Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fruit or Bust

I'm not a baker. It's too scientific for me, too precise. I hate thinking about proportions, probably because I'm terrible at math. I also don't have a big sweet tooth. Friends come over for dinner and know to bring their own dessert. When I cook, I like doing so instinctually, making decisions based on flavor and ingredients. My food is savory and earthy, not so much pretty and sweet. I appreciate those who love creating pretty, sweet things, but I just don't really have the gene to make it happen for myself.

T feels the same way (which is admittedly quite nice). Neither of us love cake, for instance. We'll eat it and enjoy it, but we don't crave it, and that's an important distinction. At our wedding, we wanted a dessert that felt like us, that matched our own cravings. That's how we ended up with this:

Strawberry Shortbread Cakes with Fresh Berries

Our wedding dessert was delicious, and we loved that it felt like a natural extension of what we're about. It also brings home a seasonal distinction for me when it comes to sweets: In the summer, I do crave sweetness... fruity sweetness, that is.

Fruit and berries are everywhere right now. They're gorgeous and bright and ripe and just begging to be gobbled up. And so I've finally put a wedding gift pie plate to use, although not for pie. (I'm sure my pies would look terrible!) Instead, I've recently made two desserts that are inherently messy and rustic and not about perfection: a cobbler and a crisp. Behold, photos of desserts that are proudly un-pristine, and the recipes behind them: Blackberry Cobbler and Strawberry Peach Crisp.

Blackberry Cobbler
(from Martha)

My sister's to blame for this one. She made one at the beach and I couldn't stop thinking about it when we got home. Once I saw all the blackberries at the market, I was a goner. Oh how I love this berry. Cobblers are something I used to always make with my Grandma Jessie. Throw whatever fruit is ripe into a baking dish with a few ingredients, and voila ... my kinda baking.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream, for serving
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet or ovenproof baking dish, in the oven, 5 to 7 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, place blackberries in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash blackberries to release their juices. If blackberries are tart, sprinkle with sugar.
    4. In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1 cup sugar, milk, and vanilla extract; mix until well combined. Remove skillet from oven and add melted butter to flour mixture; stir to combine. Pour mixture into skillet and pour blackberries and their juices into the center.
    5. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the batter comes out clean, about 1 hour. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream.

    Strawberry and Peach Crisp

    I adore Amy from Playing House. So often I see Amy's baking and think, "Maybe someday." With her fruity baking, though, I think, "Maybe tonight!" This recipe rocks my world. (And if I'm ever attempting a real, adult cake, I'll trust Amy in a heartbeat.)

    • 3 cups strawberries, quartered
    • 3 cups peaches, sliced (about 2 large peaches)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or apple pie spice
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark)
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus some for the pan
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for juicy fruit
    • Dash salt
    1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Toss the fruit with half the cinnamon or apple pie spice, the lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar (and a tablespoon of flour if your fruit is juicy) and spread it in a lightly buttered 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
    2. Combine all the other ingredients, including the remaining cinnamon or apple pie spice and brown sugar, in a food processor and pulse a few times, then process a few seconds more, until everything is well incorporated but not uniform. To mix the ingredients by hand, soften the butter slightly, toss together the dry ingredients, then work in the butter with your fingertips, a pastry blender, or a fork).
    3. Crumble the topping over the fruit and bake until the topping is browned and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 30-40 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

    Psst... one more thing. One of my favorite things about making ugly, messy, fruity desserts? The obligatory vanilla ice cream!!!!

    One more day to enter the Freckled Citizen Birthday Giveaway... have you told us about your favorite place yet?


    1. Sometimes the similarity of our preferences terrify me. Another glass of wine for dessert? Yes please! Unless it's blackberry cobbler. . .mmmmm.

    2. So true, Samma! Drinking our dessert? Now THAT we do quite a bit of around here. ;-)

    3. The blackberry cobbler looks amazing. I'm going to have to put that on my to-make list!

      My fiance and I aren't cake people either, which is why we're having cookies and a sundae bar at our wedding... in November. Who cares if it's not "seasonal"? It's delicious!

    4. My day? Made. Thanks for the love! <3

    5. Strawberries AND peaches? I'm definitely trying that recipe. Thanks!


    C'mon, make my day...

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