Trail Rations: Slow Cooker Desserts

When you think of using your slow cooker to make food for the gaming table, your mind will inevitably go to the plethora of savoury dish options (possibly helped by previous Trail Ration articles). Stews and roasts are such a natural fit for the slow cooker it can be hard to think of anything else. But what if I were to tell you your slow cooker is also the perfect vessel for cooking up sweet desserts to delight your players?

I haven’t touched on desserts much in previous articles, because they sometimes require a level of precision in execution which isn’t always possible just before a gaming session. But much like savoury slow cooker dishes, the two recipes I’m going to share can be tossed into your slow cooker and left to do their thing until it is time to serve them up. And both recipes are perfect for setting the mood in a rustic country tavern or inn; you can practically imagine the rosy-cheeked cook presenting them to the adventurers as a treat. In this case, your players get to share in the reward as well.

Both these recipes would be well-served by adding a side of vanilla ice cream, frozen yogurt, or whipped cream (or dairy-free equivalents).

Baked Apples with Cider Butter Sauce

  • 6 apples
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped dried cherries, apricots, cranberries or raisins
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup apple cider or juice
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  1. Core apples almost to bottom, leaving base intact. Slice off ¾-inch (2cm) wide strip of peel around the hole at top; trim base to level, if necessary.
  2. In a bowl, combine brown sugar, dried cherries, cinnamon and nutmeg; pack into apples. Place in slow cooker. Whisk together apple cider and butter; pour over apples.
  3. Cover and cook on low, basting several times, until wrinkly and very tender, about 3 to 4 hours. Transfer apples to shallow serving dish and keep warm.
  4. Whisk cornstarch with 1 tbsp (15 mL) cold water; whisk into liquid in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. (Make-ahead: Let apples and sauce cool separately. Store at room temperature for up to 8 hours or refrigerate in airtight containers for up to 3 days. Rewarm to serve.)
  5. Drizzle sauce over apples.

Slow-Cooker Sticky-Toffee Pudding

Pudding

  • 1 ½ cups pitted dates, chopped small (about 8 oz)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest from 1 orange (about 1 1/2 tsp)
  • Cooking spray

Sauce

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions

Pudding

  1. Bring the dates and milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, and simmer until the dates begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda (it will foam a bit); set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl until combined; set aside.
  3. Whisk together the sugar, butter, eggs and zest in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in the date mixture until just combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Line the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker with a double layer of aluminum foil, pressing it smoothly into the corners, and spray well with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the foil, and turn the cooker on low for 4 hours. Fold a double layer of paper towels, and place just under the lid across the pot to absorb the excess moisture and form a tight seal. Cover tightly with the lid. Cook until the middle of the cake has set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Sauce

  1. While the pudding cools, bring the sugar, cream and butter to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring often, until smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the nutmeg.
  2. To assemble: Poke holes in the cake with a skewer, and pour half the toffee sauce over it. Let the cake absorb some of the sauce, then pour the remaining sauce over the cake. Let the cake cool, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

As I said, both of these recipes are well served by pairing with something delicious and frozen, like ice cream. You can also make both of these the day before and reheat when you’re ready to serve. And on the outside chance you have leftovers, both make an excellent treat with your morning coffee.

I hope you’ll give one or both a try at your next game night. Imagine the look on your players’ faces as you set the scene: the grateful villagers, throwing a feast to thank the adventurers, bring forth a special dessert to honour the party. And then you place the slow cooker full of delicious in front of the players as the smell wafts over them… A night at the table they’ll never forget.

If you do try these out, please drop me a line and let me know how they work out for you. And if you try any variations please let me know, I’d love to hear about it. Until next time, happy eating!