Choosing fruit and berries
When you’re getting hold of as great-tasting ingredients as possible for a dessert – especially if it contains fruit – the same rule applies as for the other courses: Use things that are in season.
Make rhubarb compote in early summer, eat strawberries and raspberries all summer long, fill up with apple and blueberry tarts in the autumn and go for orange salad in the winter. Towards spring, red, acidic pomegranate seeds turn up, which make everything look better and taste better too.
In season. That’s it. Especially with berries. You can’t beat it.
– Christophe Buchet, Bleck
You get lots of bonus benefits if you stick to local fruit.
- More flavor in your desserts. Fruit grown close to where you live won’t have far to travel, giving it a chance to ripen properly on the bushes and trees where it grows. Freeze it and preserve the harvest from the short season when its flavor is at its best.
- Better prices. Local tomatoes, for example, are cheapest when they taste best.
- Locally grown and more ecologically sustainable ingredients. And local farmers who will make even greater efforts to provide you with even better products.
Frozen fruit is good fruit
If you can’t find good fresh fruit, use frozen. The point of frozen fruit is that it was frozen when the fruit was at its best. This is why frozen fruit is often a better option for flavor than the fruit you’ll find at the supermarket in the “wrong” season. Use frozen fruit in compotes and as a filling for tarts and leave the fresh, imported fruit for the decoration, if that.
What is yuzu?
Sometimes (quite often in fact) there are trends in ingredients. The little citrus fruit from Japan – yuzu – is one of many examples. It has a strong aroma and a sour flavor like a cross between grapefruit, mandarins and apples. It has a lot of pips, which makes it difficult to eat as it is, but the juice and the peel are used to flavor sauces and drinks. You’ll find it in well-stocked greengrocers’ in spring when there isn’t much other fruit in season.
Storing fruit and berries
Fresh, ripe fruit should ideally be stored for as brief a period as possible before eating, but the best way of extending its life in the colder months of the year is to freeze it.
Fruita and berries freeze well
Most fruits and berries contain practically no fat, which is why it works well for freezing. On the other hand, you can’t avoid changes in flavor and texture. Incorporate them in your calculations when planning your dessert.
Oxygen is the enemy
It’s the same with fruit as with other food in the freezer. It needs to be airtight, so it doesn’t get freezer burn.
Buy when it’s in season and freeze it. Nine months out of twelve, frozen strawberries are the best option.
– Martin Isaksson, Chokladfabriken
Preparing fruit and berries
The basic idea is that you should use fruit that’s in season, but you might need a few little tricks to bring out the flavor:
If your fruit has seen better days, put it in water with a squeeze of lemon. Don’t do this with berries though as they will just absorb water and go slushy. Turn them into jam instead.
Raspberries are the best berries. Beautifully acidic, gorgeous to look at, sexy. What’s not to like.
– Kin Tsui, 39Wäst
Ripe, fresh pineapple is magical, but if it hasn’t had time to ripen properly, it will be hard and sour. Caramelizing under the grill or in a frying pan makes it softer with more rounded flavors. And if you marinate it in a splash of rum and then leave it in the pan for a while, it will be soft and taste amazing. Perfect paired with a classic, home-made chocolate pudding, for example.
Giving strawberries a new lease of life
If you get hold of some lack-luster strawberries, brighten them up with a bit of sugar and lemon or lime. You can also scrape out and chuck in 1/2 a vanilla pod.
Cooking fruit and berries
The point of cooking fresh fruit is almost always to preserve it for the rest of the year when it can’t be eaten raw. But even fruit you serve fresh sometimes needs a little help to attain its full potential on the plate.
Even better preserved
Pears, plums and cherries are even better when preserved, as the flavors are more rounded, and the added sugar balances the acidity. Just sugar goes a long way, but vanilla, mint or rum go even further. Bring them out of the pantry to brighten things up in the depths of late winter. They go well with home-made vanilla ice cream.
If you’re drowning in firm, beautiful autumn pears, take a bagful and poach them in water, sugar and vinegar, as they are or with spices like fresh ginger or thyme. How long they need to cook depends on the variety, how ripe they are and how big they are. Prod them with a skewer to check. They’re done when they come away from the skewer on their own. Store them in clean glass jars in the fridge until you need their fruity, spicy loveliness.
Poached fruit is bloody gorgeous.
– Kin Tsui, 39Wäst
Make fruit soup
The next time you have a glut of freshly picked fruit, turn it into fruit soup and invite people round. The cool, intensely flavored soup is an elegant little dessert. And it’s easy to make:
- Bring water, sugar and lemon juice to the boil with a vanilla pod. Simmer for a while and then remove from the heat.
- Add the fruit and stir.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of Italian meringue gently browned with a blow torch.
Make a Rumtopf
If you want to offer something stronger after dinner without pouring it into a glass, make a German Rumtopf instead. Put cherries, plums, peaches or apricots in a clean jar and cover with light rum and sugar. Then leave the jar to stand for two or three months in the fridge. Check from time to time to make sure the fruit is still completely covered by rum. After a few months, serve with chocolate fondant, Swedish mud cake, vanilla ice cream or something that needs intensely flavored, more grown-up company.
Cut through with acidity
We often talk about dessert as a sweet course. But acidity is just as important, as are the aromas and freshness you get in fresh fruit. The pros recommend cutting through the sweetness. Find a balance with your desserts by serving chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries or panna cotta with a citrus salad and a dash of yuzu.
How to deep fry fruit
Applying this cooking technique to fruit results in wonderful flavors and textures, but read this first if you have never done it before: How to deep fry fruit
Serving fruit and berries
Beautiful, fresh fruit is a decorative effect on the plate in its own right, but a few reminders won’t go amiss.
More, stronger colors makes it more pleasing to the eye. Or do it the other way round – pick one color as your theme (when using fresh ingredients, not poached or preserved).
Fruit spans a wide range of textures, but you can add even more in the form of crunchy nuts, crispy brandy snaps, and smooth mousse.
There’s nothing wrong with summery warm fruit, but the dish on the plate will be more exciting with a cold scoop of ice cream or a hot chocolate sauce, to give just two examples.