September Fruit Fest

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A Fall Fruit Baking Bonanza

As a single person, I rarely baked for myself. What would be the point of making mounds of lovely treats that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) possible eat by myself? Yes, of course I could make them to share and did. Now, however, I am fortunate to have delightful housemates who love good food and cheerfully eat everything I bake. I can happily indulge in baking orgies knowing that the heavy burden of eating it all will be shared.

September always brings an abundance of ripening fruit, from peaches and plums to apples and pears. This year we’ve got loads of blueberries, which I like to use in both sweet and savory dishes. One of the best things I’ve made this summer is a berry cobbler with a topping adapted from one in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking book. As is so often the case, I find I have to tinker with recipes a bit to get them the way I prefer them, and this one is now our all-time favorite.

An Even Better Berry Cobbler

For one thing, I like to use whole wheat pastry flour when baking, because it has more flavor than unbleached white. Having less gluten, it does handle a bit differently, so I often blend the two half and half as a good compromise. I also use a fabulous local organic cream from the Fresh Breeze dairy, which is especially thick and gives the cobbler dough a crisp-yet-meltingly-tender texture. See what you think:

Fabulous Fruit Cobbler

Use any combination of fruit for this, though not more than one cup of strawberries or it gets too runny. Also, do not forget to use the drip pan or you’ll be sorry (ask me how I know)….

5-6 cups peaches and blueberries or any fruit,
pitted/chopped/sliced as needed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, chopped
1-1/2 cups heavy organic cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a deep-dish pie plate. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. In a large bowl, gently toss fruit, sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg and spoon into the buttered dish. In a food processor, combine dry ingredients and pulse for a few seconds to blend. Add chopped butter and pulse in short bursts until the butter is fairly well distributed (leave some discernible bits). Place in a large bowl and stir in 1 cup cream with a fork, adding cream as needed to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. On a sheet of waxed paper, gently pat dough into a circle a little smaller than your pie plate. Invert the crust over the fruit, gently patting it into place. Peel off waxed paper and gently make a steam hole in the center of the dough. Bake at 375 F until puffed and golden (about an hour). Cool on a rack for 20-30 minutes (or more) before serving (add some vanilla ice cream if it’s warm). Serves 6-8.

The Sauciest Applesauce

We’ve also been enjoying fresh applesauce, made with just a tad of nutmeg and cinnamon to bring out the autumnal flavors of Yellow Transparent and Gravenstein apples. The first batches I made were very thick, but as late summer rains plumped out the apples, they’ve gotten juicier, so the applesauce is less dense (which I prefer). When my housemate was ill last week, I brought her little bowls filled with fresh applesauce on one side and plain yogurt on the other. I used to make this for my kids when they got sick, since it’s easy to eat and light yet very nourishing.

Fragrant Apple Pear Sauce

When juicy apples drop of their own accord from the tree, they can get a bit banged up. I have a Squeezo Strainer, which cleverly separates out the skins and pips and whatnot into one bowl while directing the clean fruit pulp into another. This makes applesauce or any cooked fruit puree a breeze, and there’s even a special cone for removing the stringy bits from pumpkin pulp. Thus, you can just cut up the fruit, removing only the worst bits, cook it briefly, then crank in through the cone-shaped strainer and you have instantly perfect puree, sauce, or what have you. French farm wives use a small quince to add a subtle flavor and delicate perfume; try a small batch and see if you like it.

Autumn Apple Pear Sauce

6 cups apples, chopped
4 cups ripe pears, chopped
1 small quince, whole (optional)
1/2 cup water
Brown sugar as desired (optional)

Combine fruit and water in a large soup pot, bring to a boil over medium heat, cover pan, reduce heat to low and simmer until soft (10-15 minutes). Put through a ricer or better yet, a Squeezo Strainer (see above), adding sugar to taste. Makes about 2 quarts.

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