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Leave the ice cream in the freezer. These tantalizing desserts from eight North Shore chefs will have you and your guests swooning for more. Bu Anna and David Kasabian. Photographs by Glenn Scott.

Dessert is the sexiest part of a meal. All the other courses, delicious as they may be, simply function as foreplay that moves to the crescendo of that glorious, sensual moment when cream, berries, custard, and sweet pools of warm chocolate meet the taste buds. We aren’t really hungry after that three-course meal, but we do want that delectable ending, don’t we? Great desserts are made from scratch with fresh ingredients, and like all truly delicious food, they bear the unmistakable mark of the chef’s heart and soul. We decided to hunt down a scrumptious selection of desserts that you could serve at a casual lunch or a candlelit dinner. These recipes come courtesy of some of the best bakers and chefs on the North Shore.

Agawam Diner

We first tried this diner’s banana cream pie over 20 years ago. We loved it then, and we still love it now. Today, John “Bubba” Galanis is the man behind the pies, and he was happy to share this Agawam classic with us. This pie is proof that fancy has nothing to do with a great, memorable dessert. It’s made the old-fashioned way with a flaky Crisco crust, plenty of ripe banana chunks, a rich and eggy vanilla custard, and a three-inch-high cap of Dream Whip that’s a wonderful addition to a perfect slice. Routes 1 & 133, Rowley, 978-948-7780.

Banana Cream Pie, Serves 6

The piecrust

1 cup King Arthur pastry flour

1 tbsp. powdered milk

1 tsp. salt

2/3 cup vegetable shortening

3 tbsp. cold water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together flour, powdered milk, and salt in a bowl. Mix vegetable shortening in with your fingers until marble-sized lumps form. Make a well in the center and pour in water. Toss mixture with your fingers until a soft and crumbly dough forms. Push the dough together to form a 5″ disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll out to an 11″ circle and transfer to a 10″ disposable aluminum pie plate. Crimp edges into the rim. Trim off excess. Place another 10″ pie plate on top of the dough. Press together. Invert onto a baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Invert and remove the top pie plate.

The filling and topping

51/3 cups whole milk, divided

11/3 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

6 large eggs

Pinch of salt

1 banana, peeled and cut in 3/4″ slices

1 (2.6-oz.) box Dream Whip topping

Over medium-high heat, boil 4 1/3 cups milk. Remove from heat. In another large bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and salt. Slowly pour hot milk into egg mixture while whisking constantly. Return mixture to pot and cook on medium-low heat while stirring and scraping constantly with a wooden spoon until thin ribbons form on surface, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and cool to room temperature. Arrange banana slices around the piecrust bottom. Spread custard over slices. In another large bowl, combine Dream Whip with remaining milk and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe onto the pie. Chill at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.

Jack Tar American Tavern

Head for Old Town Marblehead if you’re looking to taste a chocolate sensation aptly titled Chocolate Molten Cake. Owner and Chef Scott Brankman tells us this is his signature dessert, and it’s no wonder. Baked to perfection in a ramekin and released onto a plate, this mini tower oozes chocolate from its center as your fork slides through it. The sides are cooked just enough to hold a delicate wall of chocolate that seems a cross between cake and mousse, and it all rather delightfully melts in your mouth. Served with fresh berries and whipped cream, the marriage of all three in your mouth brings on much guilty pleasure. Swoon on, and yes, try this at home! Your guests will return. 126 Washington St., Marblehead, 781-631-2323,

nson09_desserts_3Chocolate Molten Cake, Serves 8

1 tbsp. softened butter

3 tbsp. flour

1/2 lb. unsalted butter

12 oz.  bittersweet chocolate,

roughly chopped

2 tbsp. heavy cream

6 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

4 eggs

4 egg yolks

4 tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

6 tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub softened butter on inside of 8 (6-oz) ramekins then roll  flour around, covering bottom and sides. In a medium non-metallic bowl, combine butter, chocolate, heavy cream, and confectioner’s sugar. Microwave for 2 minutes, stopping after 1 minute to stir. In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, combine eggs, egg yolks, flour, vanilla, salt, and granulated sugar. Whip until medium peaks form. Fold chocolate mixture into the whipped egg mixture. Divide batter among 8 ramekins. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool cakes for 2 minutes. Unmold onto plates and garnish with fresh berries and whipped cream.

The Black Cow Tap & Grill

The popularity of this sweet little gem is linked to the fact that tiramisu and crème brulee are two tried-and-true dessert favorites here, so putting them together should be that much more delightful-an inspiration Chef Angelo Stefanon credits to former chef Tommy LeBrun. Stephano’s tiramisu mousse is a sinfully delicious concoction of dramatic contrasts-light yet rich, creamy yet ever-so-slightly cakey, and the torched-sugar shell on top will just make you want to move out of polite mode and lick the ramekin with rapturous gusto. 16 Bay Rd., South Hamilton, 978-468-1166,

nson09_desserts_4Tiramisu Mousse, Serves 8

The mousse

1/2   cup heavy cream

1/4 lb. butter

4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

6 eggs, separated

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. granulated sugar, divided

Whip heavy cream to medium peaks and refrigerate. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stir together butter and 4 ozs. chocolate chips until melted and combined. Set aside to cool. In another mixing bowl set over simmering water, combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk until slightly thickened. Set aside to cool. Fold chocolate mixture into egg yolk mixture. Whip egg whites and 1 tbsp. sugar to soft peaks. Fold half the egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in half the whipped cream. Repeat. Divide among 8 (6-oz.) ramekins. Chill for 2 hours.

