It's that time of year again — when the peaches are sweet and the blackberries are ripe on the bush. So how about skipping straight to dessert?
Chris Kimball hosts public television's America's Test Kitchen, where he and a team of full-time cooks test recipes to perfection. He says when it comes to summertime desserts, it's important to highlight the best aspects of what's in season.
"You take the principle ingredient, usually fruit," he says, "and you let it shine."
Kimball joins NPR's Renee Montagne to share some of his favorite summer dessert recipes, many of which draw from America's culinary past.
Juicy Peaches As A Summertime Substitute
According to Kimball, the Brown Betty first appeared on American tables in the 1840s and '50s.
"It was layers of fruit, usually apple. And then they layered buttered, slightly sweetened breadcrumbs in three or four layers," Kimball says.
Brown Betty was also the name of a rather unusual drink, made with water, brown sugar, ale, brandy — and two slices of toast.
"They put the toast in the liquid," Kimball says, laughing. "Don't ask me why."
Kimball's Peach Brown Betty replaces the apples with seasonal summer peaches.
"The problem with peaches of course is they're juicy," Kimball says. "So, we ended up doing this very differently. We did it in a skillet. We cooked the peaches down for a few minutes [with] a little bit of butter. And then we mixed in some of the breadcrumbs and then topped it with breadcrumbs and threw it in an oven for about 20 minutes."
Swapping the fruit is simple to do and — in Kimball's opinion — a welcome improvement to this traditional recipe.
Homemade Ice Cream — Without The Machine
Making your own ice cream is a lot of work. You need milk, cream and eggs; there's some beating, some cooking, some cooling and, of course, a big, bulky ice cream machine. But Kimball has a recipe that takes the sweat out of the process. He calls it Magic Vanilla Ice Cream.
"This is a dessert that takes three minutes to put together, and there's no ice cream machine," Kimball says.
He and his team figured out two tricks for making it; they use sweetened condensed milk, which doesn't crystallize when you freeze it, and they also add white chocolate morsels, which act as thickening agents when the mixture cools.
Whipped cream is added to aerate the mix, and a little sour cream adds flavor.
"That gets heated in the microwave, just the chips and the milk," Kimball says. "You put everything together, you throw [it] in the freezer — six hours and it comes out."
The result is a creamy — and easy — summer treat.
Adding Life To The 'Dead Man's Arm'
According to Kimball, the Roly Poly is a 100-year-old British tradition.
"[The British] would take a pastry — a dough — roll it out thin into a rectangle, put some jam or fruit preserves on it, roll it up, put it in cotton, tie the ends, and they would steam it or boil it," Kimball explains.
The finished product was also known by a far less appetizing name: Dead Man's Arm.
"Yeah, I know — ew," Kimball says. "And I can assure you, when you take it out ... it looks like a dead man's arm."
Kimball and his team departed from traditional steamed puddings for their Blackberry Roly Poly recipe.
"We came up with a biscuit," Kimball says. "We added a little bit more fat to it, a little sugar, and we rolled it out."
In 10 minutes, they also made their own jam using fresh blackberries and sugar. "We put that on the dough, rolled it up, and we baked it for about 40 minutes. It's fabulous."
A Savory, Seasonal, Anytime Pie
Kimball's last dessert isn't really a dessert at all. It's a savory Summer Tomato Pie.
"Don't forget, pies in the 19th century were ubiquitous," Kimball says. "You put anything in a pie."
For this dish, thin layers of mayonnaise and cheese separate layers of beefsteak tomatoes. "It's a little bit like a tomato sandwich, except it's a pie," Kimball says.
According to Kimball, it's the perfect dish for any time of the day, even breakfast.
"It's very much like an American quiche," Kimball says. "I think [it's] actually a little bit better than quiche — but I'm American."
