Seasonal, farm-to-table recipes abound today, as home cooks and restaurant chefs continue to highlight the taste and beauty of fruits and vegetables harvested in their prime. And yet despite their ubiquity, these recipes feel special, reverential—a dish for a season that won’t come around again until next year, a chance to savor and live in the moment of the season at hand.
Yossy Arefi’s Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season (Ten Speed Press, 2016; $24) is an inspiring guide to creating desserts that highlight seasonal fruits. In tasty, novel renditions of classic recipes and altogether new approaches to using the bounty of the season, the blogger, photographer, and food stylist offers flavor-filled recipes and beautiful images: strawberry tart made with bright red, juicy berries layered on a creamy layer of crème fraiche atop a rye-flower crust; a pear pie bursting with sweet, spicy flavor in a buttery crust; and nectarine blackberry pie bars with an oat crisp topping. A look through this book will send you straight to the market to find fruit ready to make its way into one of these enchanting recipes.
Marie-Danielle’s Apple Tart
I learned how to make this supremely simple and surprisingly tasty tart from my friend Amelie, who in turn learned how to make it from her mother, Marie-Danielle. I know the lineage goes back farther than that, but I associate it with those two lovely women, so Marie-Danielle gets the credit here. I’ve modified the recipe slightly to use homemade spelt puff pastry instead of traditional puff pastry, for its wholesome flavor and exceptionally light texture. If you are pinched for time, store-bought puff pastry makes a fine substitute. Use Dufour or another brand made with all butter instead of vegetable shortening for the tastiest results. Marie-Danielle and Amelie like to use Granny Smith and Gala apples, but any firm, tart apples will work wonderfully.
4 large, tart baking apples, about 2 pounds (900 grams [g])
⅓ recipe (450 g) Spelt Quick Puff Pastry (recipe on right)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (75 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
Crème Fraîche (opposite) or lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel, core, and slice the apples into ⅛-inch slices. On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 10-by-15-inch (25-by- 38 centimeter [cm]) rectangle. Trim the edges so they are more or less straight and even. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and sprinkle the flour and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar over the top, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Arrange the apple slices on top of the dough so the edges slightly overlap, while leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the remaining granulated sugar and a pinch of salt over the apples. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the apples and press gently to seal at the corners. Pop the baking sheet into the freezer for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is firm.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425ºF (220ºC/Gas Mark 7). When you are ready to bake, brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake the tart, turning the pan halfway through baking until the apples are soft and browning around the edges and the pastry is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche. This tart is best the day it’s made, although it makes a fine breakfast the next morning.
Yield: one 10-by-15-inch tart
Spelt Quick Puff Pastry
The method to make this quick puff pastry is a lot less involved than traditional puff pastry, but the results are still spectacularly flaky. The addition of spelt flour gives the pastry a bit of a nutty flavor and a delicate, crisp texture when baked. Because this dough is unsweetened, you can use it for both sweet and savory preparations. This dough can used for Marie-Danielle’s Apple Tart.
3 cups (680 g) cold unsalted butter
2¼ cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (255 g) spelt flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (240 milliliters [ml]) cold water
Cut the cold butter into ½-inch cubes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Add the butter all at once and mix on low speed until the butter is well coated with flour and beginning to break up into smaller pieces. If working by hand, use a pastry blender for this step. Add the water all at once and mix for about 15 seconds, or until the water is evenly incorporated. At this point the dough may look like a crumbly mess: don’t worry about it.
Turn the mixture out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and do your best to pat it with your hands into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Use a bench scraper to fold the right third of the dough to the center. Fold the left third of the dough over the other two thirds, like a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees. You have completed your first turn. If the dough is sticking to the work surface, lightly flour it, but take care not to add too much more flour to the dough.
Press the dough back into a rectangle roughly 1 inch thick and repeat the process two more times. The dough will seem crumbly, and may fall apart a bit at first, but it will come together eventually. If at any point the bits of butter seem soft, slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for a few minutes, until the butter has hardened up a bit. By the end of the first three turns, the dough will begin to resemble a cohesive mass.
After three turns, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to chill and rest. You can leave the dough in the fridge overnight, well wrapped, at this stage if you like. Just be sure to give it a little time to warm up before moving on to the next step.
After the dough has rested, use a rolling pin to complete the last three turns. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle just under ½ inch thick and repeat the letter folds as before. Repeat two more times. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.
