17 recipes to sweeten up your summer
The vibrant hues and flavors of summer’s magnificent berries and stone fruits make spectacular pies and tarts. Add some ice cream and you have a complete taste of summer right there on your plate. And the best part? These desserts are easier to make and taste even more delicious than they look.
Peach pie is a summertime classic. This one uses duck fat for an extra flaky yet tender crust that practically shatters when you put your fork in it. Sweet cherry pie is made with firm, fresh sweet cherries rather than the sour ones used in canned fillings. Three-berry pie uses a splash of sweet wine to bring out the berry flavors. Rather than the oft-used currant jelly, a quick, freshly made strawberry jam gives sheen and holds the fruit together in this vintage strawberry pie. Hand-held blueberry pie bars make cleanup a breeze, as no cake plates or forks are needed.
A summer fruit tart, with a shortbread-like crust and a simple pastry cream filling, is a blank canvas for as many or as few types of berries as you choose. In this sumptuous and super-simple-to-make chocolate and cherry tart, plump, sweet cherries are nestled into chocolate ganache. Tangy lemon curd topped with whipped cream and strawberries makes a tart that not only tastes but also looks like summer. Fresh caramel gives apricot tart brûlée a sweet, crunchy zing that complements the soft tartness of the apricots.
If you don’t want to heat the oven (and thus the whole house), try a chocolate icebox cake reminiscent of cookies and cream ice cream. Another no-oven option if you’re already barbecuing is grilled fruit with toasted pound cake (Hint: Buy a premade pound cake; I hear Sara Lee makes a good one). Gluten-free skillet brownies literally bake on the grill. They may not showcase summer fruit, but there is always room at the table for chocolate — and you can always top those brownies with a scoop of honeycomb ice cream. Or, go for chocolate-on-chocolate indulgence and instead serve them with devil’s food chocolate ice cream. (I’ll wager you’ve never had chocolate ice cream as intensely chocolatey as this.) Garnish either with fresh strawberries and raspberries for a pop of color and some tartness to counter all that chocolate.
Speaking of ice cream — and since it is summer and really hot outside — do serve any of these pies or tarts a la mode. As lemon verbena ice cream elevates this raspberry tart with hazelnut crust a notch or two, a scoop of nectarine-cardamom or lavender ice cream will add another dimension of flavor and texture to any of the desserts mentioned here.
Think of this tart as three easy pieces: a tart shell that is simpler than pie crust, a one-two pastry cream and ripe fruit with voluptuous local flavor.
Time1 hour, plus chilling and freezing time
This pie is simple but rich with flavor and a slightly firm texture from the fresh fruit. A little Grand Marnier and vanilla brighten the flavors and add depth to the cherries.
Time1 hour 30 minutes
YieldsMakes 1 (9-inch) pie
When combined with butter, duck fat yields crackly, tissue-thin layers of pastry.
Time2 hours plus cooling
To bring the combination of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to their full expression of flavor, add a little Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise or another sweet white wine.
Time2 hours 25 minutes
This simple, elegant tart is brimming with plump, juicy, cherries nestled into a chocolate ganache. Almond flour and extract in the crust give the cherries a little more depth.
Time1 1/2 hours, mostly unattended
YieldsServes 6 to 8
The lemon curd is tangy and creamy, the pastry flaky and not too sweet. Garnished with whipped cream and strawberries, this tart is simple, elegant and delicious.
Time1 hour 30 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Apricots, peaches and plums are grilled, macerated in anisette and orange liqueurs and served atop slices of grill-toasted pound cake. Vanilla ice cream is optional.
Hazelnut flour adds a rich nuttiness to this easy crust, which you can cut into shapes or simply crumble into bits for the top. You can find hazelnut flour/meal in most grocery stores.
YieldsMakes 2 dozen
This may be the quickest pie of the summer. Fresh strawberries are tossed with a quick strawberry jam and then piled into an easy-to-make pie dough.
The ground-almond crust of this tart is sophisticated in flavor and forgiving in preparation. The filling of apricot halves in a rich custard is finished à la creme brûlée.
Time1 hour 15 minutes
A simple hazelnut crust is filled with a vibrant raspberry puree and topped with whole, unadorned raspberries. A drizzle of acacia honey and a flowery lemon verbena ice cream finish it.
These chocolatey brownies come off the grill with a thick charred crust, a soft chewy center and a subtle, smokey aroma and flavor.
YieldsServes 8 to 12
If you like cookies-and-cream ice cream, you’ll love this simple chocolate icebox cake that requires only 5 ingredients. Top with rainbow sprinkles for a kid-friendly dessert.
Time30 minutes plus overnight chilling
YieldsServes 8 to 10
Sweet and bitter, crunchy honeycomb candy cuts through the richness of this ice cream from Rustic Canyon.
YieldsMakes 2 quarts
For this lavender ice cream you'll need fresh lavender blossoms and leaves and, of course, an ice cream maker.
With the vibrant flavor of sorbet and the luxurious texture of ice cream, the astringent-floral flavor of cardamom perfectly underlines that particular creamy tart note of nectarines.
Time15 minutes, plus 1 hour, 25 minutes, standing and freezing time
Dutch-process cocoa powder, 72% dark chocolate, crème de cacao and heavy cream conspire to make this the creamiest, most chocolatey chocolate ice cream you will ever eat.
Time45 minutes, plus at least 4 hours of refrigeration
YieldsMakes 1 quart