I’ve made two blackberry-plum friands in the past three days, and eaten 1 3/4 of them myself, with a spoon, straight out of the baking dish. A friand is a dense, chewy almond cake, this version studded with juicy fruit, from Ottolenghi’s Simple- I had it out for a virtual book club, and when I got home from picking up a farmers’ market box (from the Bridgeland Farmers’ Market), which had plums and blackberries bigger than my thumb in it, I took it as a sign.

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Late summer is the best time for baked fruit desserts like cobblers and crisps, but one of my favourites is the lesser-known pandowdy – sort of a cross between a crisp and a pie, with a pastry lid on top, but none underneath. It’s infinitely easier to assemble than pie, with no need to stress over removing a clean slice, and let’s face it – the golden top is the best part of the pastry anyway. Best yet, you can streamline the process by using frozen puff. I made a video earlier this summer as part of the Redpath Baking School summer session.

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It’s that time- Saskatoons are ready for picking on shrubs along my street, at the dog park and along the riverbank… as always, I find myself rooting around for an empty coffee cup or other vessel to fill as I walk. I rarely manage to pick enough for pie, but almost always find enough for a batch of tarts-these are simple, made by simmering berries, sugar and cornstarch and spooning the mixture into pre-baked tart shells. Blueberries work just as well if you want to combine the two, or in case you don’t have access to saskatoons wherever you are.

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I’m a sucker for anything topped with torched meringue, but my preference is ice cream, baked Alaska-style. (Yes, this is essentially a baked Alaska.. though B.A. is typically frozen in a bowl, so it’s dome-shaped, like this.) Ice cream “cake” was my birthday cake of choice as a kid.. because really, the scoop of ice cream beside the cake is always the best part. If you’re making it yourself, layered ice cream negates the need to turn on the oven, or even follow a recipe—it’s ideal for the baking intimidated. You don’t require a specific cake pan size (or a cake pan at all, really), and an ice cream “cake” can be made in advance and stashed away in the freezer for days, weeks or even months— until you’re ready to finish it with a simple cooked meringue, which is easy to work with and finish with swirls and flourishes.

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Ice cream cake was my birthday “cake” of choice growing up, and still it’s funny how people get excited over an ice cream cake or pie – I made a few last summer for my latest cookbook, and each time, everyone was thrilled. And yet they’re as easy as it gets – I enlisted my five year old grand-niece to help assemble one, scooping soft ice cream in alternating flavours into a cookie crust, and sprinkling chopped chocolate bars and mini peanut butter cups in between. As it firmed up in the freezer we made a batch of ganache – warmed cream and chocolate that tastes like a smooth melted truffle – to pour overtop. It was a blast, everyone was thrilled, and we didn’t even need to turn on the oven.

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A very wise person with obvious taste over on Twitter had the brilliant idea to make a butter tart pie yesterday, and so naturally I had to drop everything and make one immediately. I know they exist… I don’t think it’s a new idea, though I seem to recall rejecting the idea of a butter tart that wasn’t an actual tart, believing its texture and subtle runniness might be disturbed in pie form – that somehow the ratio of pastry to filling would be thrown off. I was wrong.

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Baklava is one of my favourite things—I love honey, and crisp phyllo as a carrier, with layers of chopped nuts. It’s something few of us consider making from scratch… it seems like a fancy, finicky thing, but the truth is, it’s not. Phyllo is very forgivable, so you can layer it with butter, honey, nuts and spices and however you shape and cut it, it will be delicious. (If it looks like a disaster, call it baklava mess, and serve it in a dish, with a fork and an extra drizzle of honey, as if you intended to do it that way all along.)

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It’s a sure sign we’re solidly into summer when the first cherries arrive from BC. The other day a small grocery store by the dog park had an enormous bowl of them at the checkout, and people were milling about far after they had their groceries bagged, chatting, downing as many as they could. BC cherries always arrive bigger, juicier and meatier than I remember, and the action of working out a cherry pit with your tongue and spitting it into the grass channels decades worth of summer nostalgia.

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This is what happens when I come home with leftover whipping cream in a can… I need to come up with a use for it to prevent myself from spraying it all directly into my mouth. Also: I have a container of the most brilliant raspberry-rhubarb compote in the fridge, which I love to eat cold with yogurt and granola, but lets face it – a crunchy-edged biscuit and whipped cream makes even better use of it. If dessert was a sandwich, this might be it. Somehow, someone somewhere decided that shortcakes were the ultimate vehicle for strawberries… so much so that someone else invented those little yellow sweet sponges to sell alongside the berries in grocery stores during the summer. And yes, strawberry shortcake is a good thing… such a good thing that they named a cartoon character after it. But honestly, any juicy seasonal fruit does just as well – you need it to be juicy so that the shortcakes can absorb someContinue reading

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