Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Cooking

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

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 [email protected]

Comments
Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

BELLEAIR BLUFFSTim Brown was dead right. It was time for tough love, right at the beginning of class: Most of us entertain, most of us can get our act together with some hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer and an entree with appropriate side dishes. But whe...
Published: 08/15/18
It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

"Fool" might be an odd name for dessert, but it has been served for centuries, and no one is quite sure why it is called that. Making it, though, is a pretty smart thing to do considering how easy it is and the reward of doing so: a delightfully crea...
Published: 08/15/18
Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

It was a pilgrimage I had long wanted to make, but the timing was never right: Saturday mornings at Born and Bread Bakehouse in Lakeland. I had tried Born and Bread’s bread once before, slathered in some house-made ricotta cheese that sent me on a ri...
Published: 08/14/18
Taste test: Texas toast

Taste test: Texas toast

Texas may have invented extra thick and buttery toast, but plenty of us enjoy the slathered slices with our own barbecues or Italian night dinners. Our judges like the addition of cheese to the toast, browned in the oven with a few herbs dotting the ...
Published: 08/13/18
Find your groove with jam

Find your groove with jam

It took me an embarrassing number of years to overcome my (unreasonable) paranoia about making jam that would somehow give my friends and family botulism. The nasty, if rare, illness — which can lead to paralysis, death, etc. — is caused by a toxin g...
Published: 08/08/18
Five ideas for cooking with watermelon

Five ideas for cooking with watermelon

Watermelon has always felt indulgent to me: a staple of backyard Fourth of July celebrations, a respite from the summer heat. The last time I had it, I was sipping a watermelon-mint cooler in a Brooklyn cafe, trying to escape the sweltering air that ...
Published: 08/07/18
Grits make a compact cushion for spicy shrimp in this recipe

Grits make a compact cushion for spicy shrimp in this recipe

By Leah EskinGrit is grainy and annoying, as in: What’s that grit on the countertop? It’s grating, as in: Scrubbing the countertop makes me grit my teeth. It honors pluck: That girl’s got grit. Perhaps it could also pinpoint one speck of the breakfas...
Published: 08/07/18
Roasting tomatoes is a delicious way to use them at their summer peak, like in this steak recipe

Roasting tomatoes is a delicious way to use them at their summer peak, like in this steak recipe

Sometimes I spend hours in the kitchen working on new recipes, starting with a kernel of an idea and playing with it a bit, adding stuff here and tweaking stuff there. Other times, I shamelessly steal recipe ideas from my friends. My husband and I we...
Published: 08/07/18
Taste test: Ginger salad dressing

Taste test: Ginger salad dressing

After years of enjoying Japanese restaurants, I have tried numerous times to re-create a delicious ginger salad dressing. Every time, though, I fall short of that tangy-sweet balance and chunky gingery mixture that perks up even a plain, green salad....
Published: 08/06/18
10 ideas for no-cook summer meals

10 ideas for no-cook summer meals

Now that summer is in full swing, the oven roasts my apartment along with my food. Even turning on the stovetop is risky, dooming me to sticky misery for the sake of a single tortilla. I’ve started eating cereal for dinner.We’ve got a couple more mon...
Published: 08/01/18