It’s that wonderful time of year when there is an abundance of fresh fruit available so why not make the most of it?! Peaches are a favorite of mine, not only because of their great taste but they have such versatility in their uses. Just for something different today, I want to take the peach idea in a whole different direction. These beautiful, old fashioned pastries were very popular in the 1980’s. They are known for their unique look that resembles a fresh peach with a flavor that is delicately sweet and buttery. Traditionally served at Italian wedding showers, Pesche (or peach), are now served at any celebration and may be found throughout many countries in Europe.
Peach cookies are two cookie domes, carved on the inside and paired together to hold a dollop of custard. Once assembled, they are dipped in Alchermes, a crimson colored liqueur infused with a blend of anise flowers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, jasmine, mace, nutmeg, orange peel, sugar and vanilla. These ingredients are stepped in alcohol, which is then flavored with rose water. Alchermes gives these pastries a vibrant pink hue and a unique, light alcohol flavor that combines custard and cookie beautifully. To further enhance the peach resemblance, they are rolled in a sanding sugar.
Alchermes is a very ancient liqueur of Arabic origin. It’s main feature is an unmistakable scarlet color, which was originally acquired by adding ‘kermes’, a scale insect that eat oak trees. Modern alchermes liqueurs no longer use the kermes insect. Alchermes was created in the Frati’ Convent at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy.
These peach cookies are an impressive dessert, perfect for special summer occasions. You can use any filling you choose such as a pastry cream, lemon curd, limoncello or just plain nutella spread. Since it is almost impossible to find the alchermes liqueur in Canada, I’ve listed a few substitutes that can be used instead.
Peach Cookies or Pesche
In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; stir in reserved crumbs. Spoon into center holes of cookies & press together to form a peach.
In a shallow bowl, combine lemon & peach gelatin powder. Place package of strawberry gelatin in another bowl. Place sugar in a third bowl.
Working with one cookie at a time, spritz cookie with a bit of water. Dip in lemon mixture, then in strawberry gelatin & then in sugar. Spritz with additional water & add more gelatin as needed to create desired 'peach blush' effect. Place on a wire rack to dry for an hour. Attach mint leaves to top of each cookie with additional preserves. Store in refrigerator.
- Alchermes can be substituted for a peach liqueur or Chambord raspberry liqueur. For my peach cookies, I kept it simple & used a combination of jello powders to replicate the traditional idea.
Saskatoon berries are very high on my list of nostalgic memories from my childhood. How these little berries can evoke such a flood of treasured thoughts is amazing. Our family farm was located in Southern Alberta, (Canada). If you were to stand on our farmhouse, west veranda, the sight of the ‘foothills’ came into view (foothills are an upland area that flank the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains).
How wonderful it was to be able to pack a picnic lunch on a Sunday afternoon and be able to drive there. It was like a whole different world. A landscape of long ridges and rolling hills covered in native lodgepole pine, aspens and spruce trees. The small streams wound their way through meadows of dwarf birch, willow and prairie grasses. You could easily come across some of the beautiful wildlife such as elk, moose or deer that lived there.
This is where our family would go to pick saskatoon berries. Very often we were accompanied by family friends or relatives. It was such a great time, everyone picking berries together, eating Mom’s fabulous fried chicken and potato salad (etc. etc.) for our picnic lunch. I was looking at some pictures from those times. We must have had some hot dogs on one occasion and I burnt my mouth it seems. What priceless memories!
With ‘saskatoon season’ in full swing, Brion and I thought it would be great to pick our own this year. It certainly can’t get any fresher than that. We chose the U-Pick farm called GROVE BERRY PATCH. This is a family owned and operated farm with 20 acres of saskatoon berries and 1 acre of raspberries, black currants, highbush cranberries and vegetables. They are located 1.5 km south off Highway 16A on Spruce Valley Road, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.
It was such a nice little adventure. The morning was beautiful and the atmosphere of the berry farm and its family owners was very enjoyable. We picked a pail full of gorgeous saskatoons in a short space of time. I had originally started out with thinking I would post one recipe but of course, its turns out to be three. They consist of some Saskatoon Rhubarb Tarts, Saskatoon Butter Tarts and some Saskatoon Cream Cheese Tarts. Yum!
We are adding a few pics, not only of the tarts but some from the berry farm as well as a couple from my childhood days. Hope you enjoy the blog.
