As someone who loves to spend a lot of time creating many different types of dishes I am always a little saddened when people cubbyhole themselves into one type of cookery. I often hear people place themselves in either the “cook” or the “baker” group and they are reluctant to branch out into the other style. Baking seems to carry the most stigma and is considered by many to be difficult and boring, leaving little room for creativity. While baking does have technical rules to follow and, for many baked goods a recipe is a necessity, there are plenty of fun, creative baking experiences perfect for the newbie to cut their teeth on.
I think that one of the best early baking experiences is a rustic summer fruit dessert. These delicious treats have lots of opportunities for adding in a personal touch that many seem to miss in baking. Because these dishes are intended to be fast, easy, and “rustic” they take very little skill to make a beautiful presentation. Rustic desserts rely on good fruit to bring that delicious “grandma’s kitchen” flavor we all love; and with so many different fruits, and a wide variety of rustic dessert toppings the creative combinations are endless.
Most rustic desserts follow a fairly similar pattern. A sliced fruit filling is made from canned, fresh, frozen, or dried fruits. The chosen fruit (or combination of fruits) is usually tossed with granulated or brown sugar and a light dusting of corn starch or flour (in some cases this is heated on the stove). It is then put into a pan and covered with a deceptively easy topping, cooked until bubbly and brown, and then served up. The fun of the rustic dessert comes in mixing and matching the fillings and styles of toppings. I hope that novice bakers out there will use the ideas below to fill your kitchen with the inviting scents of a summer fruit dessert- friends and family will praise your skills and I will never tell the secret of how very easy your creations really are!
FILLING IDEAS- combine two or more for a fun filling:
- Plums, Cherries, Dried Currants
- Apples (mix ’em up), Rhubarb, Raisins, or Craisins
- Peaches, Apricots, Candied fruits- lemon, pineapple, ginger
- Berries (mix ’em up), Pears, Nuts
- Cobbler- A biscuit-like batter baked on top of a fruit mixture. Use your favorite biscuit mix/recipe or even pre-made rolled biscuits. Lay on top of warm fruit, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake. http://www.kitchendaily.com/recipe/black-and-blueberry-cobbler-83379/
- Crumbles and Crisps- Different name- basically the same dish. The fruit of choice is topped with a crumbly mixture of butter, sugar, flour, and oats or ground nuts, and then baked. http://www.kitchendaily.com/2011/07/27/rustic-summer-fruit-desserts-cobblers-crumbles-crisps/#photo-10
- Grunts and Slumps- Cooked on the stove-top much like dumplings, these New England treats use the biscuit topping of a cobbler. The fruit is covered with the biscuit and then simmered in a covered pot making a light dumpling topping. http://www.kitchendaily.com/recipe/sour-cherry-fruit-slump-858/
- Pandowdy- Uses the biscuit topping of a cobbler but the topping is pushed down into the fruit half way through cooking. The liquid absorbs and the fruit melds into the topping- delish! http://www.kitchendaily.com/recipe/strawberry-pandowdy-151910/
- Betty- Similar to a crisp but using bread crumbs or cubes tossed in butter. Experiment with different flavors of bread including sour dough or cinnamon raison for a fun twist. http://www.kitchendaily.com/recipe/plum-betty-151913/
- Buckle- Perhaps the most involved of the rustic desserts the buckle layers cake batter, fruit, and brown sugar crumbles. This is easily made with your favorite cake mix recipe- even if that is from a box. http://www.kitchendaily.com/recipe/cherry-raspberry-buckle-151911/