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Archive for the ‘fruit desserts’ Category

About a week ago, author Emily Nunn (@emilyreesnunn) posted a very simple frozen treat on her Instagram feed that she called “peach soft serve” – just frozen peaches and buttermilk whirled up in a blender. I swooned a little. Not only do I love peaches and buttermilk, together and separately, I loved the simplicity of it all. While I had no frozen peaches, I did have a big bag I’d just picked up at the farmers market that smelled so good it made me a bit dizzy. I had buttermilk hiding in the back of my fridge (that stuff lasts forever.) I had a blender. More pressing, I had an ice cream canister hogging up all kinds of space in my freezer and a need for that space. I was inspired.

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Let’s be frank. Things suck right now in the US. It’s really bad. A pandemic with no end in sight, a dumpster fire political situation, this energy sucking heat … its turned me upside down. On top of all that I’m eating crap. From a cooking perspective, I make plans and buy the ingredients, only to decide the next day to hit a drive thru and nap on my couch instead. To say my motivation and optimism right now is low, is a gross understatement. But sometimes you get lucky and a persistent bright light shines through. Recently, it was my friend Heather who, in addition to being a complete delight, has a magical backyard with a pool. As Chicago temperatures surged toward 90 degrees with 5000% humidity, she told me to come on over and socially distant float. It was just what I needed, mentally and physically.

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It’s a strange time. Isolation, fear, uneasiness and anger. We are in the midst of a change, a much-needed change. Oftentimes, I’m not too sure what to do or say, fearful of doing or saying the wrong thing but I am so over that right now. I’m listening. I’m reading, learning as much as I can to better understand my privilege and implicit biases. I’m asking questions. I’m thinking. And I do what I do when I have a lot of thoughts rattling around in my head that need sorting: I’m baking.

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When it comes to bringing a dessert to a party or summer bbq, a fruit galette is the way to go.  Absolutely, no question. First off, they are way easier to make than a traditional pie especially in an unairconditioned summer kitchen (hello, welcome to my world.) The pastry is a lot friendlier and forgiving than a pie dough due to the addition of a bit of sugar and is much easier to handle. Since galettes are free-form, they scale up or down easily and take any extra fruit additions like a champ. The filling is simple: some kind of fruit, sugar, a bit of thickener and if you’re feeling super duper fancy, some citrus zest and/or juice. But the number one reason you should be bringing galettes to parties is that there is no need to bring a pan home. Nope. No driving back the next day to get your pie tin, no wondering where the hell the bottom to your tart pan went. Slide that thing off the sheet pan onto a piece of cardboard or a cheap thrift store plate and you’re off. How many pie plates and tart pan bottoms have you lost over the years, left at long forgotten parties? Exactly my point.

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I had strawberries. A lot of strawberries. Due to a wet, miserable and achingly long spring, local strawberries haven’t yet made an appearance in my farmers markets so I turned to a not ideal option for a dinner party dessert I had my heart set on: Costco. Not surprisingly, they weren’t that great; rather large and bland without much of that sweetness that makes a strawberry a strawberry. Isn’t that always the case? But I hate wasting food so I made something with the extras, nearly half of the big ass container. Roasting often helps intensify flavors so in this spirit, I made a tart. An easy, freeform galette.

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Every year, I invite friends over to celebrate something I call “Polish Easter”. It’s a made up holiday of mine, planned loosely around the Easter holiday when schedules allow and is primarily a reason to eat the Polish foods of my childhood. It also happens to be my favorite Sunday Lunch of the year. I put on some polka tunes, pile the table high with old and new favorites – sausage and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, special breads, various vegetable dishes, the traditional butter lamb and of course the reason we’re all here: pierogies. This year it was too late to purchase a butter lamb so I made one for the first time, calling upon years of watching my father carve one out of stick of butter and with the help of several YouTube videos. It was spectacular. My Polish Easter was also later this year than usual due to busy schedules and happened to fall on May 5th so I called the event “Pierogi de Mayo”. Because of course I did.

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About this time every year I have the same problem: apples. Too many damn apples. In the fall I like to go apple picking and well, things happen. I overdo it every time. Just 6 of this kind I tell myself. And just 6 of that one, its not too many. Maybe a few more, so 8 of that one and oh, maybe a few more of this one. Before I know it, I’ve got more apples than I know what to do with and visions of baked goods dance in my head. I’ve googled “recipes that use a lot of apples” so many times it auto-populates my search bar. The funny thing is, a lot of the recipes that come up don’t use a lot of apples … maybe two or three. False advertising! One can only use so much apple butter.

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It’s been a rough, dark week. We were reminded, once again, that we can’t possibly know what’s going on in someone’s head. That we all have to pay more attention to those we love, be kinder, be more understanding. We need to talk less, listen more. To not be afraid to reach out, to say something, say anything. That we shared an uncommon connection to public figures we don’t know and the level of emotion it dredged up surprised us all. It’s sad. So very sad. So we do the best we can, cope in the ways we know and the new ways we learn. For me, I often bake.

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I’m still trying to work my way through a boatload of apples I picked a few weeks ago. Applesauce, cakes, fritters. A pie once or twice. These things are making a dent but I have to keep going. I’m not sure how many times I can google “recipes that use a lot of apples” and expect different results but recently, I had a new idea based on a mediocre slice of pie: apple bars. Something buttery, crumbly and full of apple flavor. Something creamy would be wonderful too. I was thinking cream cheese, much like my German Apple Cheese Torte but in a bar form. That used hard to find quark cheese but honestly, anything in that creamy, dairy family would be good – crème fraiche, sour cream, mascarpone, ricotta. Hmmmmmm.

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After a month of chocolate recipes followed by a bunch of beer recipes and a few Italian dishes for good measure, I was in the mood for something light, bright and tangy. Something citrus, puckery citrus. Something that screamed “Spring!!” at the top of its lungs. A tender, buttery bundt cake sounded pretty good too. Let’s combine the two, shall we?

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