Having recently moved to Portland from New York, I wasn't in the city more than two weeks when I came across Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies and More (Ten Speed Press; $22.00; ISBN: 978-1-58008-976-0) by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. These are amongst my very favorite kinds of desserts. I snapped it up and immediately immersed myself in its homey contents. When it came time to launch StoveTopReadings, it made such sense to begin with a book that was written by Oregonians. Schreiber is the founder of the influential Wildwood Restaurant in Portland and went on to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Pacific Northwest. Richardson is much admired here for her "small-batch" bakery, Baker & Spice. This lovely collection features many tempting photographs by Sara Remington.
Crisps, cobblers, grunts, pandowdies, , fools, buckles--are beloved American desserts and they have never been more popular than they are today. RUSTIC FRUIT DESSERTS showcases these wonderful desserts and more, including pies, tarts, bread puddings, tea cakes, bars, gallettes, trifles, dumplings, and more. "I'm not a fussy baker," states Julie Richardson, and her fine recipes prove her claim. They are clear, easy to follow and will have your family and guests begging for seconds.
Arranged seasonally, the book emphasizes the availability of ingredients around the calendar. So as fall approaches, turn to such autumnal recipes as Gingered Pear and Raspberry Pandowdy or Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumb Crust. A rustic Fig and Honey Cream Gallette makes a stunningly simple presentation. I loved the Lemon Sponge Tart and the Summer Fruit Trifle is a celebration of summer berries and stone fruit and you can use your imagination to combine your own personal favorites. TheUpside-Down Sweet Cherry Cake made my heart stop. For bakers in the Pacific Northwest, there's a Marionberry Pie which features this popular and locally available fruit. If you can’t get these berries, you shouldn't miss this superb pie which is delicious with any summer berry. There are fresh variations of classics such as a Double-Crusted Pluot Crisp, or Rhubarb and Bing Cherry Brown Betty and Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb. The folksy headers for each recipe are fun to read and the book is packed with useful hints such as removing currant stems, making caramel, grades of maple syrup, and how to make pumpkin puree. There is also a pantry section of various doughs, along with baking tips plus glossary explanations of grunts, bettys and buckles.
Because I had all the ingredients at hand, I made the Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake, which includes dark semi-sweet chocolate and Dutch process cocoa. It was easy to make and the results were spectacular. A daqrk, chocolatey and moist cake with caramelized pears was just the thing I needed to put me in the mood for fall. Not too sweet, the single-layer cake had good height and great texture. Eaten alone or paired with the recommended Chantilly cream, here was a cake for a family dinner or for Saturday night guests, and it tasted great for breakfast the next day. These are not restaurant desserts, despite the fact that chefs have bent over backwards to cram their menus with these home baked goodies with prices to match. RUSTIC FRUIT DESSERTS ought to make a baker out of anyone, while inspiring experienced cooks to rethink these timeless classics.