Kitchen Mailbox: Some fancier desserts for summer's last hurrah

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Labor Day will probably be our last family picnic this summer. With that in mind I decided to make a batch of desserts that were a little different from what I usually serve. These desserts -- all taken from new cookbooks -- are a little more challenging than the quick desserts I usually make but were well worth the time. A number of people asked me why I go to so much trouble baking when good ready-made desserts are available. It’s simple: I love to bake. And I believe there are a lot of people like me! So, try a least one of these recipes -- you won’t be sorry.

I will share a few more in future columns.

I made all the desserts one day ahead. I covered each one with plastic wrap and refrigerated them until about four hours prior to serving them.


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2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into cubes and chilled

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

1 cup heavy cream

3 peaches

3 nectarines

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Scatter the chilled butter cubes over flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Do not over-process. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and add ½ cup of the sugar and the cream, mixing with a wooden spoon just until the dough comes together. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest while preparing the filling.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, cut a small X into the skin of the peaches and nectarines. Drop the peaches and nectarines into boiling water. As soon as the X curls away from the fruits, about 40 seconds, remove them from the water with tongs or a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle pull the skin away from the flesh and cut the peaches and nectarines into ½-inch-thick slices.

In a large bowl, toss the peach and nectarine slices with the cornstarch, the remaining ¼ cup sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon the fruit into the prepared baking dish. Cover the fruit with heaping tablespoons of the cobbler dough.

Bake 35 minutes, until the cobbler is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving warm.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

-- “Brown Sugar Kitchen” by Tanya Holland with Jan Newberry (Chronicle, 2014, $29.95)


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I made the cookie dough the day before I made the cupcakes. The next day I removed the dough from the refrigerator to soften. This recipe calls for superfine sugar. If you don’t have superfine sugar make your own by processing regular sugar in a food processor until powdery.

For the dough

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 tablespoons packed light- or dark-brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

Beat butter and sugars for 3 minutes or until well creamed. Stir in vanilla. Add flour cocoa powder, and salt; mix, by hand or on low speed with an electric mixer, until well blended. Stir in the cherries and mix well.

For the cupcakes

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan (standard pan) with liners.

Beat butter and sugar 3 minutes, or until well creamed. Add the egg and beat until smooth.

Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder into one bowl, put the milk and vanilla into another bowl.

Spoon about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter, mixture, and stir about 1 minute. Add half of the milk mixture; stir to combine. Spoon in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing to combine, followed by the milk mixture and finishing with remaining flour.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and fill each about ¾ quarters full. Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool on a wire rack, still in the pan, until completely cool.

For the ganache

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons cherry juice

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine cream and cherry juice in a saucepan over medium-low heat just until it begins to simmer (do not boil) then pour over the chocolate. Let it sit about 2 minutes, and then stir until smooth.

Cut a little cone from the top of the cupcake and fill with about 2 teaspoons of the softened cookie dough. Replace the cone (tearing off the tip as needed), then spread the chocolate ganache over the top. Pipe on a little flower of vanilla frosting, if using. Serve immediately.

-- “Cookie Doughlicious: 50 Cookie Recipes for Candies, Cakes, and More” by Lara Ferroni (Running Press, 2014, $16)

To request a recipe or send a recipe or question to Kitchen Mailbox, write the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222 or

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