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Cookbook review: Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi serves up fruit-forward fare

By Yossy Arefi Ten Speed Press, 256 pages, $24

Sweeter off the Vine

By Yossy Arefi Ten Speed Press, 256 pages, $24

Yossy Arefi is known for the stunning and rustic pies she shares in moody photos on her food blog, Apt. 2B BakingCo., and on Instagram. She is a pie queen, the farmers market her kingdom.

In her cookbook, Sweeter off the Vine, it's apparent her unending love of seasonal fruit stems from her parents. Arefi's Iranian father, who cooked and taught her how to balance flavors in both sweet and savory contexts, built garden beds in the yard of their Pacific Northwest home. Her mother filled the garden beds with fruit and showed Arefi how to pick the bounty of berries and tuck them into dough.

Arefi took this initial love of baking to restaurants, where she sharpened her skills. In the years since, she has become a master at pairing fruit with flavors or techniques that enhance the taste. In Sweeter off the Vine, sweet summer strawberries are given depth in an ice pop with the addition of bitter Campari. cherry sorbet is spiked with rye whiskey, reminiscent of a Manhattan. Cream puffs made partly with rye flour hug sage-scented blackberries and whipped mascarpone. In her recipe for Pear Pie With Crème Fraîche Caramel, Arefi confides that pears may edge out apples, the more obvious and popular choice, for a better pie.

The book is organized by season, which makes it easy to refer to throughout the year, and you should. This summer, start with the Apricot and Berry Galette With Saffron Sugar, or bring Nectarine and Blackberry Pie Bars to a party. When fall rolls around, turn to the unexpected Butternut Squash Tea Cake or Persimmon Sorbet With Ginger and Vanilla. Seasoned bakers will appreciate that ingredients are listed both in terms of cups and grams.

Over the past couple years, I've realized I'm a pie girl who grew up in a cake world. This niche book on seasonal fruit desserts is one I'll turn to again and again for crisps, pies, pandowdies, turnovers, cobblers and galettes.

On a recent trip to the Midwest, I got my hands on some sour cherries. They ended up yielding the best pie I've ever made. When I savored the last bite, I lamented that I wouldn't easily find sour cherries again near our home in Florida. So I appreciate Arefi's recipe for Sweet Cherry and Rhubarb Slab Pie, in which she suggests using rhubarb to mimic that perfect pie fruit. Rhubarb's season spans a bit longer than that of sour cherries, and using them here is a smart way to get closer to those elusive sour cherries.

Many of the recipes are labors of love, though Arefi offers shortcuts. Take an apple tart. Three of the ingredients listed point to subrecipes in the book: a spelt puff pastry, crème fraîche and vanilla sugar. Arefi likes to up the ante where she can, and ambitious bakers will play ball here. Occasional bakers who might groan at the thought of flipping to another page for another recipe will appreciate her giving you an out to buy puff pastry and crème fraîche and use regular granulated sugar.

The food is photographed in Arefi's signature style, which is evocative and never too fussy with the food styling: Slumped, roasted fruit peeks out from under flaky, browned dough; swirls of dark blueberries ripple through pearly ice cream. The colors are deep and saturated, even more so on the matte pages of the book. Though the cookbook is a stunner, don't let this one just sit pretty. This is one cookbook that's sweeter off the shelf and in the kitchen.

Contact Ileana Morales Valentine at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

>>EASY

Strawberry and Campari Paletas

1 pound strawberries

5 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup Campari

Juice of ½ lemon, about 4 teaspoons

Hull the strawberries and slice them in half. Add them, along with the rest of the ingredients, to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste the mixture and adjust the level of sweetness if necessary by adding more sugar, one teaspoon at time. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and pour into frozen pop molds. Freeze the pops until completely firm, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Makes 6-10, depending on the size of your molds.

Source: Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi, Ten Speed Press, 2016

>>MODERATE

Rye Pie Crust

1 cups rye flour

1 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

8 tablespoons ice water

Whisk the flours and salt together in a large bowl, cut the butter into ½-inch cubes, and add the apple cider vinegar to the ice water.

Working quickly, add the butter to the flour and toss to coat. Then use your fingers or the palms of your hands to press each cube of butter into a flat sheet. Keep tossing the butter in the flour as you go to ensure that each butter piece is coated with flour. The idea is to create flat, thin shards of butter that range from about the size of a dime to about the size of a quarter.

If at any time the butter seems warm or soft, briefly refrigerate the bowl.

Sprinkle about 6 tablespoons of the icy cold vinegar-water mixture over the flour mixture. Use a gentle hand or wooden spoon to stir the water into the flour until just combined. If the dough seems dry, add more cold water a couple of teaspoons at a time. You have added enough water if you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart.

Press the dough together, then split it in half. Form each half into a disk, and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours before using, but preferably overnight. Keeps for up to three months in the freezer wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Makes about 25 ounces, enough for one double crust or two single crust pies.

Source: Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi, Ten Speed Press, 2016

>>MODERATE

Plum Pie with Hazelnut Crumb

Arefi is referring to dark rye flour for the pie crust and crumb topping. If you can't find Italian plums, feel free to use another variety you can find during the summer. I used a combination of red plums, black plums and pluots.

½ recipe Rye Pie Crust (see right)

For the hazelnut crumb:

¼ cup unsalted butter

½ cup chopped hazelnuts

¼ cup rye flour

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:

1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 pounds Italian plums, ripe but firm

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Juice of ½ lemon (about 4 teaspoons)

Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Make the hazelnut crumb: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the milk solids turn light brown and the butter has a warm and nutty fragrance, about 5 minutes. Remove the butter to a heat-safe container and let it cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, stir the chopped hazelnuts, flours, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon together. Stir in the cooled butter until the ingredients are evenly combined and crumbs form.

Roll the pie crust out to a 12-inch circle ⅛- to ¼-inch thick. Trim any rough edges, then move it to a 9-inch pie pan, fold the edges under, and crimp in a decorative pattern. Refrigerate the crust while you make the filling.

Make the filling: Use the tip of a knife to slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; reserve the pod for another use. Add the vanilla seeds and sugar to a large bowl. Use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar. Stir in the flour and cinnamon. Pit and chop the plums into roughly ½-inch pieces. Add the plums and lemon juice to the bowl. Stir gently to combine. Pour the filling into the chilled crust and then scatter the crumbs over the top. Transfer the pie to a baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crumbs are deep golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool slightly before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes one 9-inch pie.

Source: Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi, Ten Speed Press, 2016

Cookbook review: Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi serves up fruit-forward fare 08/01/16 [Last modified: Monday, August 1, 2016 10:20am]
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