What’s cooking: Fruit is ripe for desserts

It’s cruel timing. Months go by without fresh local fruit, and then, it seems, everything comes in at once.

Strawberries, rhubarb, apricots, cherries, blueberries – all beautiful and tempting. Even early peaches are hitting grocery bins and farmers markets.

But the local cherry season will be short this year, thanks to the weird spring weather patterns, and apricot season always seems to come and go quickly.

Here are some desserts that make the most of this bounty while it lasts. Feel free to experiment with different fruits, such as cherries in the mini pies or blueberries in the upside-down cake.


Cherry berry cobbler

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Serves 8

You can use any combination of berries and cherries in this recipe. Adapted from and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.


2 cups pitted sweet cherries, rinsed

1 cup blackberries

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries

3 tablespoons cornstarch

5 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon reduced-fat milk

Light whipped topping or vanilla ice cream for serving, optional


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pit the cherries in a large bowl. Lightly rinse all the berries. Add them to the cherries. Sprinkle the fruit with the cornstarch, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and the lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into a 9-inch-by-12-inch oval baking dish.

Mix the flour with 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in 1/2 cup of the milk to make a very soft dough.

Drop the dough by spoonfuls on top of the berry mixture. Dampen your hands with some remaining milk, and spread out the dough to cover most of the fruit. Brush the top of the dough with the rest of the milk. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake the cobbler for about 35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and the berries are bubbling. Serve warm with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Per serving: 222 calories (32% from fat), 8 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 37 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 201 mg sodium, 20 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.


Cookie-topped blueberry mini pies

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Serves 4

These warm blueberry desserts aren’t really pies, but don’t let convention stand in the way of enjoying them. A simple lemon-accented blueberry filling gets a cookie dough topper. The cookie bakes along with the filling, providing a perfect foil to the tart berries.

Taste the blueberries before you begin; if they are quite tart, you might want to use more than 1/4 cup of sugar for the filling.

You'll need four 8-ounce ramekins or mini tart pans. You can slice the dough into strips and make a lattice, cut a round like a top crust or use a cookie cutter to cut out a distinctive shape and top the filling with that. These are best served soon after they are baked.

Recipe from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick of The Washington Post.


1 pound fresh or frozen/defrosted blueberries

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling (optional; see note above)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 ounces homemade or store-bought sugar cookie dough, suitable for rolling

Water (optional)


Combine the blueberries, cornstarch, the 1/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice and zest in a mixing bowl, stirring until the cornstarch dissolves. Let the filling mixture rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Arrange four 8-ounce or similar-size ramekins on the baking sheet.

Divide the rested filling mixture plus any accumulated juices evenly among the ramekins or mini tart pans.

Roll out the cookie dough to a thickness of a generous 1/4 inch; cut it into the desired shapes or strips. Top each pie with a cut-out cookie or with strips of the dough arranged to form a lattice. If desired, brush the tops lightly with water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the cookie tops are lightly browned.

Wait 5 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 240 calories, 2 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 28 g sugar


Rhubarb upside-down cake

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 35 minutes

Serves 8

Recipe from the Chicago Tribune, inspired by Bon Appetit.


4 cups chopped rhubarb (from about 6 large stalks)

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (plus more for pan)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk


Toss together rhubarb, brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon zest.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and remaining 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Slide in egg, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest and the vanilla extract; beat fluffy again. Scoop in one-third of the flour mixture; mix on low speed just to combine. Pour in half the milk; mix to combine. Repeat, working in remaining doses of flour, milk, flour.

Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan (not springform). Scrape in rhubarb and any juices. Scrape in cake batter; smooth top. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until golden and a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Set a serving plate over pan and flip cake, fruit-side up, onto the plate. This is nice slightly warm.


Stone-fruit slump

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 15 minutes rest time

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 8

If a cobbler is easier than pie, then slump (a.k.a. grunt) is easier than cobbler – it’s cooked on top of the stove, not unlike a stew.

Adapted from “Rustic Fruit Desserts,” by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, who write, “Sadly, slumps do not keep well. Eat this one immediately.”


4 1/2 pounds stone fruit, such as cherries, apricots or nectarines, fresh or frozen, halved, pitted

3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsifted cake flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon each: baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom

1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup cold buttermilk


Slice the fruit over a large bowl to collect all of the juices. Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a small bowl; add to fruit. Toss to coat. Gently stir in the lemon juice. Pour fruit and juices into a 10- to 12-inch nonreactive, deep skillet or Dutch oven with a tight lid. Let stand 15 minutes.

Heat the fruit to a low simmer over medium-low heat, gently stirring occasionally to prevent the juice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

For the dumplings, whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom together in a bowl. Add the butter; toss until evenly coated. Cut in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it’s the size of peas. Add the buttermilk; stir just until the mixture comes together and forms a slightly wet dough.

Place the dough in 8 portions over the fruit, distributing the dumplings evenly. Heat fruit to a gentle simmer over low heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid; simmer until the dumplings are puffy and cooked through, 25 minutes. Remove the cover; let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 390 calories, 28 percent of calories from fat, 13 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 67 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 449 mg sodium, 4 g fiber