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EATING well

Let fancied-up fruit be the after-dinner star

End your meal with fresh berries served with a sugar syrup spiked with cocktail bitters and garnished with shavings of dark chocolate.

Associated Press

End your meal with fresh berries served with a sugar syrup spiked with cocktail bitters and garnished with shavings of dark chocolate.

According to my grandmother, fruit is God's candy, making it the perfect ending to a meal. I agree with Grandma — fruit is a lovely, healthy way to end a meal. But I'll also confess that the dessert lover in me sometimes craves something a smidge fancier. And by fancier, I mean with chocolate.

Berries are the perfect dessert fruit because their flavor is concentrated and bold, and they are sweet and a tiny bit tangy. Berries are gorgeous and elegant, which is important when it comes to pulling off fruit as a true dessert.

Plus, berries are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber and low in calories. Raspberries, for instance, have only about 60 calories per cup. Despite their sweet taste, they pack only about 5 grams of sugar, but a whopping 8 grams of fiber. All of which means this dessert isn't just tasty, it's filling, too.

Perhaps the best benefit to making berries the star of dessert is that there's a little wiggle room to add a few bells and whistles. One of my favorite fruit dessert strategies is to whip up a simple syrup (just water and sugar heated until they come together in a thin syrup) with cool flavors. Think about adding interesting spices, such as cardamom with vanilla bean and black pepper, or herbs, such as mint. Then just drizzle your way to dessert magic.

Add a tablespoon of liqueur or wine to the syrup — think orange liqueur or Marsala — and the flavors really pop. A few drops of almond extract or even cocktail bitters are a great addition. Only a tiny bit of a flavorful syrup is needed, but be aware that you are adding a bit of worthwhile sugar. Just before serving, use a vegetable peeler to shave off a few shards of deep, almost bitter chocolate.

BITTERS AND BERRIES

cup raw coconut sugar

cup water

1 ½ tablespoons angostura bitters

½ vanilla pod, sliced open lengthwise, seeds scraped out

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

2 tablespoons orange juice

4 cups mixed fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and/or blackberries)

Very dark chocolate bar, to shave

In a small saucepan over medium, heat the sugar and water, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bitters, vanilla pod and seeds, orange zest and juice, then cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to steep at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. Discard the vanilla pod. Refrigerate if not using right away.

Divide the berries among 6 dessert cups. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the syrup over each berry bowl. Top with shavings of dark chocolate.

Makes 6 servings.

Let fancied-up fruit be the after-dinner star 05/12/16 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2016 6:20pm]
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