Chefs get creative with summer fruit desserts

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Local summer fruit is fresh, bursting with flavour, and like summer itself, sadly fleeting. If you’ve come home from a farmers market laden with berries and stone fruit (it’s hard not to get carried away), here’s some sweet inspiration from farmers and chefs on what to make with the bounty. They also describe some of their more intricate desserts for those of you who prefer to eat someone else’s ethereal creations.

      Maan Farms produces strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, which it sells at its Abbotsford property (790 McKenzie Road), as well as at various farmers markets in Metro Vancouver. By phone, co-owner Devinder K. Maan explains that she uses the berries in scones, muffins, cupcakes, pies, and tarts, as well as in cakes, such as a platz, which is a Mennonite crumb coffee cake. While she feels the fresh fruit doesn’t work well in cookies, she says that a Linzer cookie with raspberry jam, for example, is fabulous.

      Maan recommends getting creative by using fresh fruit, as well as compotes, syrups, or sauces, when you’re making sundaes, crepes, pancakes, waffles, or shortcake desserts.

      Chatting with the Straight about fruit desserts at Tableau Bar Bistro (1181 Melville Street), executive chef Marc-André Choquette recounts a 1997 visit to a vineyard in France’s Loire Valley. His hosts greeted him with an apricot clafoutis, and the custard was still warm from the oven. Years later, it’s one of his favourite things to put on the daily dessert chalkboard that he and pastry chef Grace Cheng dream up.

      Choquette gets a weekly shipment of fruit, picked at peak ripeness, from Sapo Bravo Organics near Lytton. The challenge is that he has just a handful of days to do justice to the perishable, intensely flavourful peaches, plums, and other produce. “The dessert should be complex without transforming the fruit too much. I want the fruit to speak for itself,” he explains.

      One creation that diners rave about is his take on Black Forest cake. The description alone makes you ache for a bite: layers of chocolate-cherry sponge cake, chocolate whipped cream, and fresh halved cherries soaked in cherry syrup. Other last courses that have made an appearance are a blueberry coconut bread pudding—made with chocolate croissants and served with blueberry cheesecake ice cream—and a blackberry Earl Grey cake with white chocolate mousse and pistachio dacquoise.

      Once summer is over, Christophe Bonzon, pastry chef and co-owner of Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie (4712 Hastings Street, Burnaby), has to explain to customers why some of his desserts aren’t available year-round. “We take pride in the seasons, but when the season is done, it’s done. People come to understand and appreciate it,” he says during a visit to his charming shop.

      Bonzon makes the most of local summer fruit, using it in jams, chocolates (try the blueberry jelly ganache), scones, macarons, and numerous desserts.

      The fraise pistache begins with a bottom layer of pistachio crunch, followed by strawberry crémeux, pistachio sponge, pistachio cream, strawberry confit, more pistachio cream, and then a strawberry glaze (whew). The result is heavenly, to say the least. New this year is the pêche amande, which features an almond-shortbread base along with almond sponge soaked in amaretto syrup, peach compote, and silky peach mousse.

      Other desserts include a tiramisu verrine (a layered dessert in a glass) with macerated strawberries, mascarpone cream, and almond crumble; and the myrtille vanille with almond crunch, sponge cake soaked in blueberry syrup, blueberry confit, and vanilla mousse.

      Bel Café (801 West Georgia Street) utilizes local summer fruit in a vanilla rhubarb strawberry danish, a blueberry scone, and its Manjari chocolate and raspberry macaron. On a scorcher of a day, the café’s paletas (Mexican popsicles) are sure to cool you down. They come in strawberry citrus, blackberry lime, and peach vanilla flavours.

      During a phone interview, Wayne Kozinko—pastry chef at Bel Café and Hawksworth Restaurant—talks about a new entremets at the café, which features lime crémeux, sponge cake, strawberry mousse, and a strawberry glaze. He likes pairing the sweetness of strawberries with a contrasting acidic citrus flavour.

      At Hawksworth, Kozinko offers an elegant verrine with chamomile gelée, vanilla bavarois, strawberry gelée, poached rhubarb, strawberry slices, vanilla crumble, and strawberry sorbet.

      Kozinko has started receiving batches of local peaches and nectarines, and has added new items to reflect this shift in the fruit harvest. For example, one dessert at Hawksworth involves hazelnut choux pastry, milk-chocolate praline, and compressed peaches and nectarines.

      While Kozinko says it can be tricky dealing with variable local growing conditions and high demand, “in general, local fruit is superior to anything that’s going to come from elsewhere.” And so, as the summer days slip away, make sure to celebrate the season with amazing desserts that showcase it.




      Aug 13, 2015 at 9:25pm

      I remember strawberry covered quaalude posicles back in the 70's.Didn't care much for them myself.