Saskatoon Berry Tarts
Filling for SASKATOON RHUBARB TARTS
Filling for SASKATOON BUTTER TARTS
Filling for CREAM CHEESE SASKATOON TARTS
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt until completely combined. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork.
Measure the vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add enough ice cold water to make 1/2 cup. Pour over flour mixture, gently stir with a fork ONLY until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for a minimum of an hour so it can chill well. When ready to use, Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 3 1/2" cookie cutter, cut out tart shells & place them in tart pans.
Saskatoon Rhubarb Filling & Streusel
In a small saucepan, combine saskatoons, diced rhubarb, sugar & cardamom. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine water, lemon juice & cornstarch. Whisk together to make a slurry. Add to to saucepan & cook on medium heat, stirring until mixture becomes thickened. Remove from heat; add vanilla & allow to cool before using.
FOR STREUSAL: Place all streusal ingredients in a small dish & combine with finger tips until crumbly. Spoon berry filling into tart shells & top with streusal. Bake at 375 F. until pastry is golden.
Saskatoon Butter Tart Filling
FOR BERRY TOPPING: In a small saucepan, mix together berries & water; simmer for 10 minutes over low-medium heat. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar & cornstarch then add to the berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
FOR BUTTER TART LAYER: First beat together eggs. In a saucepan, melt the butter then add sugar, vanilla, cream, raisins & beaten eggs. Bring to a boil over medium heat & boil for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
TO ASSEMBLE: Place a heaping Tbsp of butter tart mixture into each shell, then fill remainder of the tart shell with the berry topping mixture. DO NOT MIX. Bake at 375 F. for 15-18 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool before removing from tart pans.
Cream Cheese Saskatoon Tart Filling
FOR BERRY TOPPING: Crush 1 cup of saskatoon berries & place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Simmer about 2 minutes. Strain & return berry juice only to saucepan. Combine sugar & cornstarch; add to sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick & clear. Remove from heat & stir in remaining 2 cups of saskatoons to glaze & stir gently. Pre-bake tart shells.
FOR CREAM CHEESE LAYER: In a small bowl, blend together cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar & heavy cream. Divide cream cheese mixture between baked tart shells. Top with generous portions of berry topping & serve.
- The pastry recipe will yield about 48 mini tarts. I had doubled the pastry recipe because I wanted to make all 3 kinds. It's so nice to have some in the freezer for future use.
- If you make the pastry in 2 separate batches it seems to be nicer for some reason.
- If you happen to have any filling left over, it freezes well for another time.
If you have never eaten a German pancake, think of it as a cross between a souffle and an omelette with undertones of French toast. Often called a Dutch baby pancake and not unlike a sweet Yorkshire pudding. ‘Eggier‘ than your typical pancake, but sweeter and lighter than an omelette, with more pastry-like characteristics. The sides of the pancake rise high above the edges of the pan, creating a light, puffy crust with a tender, custard-like middle.
Story has it that the name ‘Dutch Baby’ was coined when a restaurant owner’s daughter (in the USA) could not pronounce ‘Deutsch’, the German word for German, and out of her mouth came ‘Dutch’. Originally served as three small German pancakes with powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice, the Dutch Baby, moniker was born.
These German pancake ‘bites’ are kind of a fun spin on the classic Dutch baby pancakes. The fresh apricot/raspberry sauce along with the Greek yogurt filling, bananas and chocolate makes them such a decadent addition to brunch.
German Pancake Bites
In a food processor, place pitted apricots, lemon juice & sugar; pulse several times until the apricots are COARSELY chopped. Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Lightly boil over medium heat, uncovered for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add more sugar to taste depending on how sweet your apricots were. Add raspberries & simmer 1-2 minutes or until raspberries are heated through & softened. Set aside until ready to use.
Greek Yogurt Filling
In a bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar with a hand mixer. Add Greek yogurt & beat on medium-high until smooth & creamy. Set aside until ready to use. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, blend eggs, milk, vanilla, flour & salt until well mixed. Pour a small amount of the melted butter in 8 MINI loaf pans. Pour 1/3 cup of the mixture into each of the individual spaces.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven & invert on a cooling rack. Place 'bites' on a serving plate. Divide yogurt filling, placing some in the bottom of each individual pancake. Top each with some apricot/raspberry sauce & some banana slices. Drizzle with chocolate & sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
I remember the first time I heard of sour cream being used in making a rhubarb pie. I could hardly imagine it but once I tried it there was no going back! If you look through some of the older recipe books, there are at least eight or nine different pies made using sour cream. These nostalgic desserts certainly take you back to a simpler time.
