Fruit desserts for an easy, elegant summer treat

Jeanmarie Brownson
The Daily Meal

What to do with all those berries, cherries and stone fruit?

Mixed berry cobbler with ice-cold whipped cream is my all-time favorite summer dessert. I’ve been making some version of this fruit-forward, tender-topped, not-too-sweet treat for decades. Sometimes I double the recipe; leftovers disappear quickly.

The cobbler crust that follows, flavored with sweet butter, orange rind and nutty whole wheat flour, is super easy to make, especially when compared to pie crust. Reminiscent of a great biscuit, with light, flaky layers and a crunchy sugary top, the cobbler crust contrasts beautifully with the hidden goodness of soft fruit.

As written, this cobbler calls for blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, but you have choices when it comes to the fruit layer. After a day of berry picking I like to make this recipe with just blueberries – a terrifically easy alternative to blueberry pie. When the strawberries are small and local, an all-strawberry version tastes like the best of summer. Employing a combination of seasonal farmers market berries, meanwhile, creates a sophisticated, less sweet dessert.

I strongly advise stocking heavy cream and mascarpone during berry and peach season. Thus armed, you can whip up an indulgent dessert at a moment’s notice. Adding a bit of mascarpone cheese or crème fraiche to softly whipped heavy cream adds tang and helps stabilize the mixture. The combination will stay fluffy for hours in a refrigerator or packed in a cooler of ice.

Layer the whipped cream concoction with nectarines and berries for an impressive dessert sans pastry skills.

When the kitchen is cool, I like to make the lemon wafer cookies from the latest edition of “The Joy of Cooking” to use in the parfaits. Or use the best buttery store-bought cookies to add to the layers; they’ll soften slightly and add a delicate texture to the parfaits. Serve extra cookies, still in their crisp state, alongside.

If no-cook recipes are more your summertime speed, granita, a frozen dessert made with fresh fruit and ice, ranks as the most refreshing of all summer fruit desserts. I purchase cherries when they’re in season and pit them before freezing. The cherries only need to be briefly thawed for the recipe that follows. Serve the ice in small dishes with a splash of prosecco or sparkling wine.

Summer berry desserts include cobbler, above, parfaits, below left, and granita, below right.

Mixed Berry Cobbler With Mascarpone and Lemon Cream

Prep: 30 minutes

Chill: 30 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Makes 8 servings

Notes: I use Bob’s Red Mill decorating sugar to gild my cobbler and pie crusts during the summer fruit season.

Use a deep 9-inch baking pan for this recipe to prevent any bubble-overs in the oven.

  • 11 / 4 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 13 / 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups stemmed blueberries
  • 3 cups sliced small strawberries
  • 1-2 cups raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange or pomegranate juice
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
  • Coarse sugar, for garnish
  • Mascarpone and lemon whipped cream see recipe for serving

Directions:

1.: Mix 11 / 4 cups cake flour, 1 / 4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 / 4 cup granulated sugar, 13 / 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1 / 4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon grated orange rind in a large bowl.

2. Add 1 / 2 cup very cold unsalted butter pieces and use a pastry blender or clean hands to work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Drizzle 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream over the flour mixture and use a large fork to gather everything into a shaggy dough. Do not overwork the dough. Turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Gather dough into a 1-inch thick square and wrap in the paper. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a deep, 8-inch or 9-inch square baking dish. Place on a baking sheet in case any bubbles over.

5. For the filling, mix 1 / 2 cup granulated sugar, 1 / 4 cup cornstarch and 1 / 4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add 3 cups blueberries, 3 cups strawberries, 1-2 cups raspberries and 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice. Toss gently to coat berries evenly. Transfer to a prepared baking dish.

6. Flour a work surface and place cobbler dough on it. Use a floured rolling pin to roll dough into an 8- or 9- inch square to match your baking pan. Carefully transfer to the baking dish to mostly cover the berry filling; it does not need to cover the top completely. Poke with a fork to let steam escape. Don’t worry if the dough tears; simply use your fingers to repair it. Sprinkle top of dough with 1 tablespoon cream and then with the coarse sugar.

