For a few days this summer my husband and I hosted a retired couple from Australia traveling across America via motor home. Food often came up as a topic of discussion and of course I had to ask, "What do you think about American desserts?" Without hesitation, they both replied, "Much too sweet!"
I agreed with our guests from Down Under but before I could respond, Penny added breads to the list and feeling comfortable enough to be brutally honest, included most American foods in the overly sweet category. If the sweet tooth fits, we need to own it.
This resonated with me as earlier that week I sampled fresh fruit with creamy dip for a light after lunch snack. The deli pack offered unsweetened cut fruit, but the dip tasted of sugary sour cream and a mild citrus background. Another summer dessert disappointment.
Summer fruit brings natural sweetness to the table so its culinary mate needs a very light sugary touch that allows the fresh fruit flavors to take center stage.
Dessert inspiration struck when my husband tossed leftover pineapple on the grill one night; the flames enhanced the natural flavors enhanced and got my creative juices flowing.
I turned my attention to the dipping sauce. While sour cream offers great tang and smooth texture, this dairy staple can't hold its own against added moisture from fresh fruit. The dip required a firmer base, yet not so powerful as to over shadow the fruit.
Cream cheese brings structure, tang and smoothness to the recipe. You can substitute reduced fat varieties, but in this dessert cream cheese plays a supporting role. The small amount of calories and fat saved by using low-fat cream cheese falls short against the gain of structure provided by the regular variety.
To create a usable dip for ripe fruit, cream cheese needs to be lightly sweetened and moistened to create a lithe texture. Fresh squeezed orange juice provides the liquid to gently loosen the cheese and provides a zesty background. Adding spices crossed my mind, but I quickly dismissed the idea as it would confuse the taste buds with other powerful flavors.
Yet it still needed something. That something ended up being a touch of orange liqueur that boosts the citrus theme, adds another layer of flavor and brings a grown-up edge to the dessert.
Lastly, I deliberated on how to lightly sweeten the dip. Traditional sugar was too sweet and honey brought too much moisture. I settled on dark brown sugar to provide sweetness, a deep molasses a background flavor and warm caramel hue.
This creamy dip pairs nicely with other summer fruits whether hot off the grill or fresh from market.
• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Villa Park. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.