Basically this is your classic rhubarb pie except with a sweet/sour cream, custard filling. The sour cream is not assertive; its presence simply provides a rich, creamy background for the rhubarb.
I’m not sure why, but I never get tired of cooking (or eating) rhubarb. Every season, I can’t wait until its ready to use. Last year, Brion and I found another spot for three new plants to grow in our yard, so hopefully they do well. I realize its not for everyone but it is certainly versatile in its uses.
For this rhubarb crostada, I’m using an spiced-oat streusal topping which almost mimics a baked fruit crumble taste. Serving this dessert chilled brings it to its full potential. Of course, when you add a scoop of ice cream!
Sour Cream Rhubarb Crostada
Cornmeal Pastry (OR use purchased refrigerated pastry if you wish)
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using your fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the liquid mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed. Do NOT over work pastry. Press dough into a disk shape; wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate until ready to use.
In a bowl, combine all topping ingredients with fingertips until crumbly; set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, Mix 1 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp flour, 1 tsp cardamom & orange zest. Stir in slightly beaten eggs & sour cream, add rhubarb; toss gently.
Remove pastry from fridge. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out pastry into a 12-inch circle. Place pastry in a 9-inch pie pan, leaving parchment paper underneath it. Pour filling into crostada; gently fold the 1/2-inch of pastry remaining above pie pan rim over edge of crostada. Sprinkle spiced-oat topping over filling. Brush pastry edge with egg wash.
Bake 50-60 minutes until edge is puffed, filling is slightly jiggly & topping is golden. Cover loosely with foil if topping begins to brown too much. Cool at least 3 hours before serving. Slice & serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
Nothing says summer like fresh fruit and if blackberries aren’t in the mix, you’re missing out. Blackberries have a sweet, tart flavor making them perfect for salads, smoothies, blended into savory sauces, eaten fresh or in desserts.
Blackberries are closely related to raspberries but should not be confused with the black raspberry. Although native to Europe, we can grow them here in Canada. They will thrive in a wide range of soils but good drainage and direct sunlight are a must. Blackberries are the largest of the wild berries, growing on thorny bushes called brambles.
Because blackberries and blueberries make such an amazing combo, using them in this tart seems very fitting. My favorite alternative cornmeal pastry makes a buttery yet slightly crunchy crust. Since it stays so soft, I found it easier to press this pastry into the tart pan as opposed to rolling it out. I added a border after I filled the shell to give it a more rustic look. What more could you want — eye appeal and a fabulous flavor!
I should mention, I’m going to post some balsamic glazed fig & pork kebabs next time. Save a couple of pieces of this tart as they are a perfect ending to that meal.
Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart
In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. With fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring up, combine ICE water & sour cream. Add to dry mixture. Mix only until combined, do not over mix. Press into your favorite choice of pan ( tart, quiche or pie pans are all good). Place in fridge or freezer until ready to fill.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, combine berries, sugar, flour & lemon juice; spoon into pastry shell. Brush edges with beaten egg & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden & filling is bubbly. If your pan has a removable bottom, it makes it a lot easier for serving. Cool slightly & serve with whip cream (or ice cream) if you choose.
This is a Canadian berry pie, originating from the Maritime provinces that is made up of at least three kinds of berries. Since there is no such thing as a ‘bumble berry’, as the name suggests, its a mixture of berries that are in season (ones that you might bumble upon).
Berries commonly used in this pie may include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other choices often used are apples, rhubarb, cherries, plums or fresh cranberries.
Most often the pie is made with a top crust of pastry or designs cut out and laid over the fruit. Other ideas would be to use a nice streusal topping or as I have done on mine, grated pastry sprinkled with coarse sugar.
This is such a great summer dessert served, of course, with ice cream!
Bumble Berry Pie
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar then add enough COLD water to make 1 cup; whisk together. Make a well in center of flour & pour ALL liquid in. With hands combine quickly but do NOT over mix. This recipe will should give you enough for about 3 - double crust 10-inch pies. Whatever you don't use, freeze for later use. This is so handy when time is short & dessert is needed. At this time, roll out a 10-inch bottom pie shell, place in pie pan & refrigerate until ready to fill. Take the same amount of pastry, form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap & place it in the freezer. When you are ready for the top pastry on your bumble berry pie, remove the ball from the freezer & GRATE it over the top of the fruit.
