Nectarines & peaches are both members of the stone fruit family and are so close, only one gene is responsible for their difference. This unique gene makes the peach fuzzy and the nectarine smooth. For most part, nectarines are sweeter and juicer — in essence more nectar.
Nectarines originated in China and spread across the continents until they landed in America. They thrive in warmer climates, as a result, many of the nectarines we see in the grocery stores here are unripe, hard and tough. They are often harvested too early and therefore do not develop the aroma they should have. Baking will concentrate their flavor, while lemon, almond and vanilla draw out their more elusive variations.
This dessert idea originated from Sweden. Quite similar to some of the other roasted fruit recipes I have posted except this dessert uses wine in the baking of it. If you don’t care for raspberries, blueberries or blackberries will work just as well.
Baked Nectarines & Raspberries with Almond & Honey
In a small dish, combine wine & honey; stir to dissolve. Halve & stone nectarines, place them flesh-side up in a glass baking dish. Crush amaretti biscuits, add cardamom & mix well; add beaten egg yolk, 2 Tbsp of wine mixture & toasted almonds. Combine & divide mixture between nectarines, spooning into 'pit' holes.
Sprinkle nectarines with brown sugar then top each with a bit of the butter. Pour remaining wine & honey AROUND but NOT over the fruit, add 1 Tbsp water & tuck in the vanilla pod.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the nectarines for 30 minutes or until fruit is soft & the biscuit filling is crisp & golden. Remove vanilla pod. Carefully stir the raspberries through the pan juices. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, whip cream; when ready to serve dessert, top each with a dollop.
Italian prune plums or sometimes called Empress plums, are different from the traditional round red and black skinned plums we see in the grocery stores. Sporting a dusky purple skin and a tart, lemony green flesh, these European fruits are ripe for harvest by the end of August to the beginning of September. This particular plum is prized throughout Germany and plays a big role in the German kitchen. Although it has a bit of a sour taste, it is very versatile in making juice, jam, cakes, dumplings as well as Slivovitz — a famous Schnapps.
I remember my mother making these plums as a stewed fruit to be served with yeast dumplings ( see my blog on German Hefekloesse from Nov. 6/2016).
Now that the Italian plums have come into season, I’m taking this opportunity to bake some for our dessert today. Top them with a nice simple crumble mixture, bake and serve hot. Of course, what would they be without ice cream!
Place plum halves, cut-side up, in a baking dish & drizzle with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients, working with fingers until crumbly. Pile topping mixture into 'pit' holes. Bake about 20-30 minutes until topping is golden brown & bubbling. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
You guessed it —- more roasted fruit! It seems to be my addiction this summer. This time its not that I had fruit on hand but instead some mascarpone cheese. Who would dream of letting that go to waste?? Sometimes called Italian Cream Cheese, mascarpone is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy. Mascarpone is used in both sweet and savory dishes to enhance the flavor without overwhelming the original taste. Lombardy has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage. Farms that produce the cheese provide their cows with special grasses that include fresh herbs and flowers. This in turn gives a unique taste to the milk and a creamy texture to the cheese.
Some years ago, Brion and I visited the Lombardy region of Italy. We have great memories of the wonderful food but probably even more so the beauty of the architecture and history. We spent a bit of time in Milan. While there we visited the world renowned ‘La Scala’ opera house and museum as well as the glass roofed shopping arcade and giant cathedral, the ‘Gothic Duomo’. I’ve included some of our photos from Milan for you to enjoy.
Roasted Summer Fruit with Spiced Mascarpone Cream
In a skillet, toast almonds until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small roasting pan, toss together all prepared fruit, half of the sugar, the brandy & butter. Roast, stirring occasionally, until for tender, about 15-20 minutes.
While fruit is roasting, beat together mascarpone, remaining sugar, vanilla, ginger & cardamom until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip cream; fold into mascarpone mixture along with half of the almonds.
Divide mascarpone mixture into dessert dishes forming a mound in each. Spoon fruit & pan juices over top. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
- You can prepare the fruit & cream ahead. Just keep them in separate dishes; cover & refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Definitely, roasted fruit is one of my favorite summer desserts. It becomes so intense when its been sizzling and caramelizing at a high temperature. Roasted strawberries are one fruit that can take any dish to the next level. Along with the fact that it will stain even the palest berries to a ruby red, the subtle use of aromatic ingredients like lemon, vanilla or rose water can breathe new life into your bland unripe berries. Another added bonus is that the seeds add a little crunch to the tender, supple structure of a roasted strawberry.
I wanted to make something quick and easy for dessert today. I just happened to have some strawberries on hand why not roast them. A while back I saw an idea on youtube.com with strawberries and of all things, the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, ‘Nutella’. I have to be honest, I have maybe only tasted it once or twice but what the heck! Of course, you guessed it, I would first want to read up on its history. You maybe know all this but—– It seems it all started with the same Italian family that gave us the glorious ‘Ferrero Rocher’ chocolates. Nutella was invented during WWII when the war had created a chocolate shortage.
In 1925, Italian chocolatier, Pietro Ferrero, perfected the so-called ‘pastone’ (pastry mesh) of chocolate and hazelnuts. The Piedmont region of Italy, which his family called home, is famed for its delicious and abundant hazelnuts. In 1946, he created pasta giandja (or giandujot) which was made in a small hard loaf or bar, wrapped in aluminum foil and could be sold at a cheaper price. This chocolate could be cut into slices to eat on bread which formed a big part of the diet at the time. In 1949, a spreadable version called supercrema gianduja was intoduced, which was later renamed ‘Nutella’ in 1964. The name gave the product international appeal. It said ‘nuts’ and it also said Italy — ‘ella’ being a common affectionate ending in Italian such as in mozzarella cheese, tagliatella (a form of pasta) or caramella (a sweet).