If you don’t plan to use the dough immediately, divide it into three parts, each weighing about 1 pound, and wrap each in a double layer of plastic wrap. This dough will keep up to two days in the refrigerator or, wrapped in an additional layer of foil, in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator before using.
Yield: about 3 pounds (1,350 g) of pastry, enough for three large tarts or lots and lots of little ones
Crème fraîche is a tart, French-style sour cream. It is a bit more subtle in flavor than American sour cream, and I love to use it both as a garnish and as an ingredient in sweet and savory cooking. It can sometimes be difficult to find at the grocery store, but it is very simple to make. Add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup to the finished crème fraîche for a slightly sweet variation.
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Stir the cream and buttermilk together in a glass container. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until the cream has thickened to the consistency of soft sour cream and has a tart, tangy flavor. Store the crème fraîche in the refrigerator, covered, for up to seven days.
Yield: about 1 cup (225 g)
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Pistachio Pound Cake with Strawberries in Lavender Sugar
The rich flavor and beautiful color of pistachios makes them the perfect addition to this classic pound cake. The strawberries here are sweetened with just a bit of lavender-infused sugar, which imparts a subtle and light floral flavor, perfect for spring. I like to serve this cake in thick slices with generous spoonfuls of juicy berries and a dollop of whipped cream, like strawberry shortcake but better. Culinary-grade lavender is available at many spice shops, farmers’ markets, and online, but a tablespoon or so of chopped mint or basil leaves is a fine substitute.
Pistachio Pound Cake
1 cup (130 g) shelled pistachios
1½ cups (195 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (175 g) unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup (120 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar, or less if the berries are particularly sweet
½ teaspoon organic lavender buds
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped from the pod
1½ pounds (675 g) strawberries
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Position a rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 325ºF (165ºC/Gas Mark 3). Grease and flour a 9-by-5- by-3-inch loaf pan.
To Make the Cake: Grind the pistachios in a food processor just until they resemble flour. Be careful to not grind them into pistachio butter (though that would be delicious). Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, then, with the mixer still running, slowly stream in the sugar. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Occasionally stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter in three additions, mixing until just combined. Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then remove the cake to a rack to cool completely.
To Make the Strawberries: Combine the sugar, lavender, and vanilla seeds in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the lavender is broken up into fine bits and the sugar is fragrant. Alternately, this can be done in a food processor. Hull and slice the strawberries in half if they are small, in quarters if they are larger; combine the sliced strawberries and sugar in a bowl and stir gently. Let the berries macerate for at least 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.
To Serve: Slice the cooled cake into thick pieces and top each slice with a generous spoonful of berries and their juices. Top with whipped cream. Extra cake keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.
Yield: one 9-by-5-inch cake
The rich flavor and beautiful color of pistachios makes them the perfect addition to this classic pound cake.
Cornmeal and Ricotta Cake with Cranberries
Bright cranberries add a pop of color to this otherwise humble cornmeal cake. Use medium-ground cornmeal for this recipe, as coarser-ground cornmeal will give the cake a gritty texture. I have included a recipe for a shocking pink and wonderfully tart fresh cranberry glaze below, but the cake is also quite beautiful with a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar instead.
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (100 g) medium-ground yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (140 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (235 g) whole-milk ricotta, at room temperature
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 slightly heaping cup, about 4 ounces
(115 g), fresh cranberries
¾ cup (75 g) fresh cranberries
2 cups (240 g) confectioner’s sugar
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC/Gas Mark 4). Butter an 8-inch springform pan or an 8-inch cake pan with sides at least 2 inches tall. Line the pan with a parchment paper and butter that too. Dust the pan and paper with flour.
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the ricotta and zests and mix for one more minute. Fold in the flour mixture all at once until just combined and then add the cranberries.
Fill the prepared pan with the batter and smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. Add the cranberries to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and purée. Add the confectioner’s sugar and pulse until smooth. The glaze should be thick but pourable. If it seems too thick, add a few drops of water or lemon juice; if it seems too thin, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar.
Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and give it about 30 minutes to set before slicing. Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
Yield: one 8-inch cake
Bright cranberries add a pop of color to this otherwise humble cornmeal cake.
Reprinted with permission from Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi. © Copyright 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Photographs © Copyright 2016 by Yossy Arefi.