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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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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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There are few new ideas in the culinary world – most recipes out there are tweaks of existing things or creative new versions of same, and I suppose this is no different. But when someone on Twitter questioned why no ice cream version of the Nanaimo bar exists – beyond, yes, an ice cream pie (though I wonder about the vanilla ice cream filling with dry custard powder stirred in…) – in response to the conversation about the new Canadian dessert stamps and how the Nanaimo bar stamp looks more like an ice cream bar, ratio-wise, I leapt at the challenge. And so I give you Nanaimo ice cream bars with a Nanaimo bar base and frozen custard ice cream made with Bird’s custard powder. Oh yes.

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Before we all move on to apples and pumpkin, lets make the most of the last stone fruits-apricots, peaches and plums, the former and the latter so delicious in cakes and tarts, and so often overlooked in favour of the almighty apple pie. This beauty comes from one of my favourite new books of the summer, How to Eat a Peach, by the great British food writer Diana Henry. (The title was inspired by a night in Italy when the author was in her twenties, and a couple at the next table at the outdoor trattoria she was dining at were served a bowl of ripe peaches, which they sliced into glasses of cold moscato; they’d then sip the bubbly wine, now infused with peach, and eat the peach slices, now imbued with the flavour of the wine.)

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I realize plums aren’t in season right now, but focus on what’s underneath: a crunchy shredded phyllo-wrapped ricotta cheesecake of sorts, which like other cheesecakes can be topped with just about anything, including whatever fruit you currently have in the freezer, simmered with a bit of sugar or honey and spooned overtop. I wasn’t sure what to call this – it’s not really pie, nor cake; I settled on torte (as have others) because it’s a sort of blanket term for a dense cake, and it is baked in a pan and served in wedges. What makes it unique is the kataifi, finely shredded phyllo pastry you can find alongside the frozen phyllo at any Middle Eastern grocery, and even in some grocery stores. It’s lovely to work with.

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