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Desserts That Are Not The Pits

Stone fruits are in season now, so cookbook author Tori Ritchie offers The Early Show's Five-Minute Cooking School from the Williams-Sonoma flagship store in New York City.

Stone fruits are delicious to eat on their own, but try Ritchie's grilling and baking recipes. Click on page 2 to find recipes for White Sangria with Summer Fruits and Brown Sugar Peaches with Ice Cream; page 3 for Grilled Peach Melba; and page 4 for Plum Tart.

The Facts:
Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries are all members of the Prunus genus, and that means they are closely related. They commonly are referred to as "stone fruits" because the seed is very large and hard.

Stone fruits don't become sweeter after they're picked, but growers often harvest them while they're still a bit under-ripe so that they won't bruise during transit. At the market, select specimens that have the color, if not the softness, of fully ripened fruit, then take them home and let them soften at room temperature for a few days.

  • Nectarines: Nectarines resemble peaches, but they're sweeter and more nutritious. They're best if they're allowed to ripen on the tree. Unfortunately, tree-ripened nectarines bruise easily, so most growers scrimp on flavor and pick and market them while they're still slightly under-ripe. After buying nectarines, you're supposed to let them ripen for a couple of days at room temperature before eating them. This makes them softer and juicier, but not sweeter.

    Avoid buying nectarines that are too hard or that have green spots (a sign they were picked way too soon) or those that are bruised. The superior freestone varieties arrive in June and July; the cling varieties that come later aren't as good.

  • Peaches: Most of the peaches that are sold in markets are freestone, and de-fuzzed by the grower. Select peaches that are colorful and free of bruises. After you get them home, let them ripen at room temperature for a day or so until they become softer. They're best and cheapest in the summer.
  • Plums: Plums are juicier than other stone fruits and have a longer growing season. There are many varieties: some sweet, some acidic, and some best suited for drying into prunes. They're often eaten out of hand, but they also work well in cobblers, compotes, and tarts.
  • Apricots: Like other stone fruit, apricots are sweetest (and most prone to bruising) when they're allowed to ripen on the tree. But unless you can pick your own, you'll probably have to make do with the slightly under-ripe, more durable apricots sold in markets. Allow them to soften at room temperature for a few days before eating them. They're best in the summer.
For recipes click on pages 2, 3 and 4.

Recipes:

White Sangria with Summer Fruits

Choose the ripest fruits you can find. Feel free to use one or any combination of the fruits listed below (you will need a total of 3 to 4 cups sliced, pitted fruit). If you'd like, top each glass off with sparkling wine or soda water to create a refreshing beverage that's just right for a hot summer's day.

Ingredients:
Ice cubes as needed
4 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur or apricot or peach brandy
2 Tbs. sugar
1 ripe peach, pitted and sliced
1 ripe nectarine, pitted and sliced
1 ripe apricot, pitted and sliced
1 cup pitted and sliced cherries

Method:

  • Fill a large pitcher two-thirds full with ice cubes. Add the wine, liqueur and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the peach, nectarine, apricot and cherries and stir to mix. Pour into chilled ice-filled glasses and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

Brown Sugar Peaches with Ice Cream

Summertime's sweet, fragrant stone fruits are wonderful for making quick and easy desserts. Here, a scoop of ice cream is topped with warm, lightly sugared peach slices. Look for deep yellow peaches that give slightly to gentle pressure, signs that they are juicy and flavorful.

Ingredients:
4 peaches
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. dark rum (optional)
1 pint rum raisin, vanilla or coffee ice cream

Method:

  1. If desired, rub off any excess peach fuzz with a kitchen towel. Halve and pit the peaches, then cut them into slices 1/2 inch thick.
  2. In a nonreactive bowl, toss together the peach slices and lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the peaches and brown sugar and sauté the peaches until they are lightly browned and the sugar has caramelized, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and swirl in the rum.
  4. To serve, scoop the ice cream into martini glasses or individual bowls. Top each serving with an equal amount of the warm peaches and drizzle with an equal amount of the pan juices. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, Edited by Chuck Williams (Oxmoor House, 2004)

Grilled Peach Melba

The easiest way to peel peaches and other thin-skinned fruits is to blanch them first. Score the blossom end (bottom) of each peach with an X. In small batches, immerse the peaches in boiling water just until the skins begin to wrinkle and curl at the X, 20 to 60 seconds, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Immediately transfer the fruit to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When the fruit is cool, you should be able to slip off the skin with your fingers; use a paring knife to remove any skin that does not come away easily.

You can serve the dessert with homemade raspberry puree (recipe follows) or with purchased raspberry sauce.

For the raspberry puree:
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 to 2 Tbs. sugar

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 large, firm ripe peaches, about 1 lb. total weight, peeled
Good-quality vanilla ice cream for serving.

Method:

  1. To make the raspberry puree, in a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries until smooth. Add the lemon juice and salt. Add the sugar to taste and puree again until well blended. Strain into a bowl through a medium-mesh sieve to remove the seeds, pressing the mixture with the back of a spoon to push it through. Set aside 1/2 cup of the puree for drizzling over the cake; reserve the rest for another use (it will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to three days).
  2. Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 5-by-9-by-4-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Dust with flour, then tap out any excess.
  3. To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, and repeat to add the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center of the cake springs back when touched and a skewer inserted into it comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let the cake cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  6. While the cake is baking, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat. Lightly oil the grill rack. Halve and pit the peaches, then cut each half in half again. Place the peach quarters, cut side down, on the grill rack and cook until grill marks appear, about 4 minutes. Turn them so that the other cut side faces down and grill for 4 minutes more. Turn them so their rounded sides face down and grill until the peaches sizzle slightly and are easily pierced with a skewer, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the peaches to a platter and let cool to room temperature. (This can also be done in a grill pan over high heat.)
  7. Cut the cake into thick slices and arrange them on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until the edges are a light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. To serve, place a warm cake slice on each plate and top with 4 grilled peach quarters and a scoop of ice cream. Drizzle each serving with the raspberry puree and serve. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Fruit Dessert, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

Plum Tart

When baking a tart with a juicy filling, such as the plums in this recipe, place the pan on an upside-down baking sheet in the oven. This helps prevent the bottom crust from becoming soggy so it will emerge golden and flaky. A pizza stone can be used in place of a baking sheet.

For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 to 4 Tbs. cold water

For the filling:
2 lb. plums, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. sugar
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. heavy cream
1/4 cup apricot jam, warmed and strained

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, in a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the butter and shortening and, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut them in until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Sprinkle in the water 1 Tbs. at a time, stirring gently with a fork after each addition and adding only enough water to form a rough mass.
  2. Using floured hands, pat the dough into a smooth, flattened disk. Use immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  3. Place a baking sheet upside down on the middle rack in an oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a 9-inch-square tart pan, pressing the dough up the sides of the pan and leaving a 2-inch overhang.
  5. To make the filling, in a large bowl, stir together the plums, lemon juice, the 1/4 cup sugar, the flour and cinnamon. Transfer to the tart shell and arrange the plums in an even layer. Fold the overhanging dough on top of the plums. Brush the dough with the cream and sprinkle with the 2 tsp. sugar.
  6. Place the pan on the baking sheet in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Brush the filling with the apricot jam. Serves 8.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

In the next Five-Minute Cooking School, Ritchie teaches all about corn.