You can substitute 3 pounds of thawed and drained frozen sliced peaches for fresh peaches. If you don't own an ovensafe skillet, transfer the peach filling to a 2-quart baking dish at the end of step 2 and continue with the recipe as directed.
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (see note)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Pulse Topping Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Pulse bread and butter in food processor until coarsely ground. Set aside. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.
2. Cook Peaches Melt butter in large nonstick ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat. Cook peaches, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, 8 to 12 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1 cup crumb mixture, sugars, lemon juice, vanilla and salt.
3. Top And Bake Top peach mixture with remaining crumbs. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Courtesy of Cook's Country.
Makes 1 quart
Shop carefully: White chocolate varies greatly in quality. We like Guittard Choc-O-Lait Chips or Ghirardelli Classic White Chips. If you use a bar instead of chips, chop it fine before melting it in step 1. If you plan to store the ice cream for more than a few days, place plastic wrap directly on its surface before you freeze it.
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 ounce white chocolate chips (see note)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
1. Make Base Microwave sweetened condensed milk and white chocolate in large bowl until chocolate melts, stirring halfway, about 30 seconds. Let cool. Stir in vanilla, salt and sour cream.
2. Whip Cream With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip heavy cream to soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Whisk one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture. Fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until incorporated.
3. Freeze Place in airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 weeks. Serve.
Courtesy of Cook's Country.
Both fresh and frozen blackberries will work. Like a biscuit, Roly Poly tastes best on the day it's baked. Use a serrated knife to slice it.
2 cups blackberries (see note)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 cup whole or low-fat milk
1. Make Jam Cook berries and 1/4 cup sugar in saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until berries break down and mixture is thick and jam-like, about 10 minutes (mixture should measure 1/2 cup). Transfer jam to bowl, stir in zest, and cool to room temperature.
2. Process Dough Pulse flour, baking powder, salt, additional 1/3 cup sugar and all but 1 tablespoon butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to large bowl and stir in milk until combined.
3. Shape Dough Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 8 to 10 times. Pat dough into 6-inch square, wrap with plastic, and freeze until just firm, about 20 minutes. Following photos 1 to 4, roll dough into 12- by 10-inch rectangle, spread with jam, roll into tight cylinder, and arrange seamdown on prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake Melt remaining butter and brush over dough. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on sheet, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Courtesy of Cook's Country.
Visit CooksCountry.com for our Double-Crust Pie Dough, or use your own recipe or store-bought dough. If using store-bought dough, bake the pie for 30 minutes after turning down the heat in step 4.
2 (9-inch) pie dough rounds (see note)
2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes (about 4 large), cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 scallions, sliced thin
1. Roll Dough On lightly floured surface, roll 1 dough round into 12-inch circle (if using store-bought dough, you do not need to roll either crust). Transfer to 9-inch pie plate, letting excess hang over edge. Cover with plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes. Roll second round into 12-inch circle and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Drain Tomatoes Arrange tomatoes on paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let drain 30 minutes, then press tomatoes with additional paper towels until very dry.
3. Assemble Pie Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place empty rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix mayonnaise, cornstarch, and 1 cup cheese in bowl until well combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese over bottom of dough-lined pie plate. Arrange third of tomatoes over cheese. Spread half of mayonnaise mixture over tomatoes and sprinkle with half of scallions. Layer with another third of tomatoes, remaining mayonnaise mixture, and remaining scallions, then top with remaining tomatoes.
4. Crimp Crust Arrange top crust on pie. Press crusts together, then trim, fold and crimp edges. Cut four 2-by1-inch oval vent holes in top. Place pie on heated baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 3 hours. Serve at room temperature.
Courtesy of Cook's Country.
