Sweeter Off the Vine: Fruit Desserts For Every Season
Author: Yossy Arefi
Published: Ten Speed Press | March 2016
Length: 256 pages
I don’t need another cookbook, I kept telling myself. Especially not desserts (I rarely bake). And especially not fruit (I’m usually a chocolate girl). But the words “Raspberry Sorbet With Pink Peppercorns” kept lingering on the edges of my imagination, teasing me mercilessly. As you can see, I gave in.
I figured that many of these recipes I will gaze at lovingly and then pass over because where will I find only pink peppercorns? But then again, where else would I be able to taste “Apricot and Berry Galette With Saffron Sugar” if not from my own kitchen?!
Right I was about the one of a kind dishes; surprisingly wrong about hard to find expensive ingredients. Okay—maybe I still won’t be using saffron, and will be substituting vanilla extract for vanilla beans. But though Rhubarb and Rose Galettes—the first recipe I chose to try—required additions to my pantry (rose water and Spelt flour anyone?), they were easy to find at Whole Foods and didn’t brake the bank.
Considering my lack of baking skills, I was not surprised my galettes were something of a grand disaster. The overflowing rhubarb juices burning on the pan caused my crusts to stick to the parchment for dear life. But as for taste, I have no complaints. The subtle toasty spelt flavor in the crust allowed me to bite deeper into the sticky filling without being sweetened out, and the rose-flavored cream cooled my taste buds from the tartness of the lemon zest.
This balance of sweet and savory flavors is exactly what this cookbook aims to accomplish—a technique Yossy Arefi took on from her Iranian father. This intentionality opens up a whole dimension of unique combinations, unabashedly pairing warm grains and nuts and bitter herbs with sweet, juicy fruit.
If you still need another justification for exploring a new cookbook besides deliciously original recipes, may I remind you that Farmer’s Market season fast approaches. Rather than segmenting Sweeter Off the Vine by the traditional arrangement of pies, cakes, and cookies, each chapter is ordered by season and sliced by fruit. For example, summer breaks down into: apricots, mixed berries, melons, stone fruits, rasberries, and figs. This layout is so approachable, especially for whatever happens to be offered on that farmer’s stand. When you salivate through gooseberry tables and fig boxes you will know exactly what to do with them.
Which brings us to one of my favorite components of this book. When one thinks of fruit, the word “summer” is seldom far behind. It is tragic when the season is over and so flee the fruits. Yet Arefi refuses to succumb to this disappointment as her recipes cover all four seasons. In winter citrus grabs the hot seat, followed closely by cranberries and dates. I can almost welcome the snow if it beckons Chocolate Sesame Tart With Grapefruit or Blood Orange Old-fashioned Donuts. In addition, Arefi highlights a preserves recipe for each season to carry the goodness forward.
As a side-bar, one of the best finds this collection offers is the Year-Round Essentials section in the back of the book. This consists not only of crust and cream recipes, but of making your own vanilla extract and sugar. These foundations provide a basis to mix and match, creating your own juicy glories. Many of Arefi’s recipes cater to this flexible style. She provides her own ideas, but makes it easy to switch it up the more comfortable you get with baking.
While I think I will be sticking with pound cakes and crumble tops for awhile, the advanced baker will have plenty to challenge them. Cream puffs and laminated dough, for example, are beyond me, awaiting a soul with those deft floured hands.
A review would be incomplete without a couple of improvements to take note of. First, I would have appreciated more herb recipes. The first chapter stars three fresh herbs: chamomile, mint, and lemon verbena. What a mere flirtation for such a fascinating idea as herb desserts. Secondly, while presenting several ice-cream and sorbet recipes that look delectable, they all require an ice-cream machine. Not having such a contraption, I will have to supplement these particular recipes with other sources that explain how to make ice-cream without a machine. A quick side-tip on an alternative machineless method would have been appreciated.
In sum, despite my chocolate adoration, I have already begun planning my entire year in terms of what Sweeter Off the Vine can suggest to my palate. With gorgeous matte food photos, and easy to follow directions, this cookbook steals the show as a gem of inspiration.
[You can find Yossy Arefi recipes online at her blog: Apt 2B Baking Co.]
Review copy courtesy of Penguin/Random House