In a large bowl, combine fruit. In another dish, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch & cinnamon. Gently toss into fruit mixture along with lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place filling into chilled pie shell, using the large holes on a box grater, grate the ball of pastry (from freezer) directly over the fruit, as you would a block of cheese. Using a fork, gently move the gratings here & there for an even covering. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake pie on center rack for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F. rotating pie for even baking. Bake about 25-30 minutes more or until to is golden brown & juices are bubbly & thick around the edge. Remove from oven. Serve warm with ice cream.
- Never hesitate to vary the fruit you choose for this pie. Remember, its whatever you 'bumble' upon!
I have always enjoyed making (and eating) tea breads. They can come in all sizes and even though they are called bread, for most part, I’d say they are cake.
Tea breads are part of the quick bread genre. They are considered quick because they don’t require kneading or rising time. Instead of yeast, usually baking powder or baking soda or a combination of both are used as a leavening agent.
Afternoon tea, the quintessential English custom, was introduced in England by a Duchess in the year 1840. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at 8 PM, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner (supper). The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread/butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. Upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five PM.
This tea loaf, pairs sweet, ripe strawberries with the bright, clean flavor of lemon zest and is topped off with a tangy kiwi glaze. A match made in food heaven.
Strawberry Tea Loaf with Fresh Kiwi Glaze
Strawberry Tea Loaf
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan, line bottom with strip of parchment paper with 2-inch overhang on either end.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, lemon zest & vanilla. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in prepared strawberries. Scrape batter into pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes, or until cake tested with a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan, set on wire rack, 20 minutes before using parchment overhang to lift out loaf. Cool completely on rack. Slice & serve with kiwi glaze.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water & set aside to soften. Peel the kiwi and blend in a food processor or blender until pureed. Be careful not to over-process as the black seeds will break down & change the color of the puree.
Add the kiwi puree to gelatin mixture. Heat mixture to dissolve gelatin but do not over heat. Continue to stir until dissolved. Keep covered in refrigerator until needed.
For those unfamiliar with Peach Melba, it is a classic dessert that was invented around the late 1800’s in honor of an Australian soprano opera singer named Nellie Melba. The flavors are always raspberry and peach and was traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. Melba is actually the nickname for Melbourne, her Australian hometown. Her real name was Helene ‘Nellie” Porter Mitchell but everyone called her Melba. She was internationally famous for her remarkable ‘crystal’ voice.
French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, not only created this special dessert but also developed what is known as the ‘kitchen brigade’ system or ‘Brigade de Cuisine’.
The next time you enjoy an elaborate meal in a hotel dining room (on a special occasion) that is perfectly executed, don’t presume this was just by accident. The brigade system revolutionized the way diners eat, allowing people to have meals, whatever their order, arrive at the table at the same time. This system was instituted to streamline and simplify work in hotel kitchens. It served to eliminate the chaos and duplication of effort that could result when kitchen staff did not have clear-cut responsibilities.
Today, most restaurants use some simplified variation of Escoffier’s original system. It is this foundation of kitchen organization that made way for the ‘a la carte menu’ we know so well today.
I have added a chart at the end of the blog showing the basic hierarchy of authority in this kind of system. I realize I got a bit removed from my peach melba dessert but — . Having spent so many years in the commercial world of cooking, I have a great appreciation for this gifted chef’s contribution to the food industry.
I decided to use the classic peach and raspberry ingredients in some mini upside down bundt cakes. The ginger spice adds a bit of unexpected ‘zing’ to its flavor.
Peach Melba Ginger Cakes
In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar & cornstarch. Add raspberries & water; cook over medium-high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from stove & press through a wire mesh to make a puree. Discard seeds. Add extract if using. Set aside.
Drain peach juice into a measuring cup. Set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach juice, sugar & cornstarch. Cook, stirring, until thick & bubbly. Add the peaches & vanilla. Stir to blend, set aside until ready to use.
Preheat over to 375 F. Butter 4-5 mini bundt pans. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat only until smooth. Divide between bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & test done with a toothpick is inserted. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn over on serving plates. Top with warm peach sauce & raspberry coulis. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.