Stale the bread for this recipe by leaving it out overnight. Otherwise, put the slices on a rack in a single layer into a 200-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, turning them once halfway through. For this recipe, you will need six 6-ounce ramekins and a round cookie cutter of slightly smaller diameter than the ramekins. If you don't have the right size cutter, use a paring knife and the bottom of a ramekin (most ramekins taper toward the bottom) as a guide for trimming the rounds. If you use challah, the second choice for bread, cut it into 1/2-inch-thick slices. If neither potato bread nor challah is available, use a good-quality white sandwich bread with a dense, soft texture. Whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment to summer pudding.
2 pints strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
1 pint raspberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
12 slices stale potato bread, challah or other good-quality white bread ( see note above)
1. Heat strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and sugar in large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries begin to release their juice and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in lemon juice; let cool to room temperature.
2. While berries are cooling, cut out 12 bread rounds, following illustration 1 (above).
3. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable cooking spray and place on rimmed cookie sheet. Following illustrations 2 to 6, assemble, cover and weight summer puddings. Refrigerate puddings for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
4. Remove weights, cookie sheet and plastic wrap. Run a paring knife around ramekin perimeters, unmold and serve.
[One Large Pudding]
Serves 6 to 9
To ensure that this larger pudding unmolds in one piece, use a greased loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Because there is no need to cut out rounds for this version, you will need only 8 bread slices, depending upon their size.
Follow recipe for Individual Summer Berry Puddings through step 1. While berries are cooling, follow illustration 1 [below] to trim bread, spray loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray, and line pan with plastic wrap. Place loaf pan on rimmed cookie sheet. Following illustrations 2 and 3, assemble, cover and weight summer pudding. Following illustration 4, unmold and serve.
Courtesy of Cook's Illustrated.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This morning, we're going to skip a few meals and jump straight to dessert. It's that time of year when the peaches are ripe and the blackberries thick on the bush - just the thing for a perfect summer dessert.
And who better to turn to than Chris Kimball. He hosts the PBS show, "America's Test Kitchen," and stops by from time to time to share recipes and talk about culinary history.
Good morning, Chris.
Mr. CHRIS KIMBALL (Host, "America's Test Kitchen"): Good morning. How are you?
MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you, and all the better for the - talk about fragrance, this room, our studio here just is - the good smells are just practically overwhelming.
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, the thing that makes a great summer dessert is you take the principle ingredient, usually fruit, and you let it shine. All of these recipes this morning actually come from the past - America's culinary past. So we've gone in, taken the basic notion, and freshened it up.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: There is a dish here that sounds like quite a throwback. The name says that: Peach Brown Betty. What years does this hark back to?
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, you start seeing Betties around 1840, 1850. It was layers of fruit, usually apple. And then they layered buttered, slightly sweetened breadcrumbs in three or four layers.
Brown Betty was also a drink. It had water. It had brown sugar. It had ale. It had brandy, and it had two slices of toast.
MONTAGNE: In the - come on.
Mr. KIMBALL: Yeah. No, no...
MONTAGNE: Come on. Where'd they put the toast?
Mr. KIMBALL: They put the toast in the liquid. Don't ask me why.
MONTAGNE: It had to be in a big shaker.
Mr. KIMBALL: I'm sure they did. But - and they put some ginger on the toast to add some flavor. So we did a Peach Brown Betty. And the problem with peaches, of course, is that they're juicy. So what we ended up doing is doing this very differently. We did it in a skillet. We cooked the peaches down for a few minutes, a little bit of butter. And then we mixed in some of the breadcrumbs and then topped it with breadcrumbs and threw it in an oven for about 20 minutes.
It's very simply to do, and I think the peaches, actually, are a lot better than apples, and, of course, peaches are an August fruit.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: A month, of course, when the days are long and hot, and making your own ice cream sounds good, but it's an awful lot of work. You need milk, cream and eggs, some beating, some cooking, some cooling and, of course, a big, bulky ice cream machine. Chris has a recipe that takes the sweat out of the process: Magic Vanilla Ice Cream.
What's magical about it?
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, okay. Here's the - this is why people go...
MONTAGNE: I'm tasting it see if that's the magic. I'm sure it is, but...
