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Using Fresh Fruits for Dessert

by Flo Braker

Blossoming trees, churping birds, longer days -- all these are the predictable signs of spring. Rhubarb (the vegetable almost exclusively used for dessert), sweet succulent strawberries and even several varieties of cherries herald the new season for the baker. These ingredients are available at the same time every year.

Mostly, we pair rhubarb with strawberries and use canned rather than fresh pineapple for a pineapple upside-down cake. For me, one of the joys of baking is creating uncommon yet tasty dessert combinations. One creation, a blend of a juicy, fresh, sweet pineapple filling, studded with a crunchy oatmeal streusel on a flaky, tender crust topped with a serving of sweet-tart rhubarb sorbet is both pleasing to the eye and delicious to eat.

Fresh Pineapple Galette with Rhubarb Sorbet
serves 10 to 12
The oatmeal streusel absorbs some of the juice during baking, sweetens the pineapple, and even decorates the galette.

Pastry:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter, chilled
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water
Filling:
1 medium (3- to 3 1/2-pound) ripe pineapple
Streusel Topping:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Pastry: Pour the flour and salt into a 3-quart bowl. Stir with a pastry blender to disperse the salt. Divide the cold butter into 1/4-inch slices, and scatter them over the flour mixture. With the pastry blender, cut in the butter until butter fragments range in size from that of bread crumbs to that of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoons evenly over the flour mixture, using a fork to toss and distribute the moisture. Add more ice water until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Wrap in plastic, shape dough into a disk, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Topping: Combine the sugars in a small bowl with your fingertips, breaking up any lumps. Add the flour and oatmeal, and mix to combine. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pieces, and scatter them over the surface. Work the butter with the fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Baking the galette: Adjust the rack in the lower third of the oven, preheat oven to 400ÉF. Peel the pineapple. Cut it into 1/4-inch-thick slices; then cut slices into halves or quarters, and remove core. Place on paper towels to absorb some of the juice.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 15- to 16-inch circle, 1/8 inch thick. Trim it even with a pastry wheel, forming a 14-1/2- to 15-inch circle. Roll it loosely onto the rolling pin, and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet or a 12-inch pizza pan.

Arrange the pineapple slices over pastry in concentric circles, overlapping slightly, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. When you are finished arranging the slices over the dough, lift the pastry border, and fold it over the edges of the pineapple slices all around the galette. Sprinkle the streusel over the top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and sound and feels crisp when pierced with a metal skewer in several places. (Bake the galette immediately after it is assembled to prevent the pineapple juice from penetrating the raw crust and making it soggy.) Serve lukewarm or at room temperature the day baked.

Fresh Rhubarb Sorbet
makes about 1 quart
When cleaning the celery-like rhubarb stalks, remove the leaves. The leaves contain oxalic acid, and are toxic.

Muscat Canelli, Muscat de Baumes de Venise, or a late harvest Reisling are good choices to use for the dessert wine for this sorbet.

1 3/4 pounds fresh rhubarb, cleaned and trimmed
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups dessert wine, chilled

Cut rhubarb into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a large shallow oblong ceramic or glass baking dish. Sprinkle sugar over top and bake for about 25 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool. In food processor or blender, puree rhubarb with its liquid. Refrigerate puree to chill. Combine wine with puree and freeze according to ice cream manufacturer's instructions.

Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.



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