7. Bake until the crust is deeply golden browned and juices are bubbling up at the edge, 50-60 minutes. If you want the top more browned, bake for an additional 5 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack.

8. Serve warm or at room temperature. Use a large spoon to scoop mixture into serving dishes. Top with generous dollops of mascarpone whipped cream.

Mascarpone and Lemon Whipped Cream

Prep: 10 minutes

Makes 2 generous cups

Note: I refrigerate my mixing bowl and beaters on hot days to keep everything as cold as possible. Serve this with fresh berries or sliced peaches or with cobblers, pies and crisps. If kept very cold, the cream will keep its soft peaks for hours.

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese or crème fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon very finely grated lemon rind
  • Pinch salt

1. Put 1 cup heavy whipping cream into a chilled stainless-steel mixer bowl. Beat on high speed until starting to thicken.

2. Beat in 2 tablespoons powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

3. Beat in 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, 1 / 2 teaspoon lemon rind and a pinch of salt just long enough to combine.

4. Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate until serving time (or up to 6 hours).

Summer berry desserts from JeanMarie Brownson, styled by Shannon Kinsella, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Nectarine and Berry Parfaits

Prep: 20 minutes

Standing time: 20 minutes

Chill time: 1 hour or up to 6 hours

Makes 4 servings

Note: If you don’t wish to use orange-flavored liqueur, substitute 1 or 2 tablespoons of orange blossom honey for the liqueur and the sugar.

  • 1 large ripe nectarine or peach, halved, pitted
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced ripe strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh red, gold or black raspberries, or blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Mascarpone and lemon whipped cream, see recipe
  • 8 buttery shortbread, ladyfingers, amaretti or gingersnap cookies, crumbled
  • Fresh raspberries, for garnish
  • Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

1. Working over a bowl, use a sharp knife to slice 1 nectarine or peach very thinly. Add nectarine slices, 1 cup strawberry slices and 1 cup raspberries to the bowl. Add 3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar; stir gently. Let stand for about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make mascarpone and lemon whipped cream.

3. Place a generous dollop of the fruit into the bottom of 4 stemmed dessert or wine glasses. Top with 1 spoonful of the Mascarpone cream, a few cookie bits and more fruit. Repeat layers to fill the glass evenly, ending with a dollop of the cream. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

4. Serve cold, garnished with fresh raspberries and mint sprigs.

Summer berry desserts from JeanMarie Brownson, styled by Shannon Kinsella, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Frozen Sweet and Sour Cherry Granita

Prep: 15 minutes

Freeze: 5 to 6 hours

Makes 6 cups (6 servings)

Top scoops of the granita with a spoonful or two of sparkling wine, if desired. I like to add Amarena cherries in syrup or Luxardo Maraschino cherries for a triple cherry delight.

Note: For simple syrup, simmer 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and refrigerate for several weeks. You can use frozen sour cherries if you cannot find them fresh.

  • 1 pound stemmed sour cherries, pitted (2 cups)
  • 1 pound stemmed sweet cherries, pitted (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2- 2/3 cups simple syrup (see note)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Luxardo maraschino cherries, optional, for garnish

1. Puree 1 pound pitted sour cherries and 1 pound pitted sweet cherries with 1 / 2 cup water in a blender (work in batches if necessary) until smooth. Push through a fine-mesh strainer into a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan. Stir in simple syrup to taste and salt.

2. Freeze until very slushy, 1-2 hours. Rake the mixture with a large fork to fluff it up. Then repeat the process of freezing and raking every 2 hours until completely fluffed and frozen.

3. Return to the freezer and repeat the process of freezing and raking with the fork 2 more times.

4. Use an ice cream scoop to serve the mixture in small glasses. Garnish with maraschino cherries, if desired.