It’s hot out there. Some days are too hot to even murmur the word “baking.”
But summer is the time for fruit and, if you’re anything like me, you want to take advantage of all those luscious berries and stone fruit — juicy peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots — that are so abundant in farmers markets right now. I have a summer ritual of visiting a local pick-your-own (PYO) farm and bringing home buckets of fruit. Then on the first cool day, I set about making jams, jellies, preserves and always bake a few pies, crisps, crumbles and cobblers.
What’s in a name? Crisps, cobblers and crumbles all refer to great fruit desserts. A crisp is essentially fruit tossed in a baking dish topped with a crumbly mixture of oats, flour, butter and spice. The idea is that it bakes until the fruit is soft and almost bubbling over and the topping is golden brown and “crisp.”
It’s sometimes also called a “crumble,” although crumbles tend not to contain oats but more of a streusel-like topping. A cobbler differs in that fruit is baked with some form of dough on top — generally a biscuit-like crown topping. The name apparently refers to the cobbled-like appearance of the biscuit topping.
I’ve also created a Summer Berry and Lime Pie. This simple pie is the very definition of a refreshing summer dessert. It’s not quite the same as an “icebox cake” because it does need to bake for a mere 15 minutes (hardly enough time to overheat your already hot kitchen) and then chill for several hours. Sweetened condensed milk is mixed with egg yolks and lots of fresh lime juice and zest. The mixture is baked in a premade graham cracker pie shell (no judgment here) for 15 minutes and then cooled. Just before serving, top the pie with a crown of whipped cream and surround it with fresh summer berries and toasted coconut.
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These three rustic fruit desserts all share several characteristics: They focus on showing off summer’s best fruit. None of them are fussy or difficult, nor do they take a whole lot of time. But they all have a big “wow!” factor.
On super hot summer days, I tend to bake in the early morning or late in the day, after the sun has set, so I don’t overheat my kitchen. Or I prep the dessert in the morning and pop it in the oven as soon as we sit down to dinner. All of these desserts bake for less than an hour.
Three Berry Fruit Cobbler
Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are mixed with a touch of sugar and placed in the bottom on a round baking dish. A quick biscuit dough is put together and cut into six biscuits to top the fruit. A mere 25 to 30 minutes in the oven and the result is a sweet, bubbling summer fruit dessert with a crisp, buttery biscuit topping.
You can use any variety of summer berries you have on hand, but you want a total of about 3 ½ to 4 cups of fruit. The cobbler can be made about 4 to 6 hours ahead of time, covered and refrigerated until ready to bake.
Serve plain or topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 4 to 6.
- 1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut in half or quarters, depending on the size
- 1 ½ cups blueberries
- ½ to 1 cup raspberries
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 cups flour (240 grams)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold buttermilk
- For glazing the biscuit tops: 2 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon sugar
- Macerate the berries: In an 8 ½ inch round baking dish or pie plate, gently toss the berries with the sugar and cornstarch. Let sit while you make the biscuit dough.
- Maker the biscuit topping: Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas. Pour the buttermilk over the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon to just combine. Use well-floured hands to knead until a shaggy dough forms.
- Pour the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle. Fold it in half and then fold in half again (this helps build layers in the biscuit). Repeat 2 to 3 more times.
- Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll the biscuit dough out to an 8 by 6 inch rectangle, about ½ inch thick. Use a 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter (or 2 1/12-inch glass) to cut six biscuits out of the dough. Gather the scraps and reroll if needed.
- Place the biscuits on top of the fruit, trying to leave a slight gap between them. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Using a pastry brush or the back of a kitchen spoon, lightly brush the milk on top of each biscuit. Sprinkle the biscuits with sugar.
- Bake on the middle shelf for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown and do not look soft and the fruit is bubbling. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Blueberry — Or Any Fruit — Crisp
This is the dessert I turn to when I have little time and very few ingredients. All you need is some summer fruit — be it fresh berries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, or, later in the season, apples and pears and cranberries — flour, some oat-based granola, a sprinkle of light brown sugar, butter and a touch of spices.
The crisp comes together in less than 10 minutes and bakes for 45 minutes. When the crisp is done you’ll see (and more importantly smell) the rich scent of bubbling fresh summer fruit with a nutty golden brown topping. A crisp is ideal for dessert, snack or breakfast with a strong cup of coffee.
You can make the crisp in one 8-inch baking dish or gratin dish or make 4 individual size portions in 1 cup ramekins.
Serves 4 to 6.
- 4 cups blueberries, other berries, pitted cherries, or stone fruit, or a combination
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Pinch ground ginger
The crisp topping:
- 1 ½ cups granola (use your favorite variety)*
- 1 cup flour
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- Pinch ground ginger, about ⅛ teaspoon
- Pinch cinnamon, about ⅛ teaspoon
- Pinch salt
- 1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
*If you don’t have granola you can add 1 ½ cups instant oats mixed with a few chopped nuts and raisins.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In an 8 inch round baking dish, pie plate or giant dish (or 4 one-cup ramekins), mix the fruit, sugar and ginger.
- Make the topping: In a medium bowl mix the granola or oats, flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the mixture until it is pea-sized. Spoon the topping on the fruit and gently press down to create a blanket topping.
- Bake on the middle shelf for around 35 to 45 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and golden brown. Serve hot, warm or cold.
Summer Lime, Blueberry And Coconut Quick Pie
This doesn’t really qualify as an “icebox pie” because it’s baked for a mere 15 minutes. However, if you use a premade graham cracker crust the pie takes no time at all to put together. But it must refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and preferably 4 hours) before serving.
It’s a bright, summery, refreshing pie that can be made with lime or lemon, blueberries or any berry on top. You can also sprinkle fresh chopped mint on top of the pie.
- 1 9-inch premade graham cracker crust
- 1 14-ounce can of sweet condensed milk
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup lime juice, from about 4 to 5 small-medium limes
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated lime zest from 1 or 2 of the limes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and or pitted and halved cherries
- ⅓ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted*
- 1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint, optional
*Place coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes or until they just turn golden brown. Cool before using.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl vigorously whisk the condensed milk, yolks and lime juice. Add the lime zest and whisk. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake on the middle shelf for about 15 minutes, or until set. When you gently wiggle the pie crust the filling should not appear liquidy or loose. Remove and let cool. Loosely cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight or until cool.
- Just before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk for another 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop the cream on top of the cooled pie. Arrange the blueberries around the edges and sprinkle the top with the toasted coconut and sprinkle with mint, if using.