Whenever I’m invited to a potluck, I immediately plan to bring dessert. But it’s important to think about the conditions you’re going to be in, and which kind of dessert best fits the setting, temperature and seating plan. With Memorial Day coming up, I thought I’d share some tips for picking outdoor-friendly desserts, as well as some of my go-to recipes. Whether your Memorial Day plans include a picnic, BBQ or backyard cook-out, these recipes are sure to make it through a day of fun.
Some tips for outdoor-friendly treats:
- Make it easy to serve and eat. If you’re seated, this is a lot easier to manage. But if you’re going to a standing-room only party or picnicking in the park, it’s best to have single-portion treats that someone can grab with ease. I try to bring treats that don’t require utensils to serve, or eat, just to keep things simple. I tend to bring cookies, blondies or brownies.
- Make it easy to transport. Softer things can get smushed or crumble pretty easily if you don’t exactly the right carrier. I tend to take the bus to get around, so I am always really careful about how I package my potluck contributions. It’s better to carry more containers with fewer brownies per container, for example, vs. smushing them all in one container to save space. Use parchment paper to separate layers in a box to keep them from turning into a bed of crumbs before you even get to your event.
- Avoid anything that can melt. This sounds obvious, but that means avoiding frostings, fillings or coatings that can melt in the sun over time. I once brought frosted cupcakes to a picnic in the park. Once I got into the sun, the frosting almost immediately started melting off into my cupcake carrier! The cupcakes still tasted good, but they got pretty messy to eat and ugly to look at. The same goes for things coated in chocolate, or filled with something that might melt and leak out over time.
- Think through the total time needed to bake. This is true for any recipe, anytime. But if you’re planning to bake something and then carry it with you, you need to think through the prep time, cook time AND cooling time. If you move baked goods around before they’re totally “set” they are more likely to f
Some suggested desserts:
Salted Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies: Deceptively simple but the mix of flavors makes them a standout! It took me a bit longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but her recipes are written for a different altitude than mine so that might account for the change in baking time (or my oven might be mis-calibrated… to be investigated)
Chipotle, Cinnamon and Cardamom Brownies: These brownies get even better over time as the flavors get deeper, so they’re perfect for setting out on a dessert table that’s going to be picked at for hours.
Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies: These are a go-to because they’re simple enough to please a lot of types of people, but good enough to please pickier dessert eaters. They taste even better the next day, in my opinion, so I make them the day before I want to share them. Make sure not to over-bake!
Cookie Butter Sea Salt Blondies: Cookie butter is very in these days, and these blondies take that flavor to the max. It’s a nice blend of sea salt, cookie butter and chocolate chips. I learned to let these sit for a while before I cut them so that the textures firmed up a bit more.
Apple Butter Snickerdoodles: Not into chocolate? These are a go-to for me because the recipe yields a ton of cookies, they have a really nice cakey texture, and they travel very well. I’ve carried these on cross-country flights and they held up perfectly!
Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Blondies: Such a nice mesh of flavors. These travel really well and the flavors just get better over time, so it’s easy to let them sit out for hours. I bake mine a little less than the recipe calls for (though times always vary by oven so you should always start checking a few minutes early!). Note that the recipe doesn’t specify exactly which pan to use – I bake mine in a 9×9 pan. Also, note that it turns out a bit different texture than many other blondie recipes, so don’t be surprised if yours are a bit more buttery/denser than you expected.