I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Fruit Desserts

Peach Delight Frozen Yogurt

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Homemade frozen yogurt has become one of my passions this summer. I’ve especially enjoyed using freestone peaches and strawberries. You can use berries, nectarines, mangoes, and even poached apples or pears with most of the juices drained. Simply follow the basic recipe and adjust sweetener (use sugar if you prefer) to taste. I add a little sugar to the fruits to get the juices running; you can skip that step if the fruit is already juicy.

Cherry Clafoutis

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Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert that originated in Limousin. The name comes from clafotis, which means “to fill up,” in Occitan, an old French language with regional dialects throughout parts of Southern France. Traditionally the dessert was made with dark cherries, pits included, with a custard batter similar to pancake batter or a thin flan. Leaving the pits in the cherries creates a stronger cherry flavor, but can cause tooth damage to the unwitting diner. The same recipe using different fruits and vegetables are technically flognardes. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s as easy to make as a fruit-filled, baked pancake that you can serve anytime, whether for a special breakfast or as dessert.

Given that cherry season is so fleeting, take advantage of the beautiful cherries coming from the Pacific Northwest or, use apples, berries, rhubarb or plums. In fact, now that Limousin is known for their specialty apples, they are the more commonly used fruit.

Sorbets and Granitas

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When the heat’s on, the last last thing you want is kitchen time at the stove or have the oven blasting. This is when sorbets, granitas and popsicles are the best game in town. And what’s better than something bursting with summer flavor but light on the waistline? You can start the process early in the morning, and enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun intended) later in the day when you crave an icy treat.

Cherry Vanilla Cake with Kirschwasser

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This delicious summer cake is a hybrid cross between a classic French clafouti and a coffeecake.  It has a very moist, dense crumb due to the high butter and eggs and low flour ratio.  It is a perfect afternoon dessert to serve with tea as well as a brunch or dinner dessert, especially as it can be made a day ahead of time. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

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If you aren’t sure whether or not you like rhubarb, this is a good place to start. If someone’s given you rhubarb, pick up some strawberries and make this jam. It’s quick and easy to make and you don’t have to process it as it will keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. Make some toast and try. If you like it, terrific. If you don’t, you have an automatic gift for someone who does.

Strawberry Rhubarb Fool With Vanilla Cream

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You’ve got to love the quirky names the Brits have for some of their older recipes. Fool is one of my favorites though Bubbles and Squeak and Toad-in-a-Hole are up there on my list of “faves.”

This is a little different from traditional Fool recipes, which are made with minced or pureed fruits and whipped cream or custard.  This recipe has cooked rhubarb and strawberries, whipped cream blended with crème fraiche and delicate rose water. You are welcome to substitute other fruits for the strawberries and rhubarb if you choose. Just keep the proportions more or less the same.

Fresh Fruit Tart

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Courtesy of Anne Baldzikowski, Easy Artisan: Simple Elegant Recipes for the Everyday Cook

Anne says, “This is a favorite dessert at summertime parties when we have such an abundance of colorful and tasty fruits. It was also a favorite dessert of mine that I learned how to make in pastry school. After graduation I was so enamored by the pretty fluted edged French tarts that I started a wholesale bakery called The Queen of Tarts! Coffee houses, caterers, restaurants, and hotels soon called with orders for this eye-catching dessert.”

Apricot Crumble – Tarte Crumble Aux Abricots

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Courtesy of David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen; Ten Speed Press; 2014

I grew up on apricots, both fresh and dried as well as apricot desserts. David had never had fresh apricots until he went to France, at which time he “got it” about how amazing they are when they’re baked. If you haven’t used fresh apricots in desserts, you’re in for a wonderful treat!

Book Review: Flavor Flours

 

3D COVER. Flavor Flours

Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch

Whenever I need inspiration for a special dessert or a good cookie recipe, I reach for one of Alice Medrich’s books. When Flavor Flours came out I was excited to review it, but I had no idea how much I wanted and needed this book until I recently received a copy.

Alice Medrich is truly a culinary visionary and trend setter. As a young woman she lived in Paris and was given some chocolate truffles. Intrigued by the flavor and uniqueness of the confection, which was essentially unknown in the US at that time, she returned to Berkeley, California and made truffles for sale. The truffles she designed became known as “California Truffles.”

Lemon Trifle with Berries

Lemon Trifle with Berries

If you have teenagers, you’ll probably want to skip this blog as the main ingredient in trifle is stale cake. If you actually do occasionally have stale (or extra) cake — with or without teenagers — read on!

If you’re unfamiliar with trifle, it’s a British invention for using  stale cake. Which does lead one to wonder if stale cake is a common problem for the Brits because their teenagers are sent off to boarding school.

Kick-Ass Applesauce

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 Anyone with a stove, a pot and apples can make applesauce. But, really good applesauce? Use heritage apples and a few special ingredients and you’ve got yourself a kick-ass good dessert!

In 1969 I moved to a ridge along the Mendocino coast.  Through serendipity I ended up in the second oldest farmhouse on the Coast and it came with 29 heritage apple trees! Needless to say, we had apple everything from early autumn until spring.  Apple pie, apple crisp, apple cookies, apple cake, baked apples, candied apples and a whole lot of applesauce.

Amazingly enough, I still look forward to autumn for the apples. Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like  the snap of biting into a crisp apple and feeling and tasting the juices flood your palate!

Stuffed Apricots with Pistachios and Pomegranate Molasses

A few months ago I read about a Facebook friend’s dessert at a Mediterranean restaurant – Apricots stuffed with pistachios and drizzled with pomegranate molasses.  My mind could immediately taste this delicacy but I automatically adapted it mentally. It was late autumn, not apricot season, which meant it was made with Turkish apricots.

European Plum Cake

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This delicate, delicious, absolutely-must-make cake recipe comes from Maria Reiz Springer. Now living in Maryland, Maria is from Austria and has an infinite number of amazing European dessert recipes, and usually a wonderful story that goes with the recipe. Maria has a home cooking school and is truly a master baker. The plum cake can be made with other stone fruits as well, but if you are lucky enough to have French plums, they are both the traditional plum used as well as divine in this cake.

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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