Cherry Clafoutis (meh)

Cherries are in season! They’re one of my favorite fruits, but sadly we have discovered that my daughter has an allergy to raw stone fruit– pretty common, apparently– so I feel bad eating them in front of her. I decided to try using them in a baked recipe, and since no one else in my family seems to like pie, I tried my hand at clafoutis.

Cherry clafoutis is a classic french dessert– basically an eggy pancake batter poured over cherries and baked. Traditionally the cherries are unpitted, supposedly because the pits will infuse an almond flavor into the dessert. While I’m doubtful about this rationale, I gave it a shot (and added almond extract in case it didn’t work).

The finished dessert was tasty, with a nice almond flavor that worked well with the cherries, but I couldn’t really get behind the texture– it was kind of a cross between creamy and rubbery, and not my favorite. I do wonder if it would have been better when fresh out of the oven– I let it cool completely to make it easier to slice, but that may have been an error. It’s definitely better warm than at room temperature, and like I said the flavor was good, but I think in the future I’ll just eat the cherries plain and hide them from the kid.

That being said, I’m glad I tried it, if only to say that I did! Maybe you’ll have better luck!

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Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

I remember the first time I had pavlova. I was on a tour of Europe after college graduation, and it was one of the desserts on offer at a restaurant we’d stopped at. I didn’t know what it was, but it looked neat– all billowy cream and luscious fruit– and I assumed it would have cake or something in the middle to balance it out. It did not. Honestly, I thought it was overly sweet, the meringue was hollow and dry, and I didn’t really care for it. But something must have stuck with me, because here I am trying to make my own version, and hoping I get it right.

According to my binge-watching of The Great British Baking Show, pavlova is supposed to have a soft, marshmallowy interior and a crisp exterior. It’s also generally served with something tart to counterbalance all the sweetness of the meringue– I decided on lemon curd. I feel like ordinarily I’d use the extra egg yolks leftover from the meringue to make my curd, but as you recall I prefer the lighter texture of whole-egg lemon curd, so I’ll have to use the extra yolks in something else. I piled on the berries, using a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and just barely sweetened my whipped cream.

The pavlova turned out fantastic– the meringue was sweet and pillowy (though I couldn’t get it off the parchment without risking it breaking, it was very delicate) and the lemon curd added just enough tanginess to cut through the sugar and whipped cream. Really the perfect summer dessert, and it feels light and almost healthy, despite all the cream and the lemon curd. Plus, it’s a real showstopper in the looks department– so indulgent-looking with the mounds of berries and cream! I’m already trying to come up with other flavor combinations, but I suspect that I’ll be coming back to this one time and time again…

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Juneberry Jam

juneberry-jam-biscuit

A few years back while at the school playground, my daughter ran up to me and asked if she could eat some “juneberries,” which she had found growing on trees planted around the play equipment. Wary at first (but figuring that it was extremely unlikely the school would’ve planted poisonous berries on their playground), I checked online and determined that the berries were edible, so she was allowed to try them. I even tried one myself, and discovered that they tasted something like a cross between a blueberry and a cranberry– sweet but with a tang. They were pretty good!

juneberries

Since then, we’ve noticed juneberry bushes all over our neighborhood parks, and while the berries are only ripe for a very short period (in June, of course), they’re abundant as long as you can get to them before the birds do!

This June we decided to finally make a serious effort to harvest some, rather than just picking them here and there, so one afternoon we set out with a plastic Halloween bucket and managed to collect just over 2 pounds of berries. It didn’t look like quite enough to make a pie, so we decided to make jam.

juneberry-jam-berries

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Clementine Olive Oil Cake

It’s citrus season, and while my family usually just eats clementines as snacks (my daughter goes through three a day on a regular basis!), I decided this time to try something a little different for a lunch gathering– a cake! I wanted to keep things simple, with a minimum of equipment and effort, which ruled out a butter-based cake (since that requires creaming and my stand mixer), and also many other recipes that involved 2 hours of boiling the clementines to make them palatable. Instead I went for a recipe that called for just buzzing the clementines in a food processor and working from there.