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, there's more to it than that. This is a dessert that takes three minutes to put together, and there's no ice cream machine.
We figured out two things: Sweetened, condensed milk is one of the things that doesn't crystallize when you freeze it. Also, white chocolate morsels will help set up an ice cream. Chocolate, when it gets cold, gets hard, so it is a thickening agent.
So we used some whipped cream to aerate. We used a little sour cream for flavor. All of that that gets heated in the microwave, just the chips and the milk. You put everything together. You throw it in the freezer for six hours. It comes out, and the secret is it comes out creamy.
MONTAGNE: It looks creamy, Chris. I'm going to just...
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, you have to taste...
MONTAGNE: Tastes creamy - and I'll give you my judgment.
Mr. KIMBALL: Your honest opinion, I'm sure you will.
MONTAGNE: Yup, creamy.
Mr. KIMBALL: This is like President Reagan, right? You know, trust and verify, right. There we are.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: And our next dessert is as fun to say as it is to eat: Blackberry Roly Poly.
Mr. KIMBALL: This goes back hundreds of years where the British, of course, to make puddings, they would take a pastry - a dough - roll it out thin into a rectangle, put some jam or fruit preserves on it, roll it up, put it in cotton, tie the ends, and they would steam it or boil it.
The other name for this recipe is Dead Man's Arm. And I can assure you, when you take it out...
Mr. KIMBALL: ...I know, ew, but, you know, you know what it looks like? It looks like a dead man's arm. So that notion of steamed puddings that way, we did not like. So we came up with a biscuit dough. We added a little bit more fat to it, a little sugar. And we rolled it out, and we added - we made our own jam in about 10 minutes, with some fresh blackberries and sugar. We put that on the dough, rolled it up, and we baked it for about 40 minutes. And it's fabulous.
It's sort of like, you know, in the morning with a fresh hot biscuit with blackberry jam in it. That's what it is.
MONTAGNE: There is one dessert that you brought to us that looks like it might be actually savory. It's a pie, and I can see tomatoes peeping up through the design in the pie. What is that?
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, don't forget, pies in the 19th century were ubiquitous. I mean, you put anything in a pie. You'd put chicken - you know, chicken pot pie. You'd have steak-and-kidney pudding, which would be in a pie, apples, fruit.
MONTAGNE: But those were main dishes.
Mr. KIMBALL: They were. Well...
MONTAGNE: You're presenting this as a dessert?
Mr. KIMBALL: Well, no. This is really savory. This is the one savory item which is very summery, because it's tomatoes. It was layers of sliced beefsteak tomatoes, a separate layer which had a little mayonnaise and a little bit of cheese. And so we had layers of that. It's a little bit like a tomato sandwich, except it's a pie. And it's just really good, and it's great in August.
I mean, you know, pie for breakfast...
MONTAGNE: This would be a perfect breakfast.
Mr. KIMBALL: Yeah, that's why - yeah. It's very much like an American quiche -which I think is actually a little bit better than quiche, but I'm American.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: This has been a pleasure, as always.
Mr. KIMBALL: Thank you. Anytime I can come and make you breakfast (unintelligible).
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: Chris Kimball's latest cookbook is "Cooks Country Blue Ribbon Dessert." You can find all the recipes, plus Chris's favorite, Summer Berry Pudding, at npr.org.
GREENE: And Renee, it all sounds delicious. I know you and Chris Kimball were talking right there about the Brown Betty dessert inspired by a cocktail, but they took out the alcohol. If you want a kick, there is a new cookbook out there that seems to draw on a similar spirit, here. The book is "Intoxicated Cupcakes." Author and pastry chef Kate Legere has concocted these tipsy treats with names to match: Hot Toddy Cupcakes, Champagne Party Cupcakes and a Dark and Stormy. And that has rum in both the cake and the frosting - so two drinks in one right there, in the baking cup. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.