Fifty years on, the company is the number one user of hazelnuts worldwide. Interesting! OK, now on with the pastries.
Roasted Strawberry & Hazelnut Pastries
Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice off blossoms; leave small & medium berries whole, cutting largest ones in half. In a glass baking dish, toss with sugar, salt & lemon juice.
Roast, stirring once or twice, for about 30-40 minutes, long enough for the berry juices to thicken but not burn. Remove from oven; add vanilla & rose water. Set aside until ready to use.
On parchment paper, lay out sheet of puff pastry. At one end of the pastry, spread hazelnut cream& top with cooled roasted strawberry 'jam'. Below the chocolate/strawberry mixture make 5 slices so you end up with six strips. Starting at top where the filling is, roll up pastry & join the two ends together to make a wreath.
Adjust oven to 400 F. Brush with egg wash , sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Lift wreath ON the parchment paper to baking sheet & bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Roasting intensifies the flavor of fruit and creates an appealing texture especially in unripe fruit. To often, many of our store bought fruits picked before they are ripe are quite tasteless. The fact that stone fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots are seasonal, makes them seem almost more valuable.
Whether you prefer to bake, roast or grill your fruit, the options for its flavor are only limited by your imagination. When it comes to the herbs and spices you can use, think beyond traditional choices. Consider star anise, ginger, cardamom or mint, sage and lemon verbena to name a few.
A summer favorite for me are those little sweet-tart fresh apricots. In comparison to other stone fruits they seem to be undeservedly, under appreciated. Even if baking is not a summertime pursuit, you can always make good use of your barbecue.
Apricots stuffed with crushed almond-flavored amaretti cookies and mascarpone, then drizzled with apricot brandy are absolutely ‘divine’. You can prepare the apricots before you sit down to eat then bake them in the oven or on the barbecue. They will be ready to top with a dollop of ice cream for dessert.
Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone & Apricot Brandy
Preheat oven or barbecue to 375 F.
Arrange the halved apricots to fit snugly, cut side up, in a shallow oven or barbecue dish. Mix crushed biscuits with the mascarpone. Spoon into the cavity of the apricots & sprinkle with the brandy or orange juice.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until tender & serve warm or cold with ice cream.
As usual, I can’t get enough of using rhubarb throughout its growing season. This year we started three new plants as our older ones are producing less and less. I think they are probably just becoming to shaded so we put the new ones in a great little spot on the south side of the garage.
Rhubarb’s awkward positioning between fruit and vegetable, sweet and tart, is a topic that’s constantly debated. It resembles sticks of celery dressed in their best pink Sunday attire, blushing from the first few washes of early sun peaking through its dense foliage after winter hibernation underground.
Pie remains the most common use for rhubarb, so much that older cookbooks called it the ‘pie plant’. While it generally is treated as a fruit, it has also been used as a savory ingredient, frequently paired with meats, cheese, stuffings, sauces and much more.
This is one of my favorite ‘sweet’ recipes from quite a few years ago. It has it all — rhubarb, cream cheese & streusal!
Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins
In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar & lemon slice. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar melts. Reduce heat & simmer about 10-12 minutes or until thickened & reduced to about 1/2 cup. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. with a pastry blender, cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. In a small dish, measure 1 cup of the flour mixture & add walnuts & cinnamon. Set aside. To remaining flour mixture add baking powder, baking soda & salt. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine sour cream, vanilla & beaten egg.
Cream Cheese Filling
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 sugar, egg & lemon zest. Fold in stewed rhubarb.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups. Stir SOUR CREAM mixture into FLOUR/BAKING POWDER mixture until just blended. Do not over mix! Spread this batter evenly over bottom & up the sides of each paper cup. Place a spoonful of FILLING MIXTURE in center of each, then top with WALNUT MIXTURE & bake 12-15 minutes or until muffins test done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
The pairing of chocolate and strawberries is hands down one of the best combos in dessert history. Both have long and rich histories. Strawberries were found growing wild in Italy centuries ago. The name itself has some myth around it stemming from the idea people put ‘straw’ around the base of the plant for both nutrients and protection.
Chocolate was enjoyed by Aztec and Mayan civilizations as a beverage and even used cocoa beans as a currency. As cocoa spread around the world, different ideas for its use emerged. Candy makers added milk & sugar or nuts and caramel to their chocolate confections.
In the 1960’s, Lorraine Lorusso created a decadent chocolate covered strawberry. As the story goes, she worked at a small gourmet shop called the Stop N’ Shop in Chicago, USA. She took a tempered version of the gourmet chocolate that was sold in the store and dipped some fresh strawberries into the mixture. She allowed the chocolate to harden and served these strawberries to their paying customers. The treat was an instant success.
I’ve done my own pairing of strawberries and chocolate in this cake roll with a cream cheese filling. Hope you get a chance to enjoy one through the summer as well.
Strawberry Cream Chocolate Roll
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whip egg whites until foamy, gradually adding HALF of the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. In a third large bowl, beat egg yolks until thick. Add remaining sugar, vanilla & water; beat until very thick. Gradually fold in flour mixture then egg whites.
Spread batter evenly into jelly roll pan. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until it tests done with a toothpick. Loosen edges & immediately turn cake onto a tea towel dusted with powdered sugar & remove parchment paper. Starting with narrower end, roll up cake in towel; cool completely.
In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & lime juice. Fold in diced, fresh strawberries.
Unroll cooled cake; remove towel. Spread cake with filling; roll up loosely to accommodate filling. Cover & refrigerate until ready to slice & serve.