Archive for fruit desserts

Strawberries with Aged Balsamic and Ice Cream

strawberrybalsamicNormally, I’m a chocolate, caramel, cream, buttery cakey, ooey-gooey, dessert kind of girl.  But when I happened upon a quart of  beautiful, just picked strawberries in the Headhouse Farmers’ Market, they spoke to me.  I knew i needed to do something that really showcased the fruit and didn’t interfere too much with its texture, flavor or freshness.

As I rummaged through the cabinet seeking inspiration, I spotted a small bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, which had been part of a delightful gourmet gift basket I received awhile back.  An idea began to germinate–vanilla ice cream topped with sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar.   Do note, aged balsamic is a sweet, thicker, almost syrupy concoction which works with desserts as well as some salads, particularly those that feature fruits and nuts tossed with the greens.  This oh-so-simple dessert was a showstopper; it highlighted the fruit, offered a unique and complementary flavor with the vinegar, and a bed of ice cream is the ideal summer treat.  Did I mention it took all of 45 seconds to prepare a serving?  And no oven required.

Here’s how to make heaven for one:

A scoop or two of best quality vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1 tsp (or more) 18 year old balsamic vinegar, drizzled over top.


This would be wonderful raspberries, or with peaches as they begin to appear in markets.

If you can’t get your hands on aged balsamic (it can be hard to find and rather pricey–best to procure it the way I did as a gift!) then you can cheat and reduce regular balsamic.  For four servings, dump a cup of regular balsamic in a saucepan and boil til it’s thick and syrupy.    This may take about 20 minutes. Drizzle as above.

How to Make Apple Cobbler


Tasked with bringing dessert to a frontier-themed book group meeting, I gravitated toward seasonal, homey comfort food.  We read “Oh, Pioneers” by Willa Cather, so traditional American seemed the route to take.

There was a mention of Apple Dumplings in the book, but that involved rolling dough for individual turnovers, and I strenuously avoid that.  Plus, making separate apple dumplings for everyone in our group of 10 seemed daunting.  But apple cobbler  accomplished the same mission with far less fuss. Cobbler gets its name from the crust’s top.  When it bakes it creates a bumpy, or cobbled texture.  Now, full disclosure, desserts of this ilk seem–to me–overly evocative of breakfast, so I have to sugar them up.  Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and/or caramel sauce does the trick.

Here’s what I did:

1.  Peel and slice 6-8 apples.

2.  Toss them in an oblong baking dish with juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon.applecobblerprep1

3.  In bowl, mix 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/3 cup Crisco, and 3 tablespoons butter cut in pieces.  Use electric mixer, pastry cutter or two knives to mix; it should look like coarse crumbs.applecobblerdough

4.  Add 1 egg and 1/3 cup buttermilk or regular milk to flour mixture.  Mix gently, and knead a few times to blend.


5.  Take small handfuls of the dough and place it on top of apples in pan, pressing slightly to cover.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over top of dough, and bake 40 mins at 375, or until crust is brown and apples are softened.


6.  Serve warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or caramel sauce.


Apple Custard Tart

Having gone apple picking last weekend and given into my uncontrollable urge to fill the bushel bags with reckless abandon, I have a serious glut of apples in my house.  I’ve shared them generously and forcefully with friends, neighbors, and total strangers, and we’ve consumed a goodly share ourselves.  But the fridge is still overstocked with apples.

So I’ve been actively seeking apple recipes, and was delighted to find this brown butter apple tart in Bon Appetit this month.  I reviewed the recipe and was dismayed to discover that the crust was a two-day, rolling pin affair–I loathe rolling dough.

“Forsooth”, said I, “My magic dough will fare just as well.”  And it did.  One other simplification tactic I used:  no need to core the apples and slice them into rings as BA suggests.  This is a total pain, and risks slicing fingers as well as apples.  I started with this thankless enterprise and promptly abandoned it.  Just cut the apples as you normally would but make thinner slices.

The baked custard filling of this tart gives it more depth and richness than a typical pie, crisp or tart.  It starts with vanilla beans and butter–but if you don’t have vanilla beans, you can melt and brown the butter solo and add vanilla extract to the egg custard mixture in the bowl.

For the crust:

Magic Dough:

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour

Beat with mixer til dough forms crumbly bits the size of lentils.  Press dough into bottom and up sides of 9 inch tart pan and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and proceed with brown butter apple tart recipe.

Note:  This is the same dough we use in our raspberry bars, and fruit tarts.  It can also be rolled into logs and sliced into shortbread cookies.  See why we call it magic?

How to Make a Cherry Tart

With summer fruits bursting at every market and farm stand, I am always tempted to buy too much.   Which is good and bad; it encourages consumption of a supremely delicious and healthy snack, but the fruit is only good for a short time and will rot if left to sit.

I had a surfeit of farm stand cherries last week, having been seduced by the rustic wooden bucket of them for a relatively modest price.  We ate our fill of them, but even with steady consumption, after 3 days, the remaining half bucket began to look tired.  Swift action was needed, and I concocted this very simple tart, riffing on the raspberry bar recipe we posted earlier this year. 


2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cup flour


2 cups pitted cherries have been a success
2 TBSP  brown sugar
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP water
sprinkle of cinnamon if desired

Heat oven to 350. 

Prepare fruit–if you’re pitting cherries, get comfortable;  this task is kind of the pits.

Place pitted cherries in skillet with other filling ingredients and cook over med-low until juice is rendered and cherries are very soft, approximately 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, make dough.  Mix all ingredients on medium speed until dough is crumbly and just starting to hold together.  Place 2/3 of dough into an ungreased fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; press dough firmly into bottom and up sides of pan about 1/2 inch.  Pour fruit mixture into tart.  Crumble remaining dough over the fruit and press gently into the tart.  Bake 40 minutes until crust and topping begin to brown.   Serve with mascarpone whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.