It is fate, really. Simply team up two Portland, Oregon, fruit experts—an award-winning chef turned farm-to-school food coordinator, and a baker known for her glorious handcrafted goods—and a must-have new little cookbook appears: Rustic Fruit Desserts (Ten Speed Press; 70 recipes; $22) by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. As Schreiber tells the story, when Ten Speed contacted him to create a book of fruit desserts (they published Wildwood, his first cookbook, back in 2000), all the goodies that he had sampled over the years from Richardson’s Baker & Spice booth at the Portland Farmers Market (she now owns a bakery by the same name) came to mind. This cookbook, a true collaboration, is a reflection of the passion they share for Oregon’s amazing variety of seasonal fruits and the respect they have for the small growers who farm in a sustainable way.
To be honest, though, at first we didn’t believe that anybody really needed another cookbook filled with rustic desserts. Doesn’t everyone have a recipe for Mother’s cobbler? But then we read through recipes for caramelized pear bread pudding; lemon blueberry buckle; fresh strawberry and ricotta tart; gingered peach and blackberry pandowdy. Something unique was going on here, and the proof came in the testing.
The genius of this work lies in Schreiber’s playful fruit combinations and Richardson’s mastery of doughs and spices to complement them. My personal favorite, the Apple Blackberry Pie, is a looker, and it’s luscious. I never would have been able to dream up the combination on my own, but the tartness of the berries and the sweetness of the apples meld into a heavenly filling; a touch of ginger seems to be the magical ingredient that marries the two. Other recipes, like the Stone Fruit Tea Cake, are easy and versatile. Here, any market-fresh stone fruit (say, peaches or plums or a combination of both) is added to a soft shortbread-like dough. The result, a cross between a cookie and a cake, is neither too sweet nor too tart. Be sure to use fine sea salt and, yes, a tablespoon of vanilla extract. The intensity of the salt plays off the sprinkling of turbinado sugar, and the heady amount of vanilla permeates the cake. And don’t be shy about using frozen fruit. We’ve tried it, and it works.
Sometimes blackbirds really are baked into pies—ceramic blackbirds, at least. A pie bird is a hollow figurine used to maintain an opening in the upper crust of a pie. Highly collectible in some circles, pie birds act as fanciful ducts for your pie’s steam and juices to vent. (Of course, slitting the crust with a knife will serve the same purpose; it just won’t be nearly as cute.) Although most pie birds look like, well, birds, they do come in other fun forms: pigs, frogs, Little Red Riding Hoods, and happy monks, to name a few. —Chris Dudley