The custard

21/2 cups heavy cream

3 tbsp. ground hazelnut

coffee beans

1 vanilla bean, sliced open, seeds removed for another use

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup “sugar in the raw”

4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

10 egg yolks

Combine cream and ground coffee beans in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Strain through a coffee filter. Add vanilla bean to hot cream. In bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg yolks and sugar, scraping sides of bowl to prevent egg buildup, until the whisk leaves trails. Add cream slowly and continue to cook and scrape until soft peaks form. Remove from heat and stir until steam subsides. Remove vanilla bean. Divide among 6 ramekins, covering up mousse. Chill at least 1 hour. Microwave chocolate chips on low until barely melted. Sprinkle tops of ramekins with “sugar in the raw” and brown using a kitchen torch or broiler. Drizzle melted chocolate over the tops of the ramekins.

The popularity of this sweet little gem is linked to the fact that tiramisu and crème brulee are two tried-and-true dessert favorites here, so putting them together should be that much more delightful-an inspiration Chef Angelo Stefanon credits to former chef Tommy LeBrun. Stephano’s tiramisu mousse is a sinfully delicious concoction of dramatic contrasts-light yet rich, creamy yet ever-so-slightly cakey, and the torched-sugar shell on top will just make you want to move out of polite mode and lick the ramekin with rapturous gusto. 16 Bay Rd., South Hamilton, 978-468-1166,

The Exchange at the Wenham Tea House

Chef John Crouter’s lemon squares are perfection, with a bottom crust that is buttery, flaky, and just thick enough to give a nice bite. The tangy, lemony custard is clearly a “10” and the hint of sugar tops it all.  4 Monument St., Wenham, 978-468-1398,

nson09_desserts_5Lemon Squares, Yields 10 to 12 bars

Short crust

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13″ rimmed sheet pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and sugar. Pour in butter. Blend until the mixture comes together. Press dough into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool.

Lemon filling

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tbsp. cornstarch

5 large eggs

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest

Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk eggs until light and frothy. Stir into egg mixture. Add lemon juice and zest. Combine well. Pour over baked crust. Return pan to oven and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

A&J King Artisan Bakers

We were hooked on the heavenly coconut macaroons from this bakery the moment we took our first bite. These enticing little treats-generous shreds of coconut, just sweet enough, a super moist and chewy center, and toasted on top-are a delectable punctuation mark to any meal. Owners Andy and Jackie King were both trained at the New England Culinary Institute. He’s the bread baker and she makes the sweets. The idea to offer the perfect bite-sized macaroon was on both their minds, says Andy. “I am obsessed with baked goods that have egg whites in them because they are so chewy! We looked at the traditional coconut macaroon and the Italian one that is made with almond paste and has no coconut at all. We couldn’t decide between the two, so we did this coconut almond macaroon.” 48 Central St., Salem, 978-744-4881,

nson09_desserts_6Coconut Almond Macaroons, Yields about 20 cookies

4 egg whites, divided

11/2 oz. almond paste

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup almond flour

1/4   tsp. salt

1/4   tsp. vanilla

1/2 lb. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine 2 egg whites and almond paste in food processor and run until completely smooth. In a large bowl, combine remaining egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add egg white and almond paste mixture and stir until incorporated. Stir in almond flour. Add coconut and mix gently by hand until uniform. Chill for 4 hours. Portion onto cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, rotate pan in oven, and bake for another 3 minutes. Cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

Cassis Bakery

At Cassis Bakery, father and son Dmitri and Ilya Tsypkin have teamed up to create an impressive array of classically inspired but completely original desserts that look beautiful and taste wonderful. Ilya reminds us that, “dessert is importantÂ…it has implanted itself in the back of our minds as euphoric. Once consumed, our problems just seem to dissipate or even disappear.” The Boston cream square-velvety, moist and rich with a zing-proves his point deliciously. 263 Cabot St., Beverly, 978-922-2053,

Boston Cream Squares, Yields 6 squares

The sponge cake

7 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

11/3 cups cake flour

nson09_desserts_71/2 cup cornstarch

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2   tsp. vanilla

1/2   tsp. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk eggs and sugar together until triple in volume. In another bowl, whisk cornstarch and cake flour. Fold into egg mixture by hand. Melt butter in microwave and cool, then add to egg mixture with vanilla, lemon, and zest. Spread batter evenly in a parchment-lined 9×13″ sheet pan. Bake until a toothpick piercing the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

The pastry cream

2 cups whole milk

6 tbsp. cornstarch

11/4 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

In heavy-bottomed sauce pan, begin heating milk. In stages, whisk in cornstarch, sugar, eggs, and egg yolks. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.

The butter cream

2 tbsp. pasteurized egg whites

13/4 cups sugar

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened

1/4   tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt

Whisk egg whites until frothy. Gradually add sugar and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Cream butter with fork, mixing in vanilla and salt. Gradually add butter mixture to the egg whites and whisk to incorporate.

The ganache

2 cups heavy cream

14 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped

In a heavy-bottom pot, bring heavy cream to a boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until completely dissolved.

The assembly

1/2   cup granulated sugar

11/2 cups toasted and crumbled sliced almonds

1/2 cup water

Make a syrup by simmering sugar and water in a sauce pan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Cut sheet cake in half, creating two 61/2×9″ pieces. Coat both sides with syrup. Evenly spread half the pastry cream over top. Coat one side of second sheet of cake with syrup. Place over pastry cream, syrup side down. Spread a thin layer of butter cream over the top and refrigerate 30 minutes. Cover the top with ganache and refrigerate for another 30 minutes. Cut into even squares (approximately 3×3″), coat sides of each square with remaining butter cream, and then with toasted almonds.