately.

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