Fabulous Fruit: Delectable desserts from culinary experts

  • Tue Jul 27th, 2010 4:31pm
  • Life

By Jackie Burrell Contra Costa Times

We turned to some experts, cookbook authors whose books are zooming up bestseller lists, for suggestions on how to make special desserts that are party perfect, but have the ease of a summer breeze.

The answers were sublime: raspberry and blueberry tarts, warm cornmeal shortcakes with strawberries, and a stone fruit and berry cobbler.

In short, the answer begins with beautiful fruit.

Serve this Chez Panisse-inspired tart with a little sweetened whipped cream, flavored with Kirsch or vanilla.

Lindsey’s austere berry tart

Tart dough

1cup all-purpose flour (or 3/4 cup white plus 1/4cup whole wheat pastry flour)

1tablespoon organic brown sugar

1/4teaspoon salt

1stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1tablespoon cold water

1/4teaspoon vanilla

1/4teaspoon almond extract

Berries

2-3 cups berries

3tablespoons raspberry jam or red currant jelly

Powdered sugar

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until the bits are no larger than a baby pea. Combine the water, vanilla and almond extract, then drizzle it in and pulse just until large, moist crumbs form.

Gather dough into a mass, shape into a disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll tart dough into a 10-inch round. Ease it into a 9-inch tart pan (or smaller individual pans) using excess dough to build up sides to 1/4-inch thickness. Chill the pan while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line tart pan with foil and pie weights and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil, then bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes more.

Lay berries on a towel. Heat jam with a few teaspoons of water to thin it, then press through a sieve. Brush half on the tart shell. Then fill the shell with berries, wedging them close together in a single layer. Bake 5 minutes.

Reheat the remaining jam, then dab a little over each berry. Remove tart from pan, dust edges with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

Makes one 9-inch tart

Deborah Madison, “Seasonal Fruit Desserts From Orchard, Farm and Market”

Warm cornmeal shortcake with farm stand berries

Cornmeal cake

3/4cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

1Ā½cups sifted, unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

2teaspoons baking powder

1teaspoon baking soda

2/3cup yellow cornmeal

1/2cup fine semolina

1/2teaspoon kosher salt

2/3cup sugar

2large eggs

1/2teaspoon almond extract

1cup buttermilk

Berries

3pints mixed juice berries

1/4cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

4teaspoons brandy

1cup cream

1/4teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with butter. Coat bottom and sides with flour and shake out the excess.

Sift the flour, baking powder and soda together into a medium bowl. Whisk in the cornmeal, semolina and salt.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually, beating until mixture is pale and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the almond extract.

On low speed, add half the dry ingredients and beat just until blended. Beat in the buttermilk, then remaining dry ingredients, just until blended. Transfer batter to pan.

Bake until the cake is firm to the touch and beginning to pull away from the sides, 45 to 50 minutes. A cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then turn out of the pan and finish cooling on a rack.

Meanwhile, combine the berries, 1/4 cup sugar and brandy. Stir gently and let macerate at room temperature for 1 hour to draw out the juices.

Whisk the cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla to soft peaks. Chill until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the ends off the cake, then cut the cake into 8 equal slices. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in oven until hot and slightly crusty, 5 minutes. Transfer to individual plates, top with berries and their juices, and cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Janet Fletcher, “Eating Local”

Stone fruit and boysenberry cobbler

2pounds stone fruit, peeled, pitted and sliced 1/2-inch thick (see note)

1/2cup sugar

11/2tablespoons cornstarch

11/2cups boysenberries

Biscuit topping

11/2cups unbleached flour

2tablespoons sugar

21/2teaspoons baking powder

1/2teaspoon kosher salt

6tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in 12 pieces

1/2cup whole milk

2teaspoons coarse sparkling sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place peaches in a large bowl. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch until well blended, add to peaches and toss to coat. Add boysenberries and toss gently. Place in a baking dish.

For biscuit topping, place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until bits are no larger than a pea. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the milk with a fork, tossing gently, just until moistened. Knead gently with your hands, just until mixture forms a cohesive dough. Turn onto work surface and pat into a 1/2-inch thick round.

Using a 21/2-inch round cutter, cut out 6 biscuits and place atop fruit. Brush lightly with milk, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake until biscuits are nicely browned and fruit is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Use any stone fruit — apriums, peaches, nectarines, plums or pluots.

Janet Fletcher, “Eating Local”