As the long slog of winter marches on, an easy way to perk up the day is with a tropical fruit dessert. From the Caribbean, we brighten a creamy coconut rice pudding with mango and give it complexity with dark rum. Charring fresh pineapple under the broiler develops rich caramelization that we top with spiced honey and coconut ice cream. Savory miso brings a unique savory-sweet update to bananas foster. And we show the sophisticated side of the classic pineapple upside-down cake with a sturdy buttermilk batter made with cornmeal and ricotta cheese.
Coconut Rice Pudding With Mango and Dark Rum
Makes 6 servings
Flavored with nutmeg and dark rum, this mango-studded rice pudding features the flavors of the Caribbean. It gets its rich, creamy consistency from coconut milk as well as from starchy Italian Arborio rice, the same type used to make risotto. This pudding is delicious warm, room temperature, or cold, but keep in mind that it becomes thicker and firmer as it cools.
½ cup Arborio rice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½-inch chunks
1/3 cup white sugar
¼ cup dark rum
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Toasted shredded coconut or lime wedges (optional)
In a large saucepan, stir together the rice, salt, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, mango, sugar, rum, nutmeg, and an additional ¼ cup water. Return to a simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy and thick, about another 15 minutes.
Garnish with toasted shredded coconut or lime wedges, if using.
Charred Pineapple With Spiced Honey and Coconut Ice Cream
Makes 4 servings
Charring fresh pineapple under a broiler brings out roasted, caramel notes while also rendering the fruit tender and succulent. For ease, we use store-bought peeled and cored pineapple so the only prep that’s needed is cutting it into rings before broiling.
A drizzle of spicy honey over the warm fruit and chilly ice cream (we especially like coconut ice cream, but vanilla is great, too) makes for a sublime combination.
1 store-bought peeled and cored whole pineapple (see headnote), cut into 8 rings (each about ½-inch thick)
¼ cup honey, with more to serve
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Coconut (or vanilla) ice cream, to serve
Finely chopped crystallized ginger and/or fresh mint, to serve (optional)
Heat the broiler with a rack about 4 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the pineapple rings in a single layer on it. Broil until deeply browned, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the honey, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper flakes. When the pineapple is done, transfer to individual plates. Top with ice cream, then drizzle with the honey.
Top with the ginger or mint, or both (if using).
Miso-Spiced Rum Bananas Foster
Makes 4 servings
We’ve given bananas foster, an American classic, a big flavor update. Honey sweetens while adding floral nuances and miso balances with a delicious savoriness. We use spiced rum as a one-ingredient way to infuse the buttery sauce with flavor and aroma. An optional dusting of Chinese five-spice powder complements the rum.
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white miso
2 bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise then crosswise
½ cup spiced rum
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the honey and miso. Add the bananas and cook, stirring carefully so as not to bruise them, until the sauce is slightly darker in color, about 2 minutes. Off heat, pour in the rum. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring carefully, until the alcohol no longer smells raw, about 2 minutes. Divide the bananas and sauce among 4 serving bowls, then top with ice cream and Chinese five-spice powder (if using).
Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake
Makes 12 servings
Briana Holt, of Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland, Maine, makes a rich, sturdy buttermilk cake with cornmeal for texture and flavor, as well as ricotta cheese to keep the crumb tender and moist. We adapt her winning formula and pair the cake with fresh fruit to update the traditional pineapple upside-down cake.
To avoid a soggy layer where cake and fruit meet — a common problem with upside-down cakes — first cook the pineapple to remove excess moisture, then make sure the fruit is hot when the batter is poured on top so it begins to bake upon contact. To get the timing right, begin mixing the batter after placing the pan with the pineapple in the oven. This gives you 5 to 10 minutes to finish the batter; if it’s ready sooner, it can wait a few minutes.
A nonstick cake pan works best because the dark finish speeds the bake time; if your pan is not nonstick, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees and give the cake an extra 5 minutes or so to finish baking.
Avoid canned pineapple for this recipe, as the fruit is thickly sliced and may not fully cook through. Its flavor also is dull and “cooked” compared with fresh. For convenience, however, you can use store-bought peeled and cored fresh pineapple sold in the produce section. And, the cake needs the richness of whole-milk ricotta; avoid using part-skim ricotta cheese with this recipe.
1¼ cups (162 grams) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground allspice
5 tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
8 ¼-inch-thick fresh pineapple rings (about 1 pound), cut into quarters
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
Heat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-by-2-inch round nonstick cake pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, the baking powder, baking soda, and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, buttermilk, and ricotta.
In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling. Add the pineapple and cook, stirring often, until it has softened and caramelized and the
liquid has nearly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the pineapple and butter mixture to the prepared cake pan, distributing the fruit in a single layer. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the batter.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the white sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce to medium and add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl with a spatula between additions, then beat until well combined, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture, then beat until just combined, about 30 seconds; the mixture will look curdled. Scrape down the bowl.
With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds; the batter will be thick. Using the spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give the batter a few folds to ensure no pockets of flour remain.
Remove the cake pan from the oven (close the oven door) and carefully scrape the batter onto the hot pineapple, then spread in an even layer and smooth the surface with the spatula. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the pan to loosen the cake, then invert it onto a serving platter. Cool to room temperature.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.