Catching Up on Summery Fruit Desserts


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Red Currant Gelee with Diced Saturn Peaches, Whipped Cream, and Ollalieberries.

I’ve made a few casual fruit desserts in the past month that I haven’t written about, so I thought I’d just run through them and take stock of the madness. All of the fruit was bought at Los Angeles farmer’s markets — either the Saturday or Wednesday Santa Monica market or the Sunday Hollywood market; the majority is either organic or spray-free.

The dessert above was made this past weekend, based on Lindsey Shere’s recipe here. I’m always so excited to see rare fruits for sale that I invariably rush to buy them (unless they look bad, and then sadly there’s just no use trying to resuscitate them). The red currants sold by Pudwill Farms this past Saturday looked fresh and sparkly (as opposed to some scraggly wild blueberries that I didn’t think could be coaxed into goodness), but I knew that red currants can be a little unpleasant to eat plain b/c of their large seeds and tartness. Shere’s recipe ameliorates these traits by cooking them with water and a little sugar before straining them and adding gelatin in order to make a gelee (which I fanatically wish I could just call jello).

The gelee lasts for a few days (though the gelatin will progressively firm up a little), so when you want to eat it, you can just whip up some cream and cut some fruit, if you want. The Saturn peaches, with white flesh and thin skins, have been juicy and tasty at the market so far (and their pits are a dream to remove).

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I have to thank Suzy at la.foodblogging for mentioning the availability of ollalieberries in her market report last week. They were sold at a stand that has an extensive potato selection, and I never would have guessed that they would have them (and boysenberries, as well, which I found sweeter).

The gelee above was chilled in a glass that I saved from a pudding I bought from Miette in SF (makers of the cupcake in my profile pic), and I also put some in an emotion glass that I saved from Pierre Herme. For this one, I crushed some berries with a fork and strained it to get juice that I mixed into the whipped cream w/ a little sugar. It gave a nice lavender color that didn’t really show up in the pic. If I were to do it again, I’d maybe try to put a lot more juice into the cream to get a stronger flavor to make it worth it and mix it less beforehand (it had been at soft, droopy peaks to begin) and afterwards b/c it was on the brink of graininess by the time I finished. But really, I think it’s perfect to just plop the berries on top instead.

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I also made a White Nectarine, Saturn Peach, and Ollalieberry Cobbler this past weekend.

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Noyau not used, the pit just happened to halve.

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The fruit was great and I was surprised by how well the ollalieberries colored the juices and the Saturn peaches, but I used a cobbler topping from a CIA recipe that didn’t rise all that much and was too fatty for me. Many cobbler recipes are similar, and I think it’s a matter of personal preference to adjust the butter and/or cream to your liking. In all honesty, though, I think I prefer crisps — b/c of their livelier flavor and texture — and maybe b/c I grew up with mighty fine apple crisp memories. Here, I generally uprooted the biscuits and ate the compote part plain, or spooned it over my morning oatmeal.

The filling thickener was tapioca, based on Claudia Fleming‘s ratios, but I didn’t like the texture too much — silken in an uncomfortable way. It bubbled up to nearly the sides of the pie dish while baking, but settled down considerably when cool.

I also discovered a love for nectarines through all of this. They’re like easygoing peaches, and I can’t wait to experiment with them a lot this summer. I was concerned that mine felt a bit firm in my hand, but they had a respectable juice and were very flavorful.

More after the jump…

On June 16, I made this Yeasted Santa Rosa Plum Tart with Plum Compote and Mulled Red Wine Caramel Sauce.

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Oh, but wait, it wasn’t a tart…

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It was a madcap cake. Here’s what happened — I wanted to make the Yeasted Plum Tart in Ripe for Dessert, but I wanted to make the middle-class brioche from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice as the base… so I approximated how much dough I thought I would need for a tart based on the amounts given in the tart recipe… and wound up with an uneven cake (which was crusted with add’l sprinkled sugar). Again, I liked the fruit, but wasn’t so much into the plain skyhigh brioche. So, I picked the fruit off the top, and froze the cake so that I can turn it into a bread pudding when the spirit strikes.

The Mulled Caramel Wine Sauce was great. You pretty much reduce wine while steeping spices in it (I used allspice and black pepper only), and then mix it with caramelized sugar and a little cream. It’s based on a recipe from Stephen Durfee at the CIA; he made it into an ice cream by adding ice cream base.

I also made Honey Cinnamon Rolls with leftover brioche dough, based on whatever amounts of looked right. I only used honey for the liquid sugar, which cooled almost hard, but softened over the day.

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Figuring I just wanted a bowl of fruit, I also tossed together a Lil’ Plum Pie with some extra Santa Rosa Plum Compote (which I made with caramelized sugar, rum, and cornstarch) and a puff pastry that I’m dying to get out of my freezer and want to deal with as little as possible. In a moment of craziness, I tried using all cream instead of water to hydrate it, murmured “what have I done,” and have been trying to figure out a way to use it without actually putting all that fat into my body ever since. I thought using it as a pie crust would be great, b/c I rarely ever eat more than two bites of crust.

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Not bad, but not too exciting to eat. The excitement came when I was blindbaking the crust and smoke came streaming out of my oven. It turned out that fat from the fatty puff had melted out and pooled on the bottom of the oven… where it began to smoke. I had to turn off the oven, let it cool, wipe the bottom, heat it again, and put the pie dish on a baking sheet, which I guess it should have been on in the first place, but I’ve never had fat stream out of a crust before.