The cake itself turned out nice and moist, with a sweet tang from the clementines up front, a roundness from the olive oil in the background, and a slightly bitter finish from the rind. A clementine syrup helped give it some extra sweetness, which cemented its suitability as a dessert– without the syrup it was almost breakfast-like.

In other words, this is a grown-up cake.

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Spiced Pear-Oat Bars

pear-oat-bars

So it’s definitely fall, and to me that means desserts full of spices, oatmeal, and fruit. These bars have all of those things– the finely-diced pears form little pockets of sweetness, the walnuts give some crunch, and the oats and cinnamon provide a nice, warm background for everything. They’re more breakfast-y than dessert-y, in my opinion, mostly due to the oatmeal, but that doesn’t make them bad. I’d classify them as a good fall snack, though they fall apart a little too easily for just carrying around and munching. They’d be fabulous with a nice cup of hot apple cider… I may try that myself tonight!

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Sweet and Spicy Pickled Grapes

pickled-grapes

My first try at pickled grapes was a few years ago– I’d come across a recipe from (you guessed it) Deb at Smitten Kitchen and was determined to give it a shot. I’d never tried pickling anything before, so it seemed like as good a reason as any to start! They turned out to be absolutely amazing– sweet, tangy, and refreshing, with a hint of spice to tweak the palate from being dessert-ish to savory cheese plate-ish. I vowed to make them again at some point… and promptly forgot about them.

Still, some vestige of memory must have remained, because when I volunteered to bring a cheese plate to a gathering of my best foodie friends, a little bell in my head went “ding!” and I knew I’d have to try making these again.

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Nut-Free Granola Bars

granola-bars

So my daughter started junior kindergarten this fall, and while she’s allowed to bring nuts to school in her lunches (Hallelujah! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the win!), her lunch period is at 11:00 am– making it necessary for her to have a filling, healthy snack for later in the afternoon. Snacks, unfortunately, are required to be completely peanut and tree nut-free due to an allergy in her class, so I’m going to have to get creative this year to find things that will work for a quick pick-me-up.

I immediately thought of homemade granola bars– they’re easy to make, infinitely versatile, and can be tailored to her personal tastes as well as being reasonably healthy. I’d made these thick, chewy granola bars from Smitten Kitchen before with good results, so I decided to adapt the recipe to omit the nuts and substitute seeds and extra dried fruit (and chocolate). I ended up going with pepitas, sunflower seeds, and millet (added a crispy texture┬áto the mix), along with dried blueberries, cranberries, and dates. The combination worked very well, and it was a success with the whole family!

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Candied Lemon Peel, Two Ways

After making all of that lemonade concentrate (and it took about 20 lemons!) I had a whole bunch of perfectly good lemon peels that I just couldn’t let go to waste. So I decided to make candied lemon peel. I’d never tried to make candied peels before– I’ve candied kumquat slices before (tasty) and had a failure of candied blood orange slices (I let them boil too long in the syrup and they completely caramelized and burned)– so I thought it was about time to give it a try.

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Summer Berry Tart

fruit tart mini

With all the plump, juicy berries available in all the grocery stores lately, I’ve been eating them out of hand on a daily basis. I hate to cook them– it seems like such a waste of fresh produce– but I knew I wanted to do something special to really showcase the berries. Enter the fruit tart.

This tart is easy to make, but will make you look like a superstar. The graham crust (not crackers, but it’s got the same flavor profile) is a step above the usual pate sucree, and the flavors of brown sugar and honey really complement the other components of the tart. It also requires no rolling, bakes up nice and crisp without shrinking, and looks great. The filling tastes complex but couldn’t be simpler, and the trick of glazing the berries makes the dessert look professional. You’ll have people wondering if you actually made it yourself!

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