Quick, easy desserts take advantage of summer's bounty

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAugust 15, 2013 

ATLANTA — In the South, peach cobbler is the go-to dessert of summer.

But with a bounty of berries, plus cool season imports like rhubarb, it's easy to spice up the season with some different takes on the rustic pan-baked combo of fresh fruit topped with sweet crust.

Variations on the theme, with nods to regional tastes, include crisps, crumbles and buckles. Lately, French-derived clafoutis has become another popular alternative, making its way onto many restaurant menus.

Crisps and crumbles are close cousins, with recipes calling for toppings made with sugar, butter, flour and often oatmeal, sprinkled over fruit and baked until it's crisp and crumbly.

We went back to a classic Joy of Cooking recipe that uses ginger snaps to make rhubarb crisp, and added another twist with a bit of candied ginger. The result is a sweet-tart-spicy dessert that begs for a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

If cobbler is like easy pie, buckle is like easy cake, with fruit folded into a rich batter.

Our Georgia version, baked in a cast iron skillet, has peaches and blueberries in a mixture spiked with Richland Rum and topped with pecan streusel. The caramel flavor and eat-it-with a-fork texture conjures a fruity blondie.

Far from cobbler, clafoutis is a sweet custard poured over fruit and baked like a tart. For an elegant summertime treat, we used a mix of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, finished with a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar.

recipe

Super quick and easy, and a far cry from the average cobbler, this elegant French classic has been gaining popularity, lately. It's essentially sweet custard, poured over fruit and baked until set and puffy, then dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Mixed berry clafoutis

3 eggs

1⁄3 cup sugar

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup flour

1 cup raspberries

1 cup blackberries

1 cup strawberries

Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, cream and vanilla until frothy. Add the flour and whisk until smooth.

Grease a 6 cup baking dish and arrange the berries in the bottom of the dish. Pour over the egg mixture and bake for 55 minutes until set and golden. Dust with confectioner's sugar to serve. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 252 calories, 4 g. protein, 18 g. carbohydrates, 3 g. fiber, 19 g. fat, 141 mg. cholesterol, 43 mg. sodium. This cakelike buckle has the flavor and texture of a blondie, with fruit folded into the batter, and baked in a cast iron skillet for a crispy crust and gooey center.

Georgia peach blueberry buckle with Georgia rum and pecans

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for skillet

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon or more to taste

Richland Rum or other sugar cane rum

1¼ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1½ pounds peaches, pitted, peeled, and cut into ½ -inch pieces (4 cups)

1 cup blueberries

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, 9-inch square baking pan or 2-quart shallow baking dish. In a large bowl, cream butter and ¾ cup brown sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add rum and eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until incorporated to make a batter. Fold in peaches and blueberries. Spread batter in prepared skillet.

In a small bowl, mix together remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle mixture over top of batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before serving with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 336 calories, 5 g. protein, 41 g. carbohydrates, 3 g. fiber, 17 g. fat, 112 mg. cholesterol, 181 mg. sodium.

In this new take on a classic Joy of Cooking recipe, gingersnaps and candied ginger give this crisp a kick in a combination of tart rhubarb and the buttery spiced topping. If you can't find fresh rhubarb, frozen rhubarb, available year-round, is a solid substitute.

Ginger rhubarb crisp

2 pounds. rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup candied ginger, finely chopped

2½ cups brown sugar

2 cups ginger snaps, crumbled

Pinch salt

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, toss rhubarb and candied ginger together, mixing thoroughly. Transfer to a large baking dish. Sprinkle 2 cups brown sugar over rhubarb mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine crumbled ginger snaps, salt and remaining ½ cup brown sugar. Using a pastry cutter or two table knives, work butter into the ginger snap mixture until it resembles coarse meal flecked with pea-size pieces of butter. Scatter topping evenly over rhubarb mixture.

Transfer dish to oven and bake until topping is golden brown and rhubarb is soft, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Set aside to cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before serving warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Nutrition information per serving: 511 calories, 3 g. protein, 76 g. carbohydrates, 2 g. fiber, 23 g. fat, 54 mg. cholesterol, 240 mg. sodium.

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