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Roasted Blenheim Apricots with Herbal Tea Syrup, based from a recipe in Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course. This was delicious. I’ve made my best effort to like fresh, raw apricots, but it just hasn’t worked — they’re usually mealy things, with an elusive, and sometimes off, flavor. I’d been looking out for the revered Blenheims in hopes that they would reverse my thoughts, but even they were a bit of “meh.”

But roasting seemed to fix the texture into an even, juicy pulp (indeed, Fleming thinks that the best characteristics of apricots aren’t fully unleashed until they’re cooked), and the tea went with the apricots in a dreamy way — it’s intoxicating in its floral/fruity/honey lusciousness. I used Peaceful Mind Tea from Urth Caffe in LA, with flower petals, chamomile, orange peel, and herbs; it has a honey-ish background. Fleming uses fresh chamomile flowers, which must be wonderful, but I couldn’t find them at the market (in fact, I’ve never noticed at any market, but I only looked this one time).

The Blenheims on June 9 looked like this…

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Oh, but I did try Apriums on May 16, which had a pleasant turgid texture and a deeper flavor thanks to the plum contribution to it. I’d eat those again plain and raw. They are on the right in this pic below; Castlebright Apricots are on the left, which were made into yummy preserves.

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I also got some Pluots and Mea Bella Plums on June 9, which I made into separate sorbets, both spiked with sake.

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And one of most surprising treats was when I was making a base for Lemon Verbena Ice Cream that I couldn’t stop sampling, and I decided to just steep some lemon verbena in some milk as a drink. I also couldn’t stop drinking Lemon Verbena Milk. I had 2 mugs full. I can’t remember if I added sugar.

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Lemon verbena!

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12 Responses to “Catching Up on Summery Fruit Desserts”

  1. The TriniGourmet Says:

    OMG>.. drooling all over my screen, it all looks so good! 😀

  2. Nina Says:

    Hahaha Thanks! 🙂

  3. lucette Says:

    Coincidentally, I was just reading about Lindsay Shere’s early days at Chez Panisse in the new book abt Alice W and CP.
    These look lovely.

  4. Nina Says:

    Thanks, Lucette. I’ve been debating for a week whether or not to order that new book about Chez Panisse… And I probably will before another week passes. It sounds too interesting to pass up. I also have my eye on the Chez Panisse Fruit book…

  5. erin Says:

    you amaze me. if you need any help eating up some dessert in the future, just let me know…

  6. Nina Says:

    Aw, shucks… thanks, Erin! I’ll let you know… The sweets to savory ratio in our apt is definitely out of control 🙂

    Btw, I was excited to see greengage plums at the farmer’s market this morning. Grab them if you see them, too — they’re really amazing — either out of hand or preserved to take to NYC. 🙂

  7. Aaron Says:

    OMG…you’re crazy!!!
    But a good friend says she gets to the end of every summer and panics…did I do enough with stone fruit?
    My guess is that you’re going to do enough.
    Boysenberries are my absolute favorite. Their sweetness is remarkable, but the texture gets me. Much softer and silkier on the palate. Were yours like that?
    Glad to hear about you nectarine awakenings. I grew up with a mother who simply can’t live without summer nectarines, so I’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated.

  8. Nina Says:

    Seriously, in the middle of last August, I realized that I’d hardly done anything w/ stone fruit, so I wanted to get on the right track early and make up for last summer. 🙂

    And yeah, the boysenberry that I tried was just how you described — I had no idea beforehand — but I was so smitten by the ollalieberry name and mystique that I went for them instead, even though they weren’t as luscious or sweet. Next time, and in the future, it’ll be boysenberries.

    And OMG, I was home in NJ for a long weekend, and I discovered that my parents have a sour cherry tree! There were even a few sour cherries left, so I had plans to make a pie, or as much of a compote as possible if necessary, the following day… but they didn’t last that long! Overnight, they either disappeared (from birds) or just went bad (I saw some black, shriveled things on the branches) — I still don’t know exactly what happened to them so suddenly. At least I got to try exactly two cherries while they lasted… and there were also wild black raspberries to forage for.

  9. emily Says:

    I love boysenberries — they’re so much better than ollalieberries imo. I put in a few plants in my sideyard, which is great since I get to make small boysenberry-blueberry (I grow those, too) pies all during the month of June!

  10. Aaron Says:

    Oh Nina…that is tragic!
    Growing up, many a summer day was spent making scarecrows and putting strips of aluminum foil on tree branches to protect our stone fruit.
    What a bummer…but maybe next year?

  11. Nina Says:

    Emily – Those boysenberry-blueberry pies must be fantastic! Except for strawberries, it seems like LA doesn’t get very many berries… and the season’s going so fast. The stand that had the boysenberries 1.5 weeks ago had melons instead today! I hope I can find more boysenberries before the summer’s end.

    Aaron – Aw, if only I’d known the aluminum foil trick! 🙂 I was so speechless when they had just disappeared. I went home for my mom’s birthday, so maybe that date’s a good marker for next year’s cherries, too. 🙂

  12. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » Cherry Tomatoes Are Meant To Be Peeled Says:

    […] I used “plum-streaked brioche” b/c I had the leftover plum brioche tart that I froze as the base, but I couldn’t slice away every last fragment of the plums. Luckily, plums and tomatoes go very nicely with each other. There’s something kinetic there, esp w/ the slight sugar factor. Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course has a recipe for Sautee of Tomato and Plums if you want to try a dessert with the combination. […]

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