Fellow dessert lovers, who among us has not wondered about the technical differences between a crisp and a crumble, a galette or a buckle? Enter Rustic Fruit Desserts, a collaboration between James Beard winner Cory Schreiber and Portland baker Julie Richardson, a book whose usefulness is clear straight from the introduction, where the authors describe each pastry-fruit iteration. (A galette? It’s a free-form tart that does not require a pan. A buckle has cake batter poured in a single layer, with berries added to the batter.)

In summer’s heat, flipping through the pages of their seasonal desserts makes me want to load up on ingredients for Raspberry-Red Currant Cobbler or Stone Fruit Slump. The recipes are straightforward, but irresistable– a bite of ginger here, candied rhubarb ribbons there, flavor combinations like plum and vanilla, peach and caramel. 

 The pair will be in town Wednesday, July 29, for a Cooks & Books event, with the exceptional Neil Robertson cooking up their recipes. They answered some questions in advance via e-mail, including my unusually impolite inquiry about whether the “rustic” of their title could properly be considered a code word for “ugly”. (Read about that in my Christian Science Monitor post here.)

Here’s what they had to say. And if you want to nibble on more than just their words, tickets to the event are online here:

Q: Tell me how the book came about. I pictured it as an idea you had long championed… but Ten Speed Press came to you?

Cory: True, Ten Speed came to me when I was at Wildwood and asked about bakery talent in Portland that might be suited to this type of book. I knew I did not have the baking expertise to take on the bulk of the recipes and I also knew I wanted to reach beyond my connections at Wildwood and into the food cultured city of Portland.  Julie was the obvious partner for this project. She has  been connected to farm direct local fruit with her baked goods and pastries for years and, as we know, is extremely talented and passionate about her craft. 

Q: After years of asking servers questions like “What’s a pandowdy?” I love having the definitions of the different desserts laid out so clearly. Were those difficult to research, and have your explanations stirred up any debates?

Cory: Some terms are loose and some are region specific. For example, in general when the difference is a biscuit dough baked on the top of the fruit (cobbler) vs. the biscuit topping being baked on top of the stove ( grunt/slump), or, is the biscuit crumbled and pushed down into the fruit or on the bottom of the pan (pandowdy), we found the language was universal and have not received any notifications of disagreement as of yet. Julie’s creative twist to these classic desserts, I think, shows them in a new light. 

Julie: We enjoyed this process because we got to talk with friends from all over the states and get their interpretation of the definitions.  I also have a lot of old cookbooks that had great definitions.

Q: The book did make me want to run straight to the farmers market, and then straight to the kitchen. Is that just the nature of fruit desserts, or were you aiming for that effect? (And if it was the latter, I’d like to know how you did it.)

Julie: By using a season for each chapter it allowed the reader to become aware of “what’s in season” and want to run out and get it.  I love fruit desserts; I opt for something fruited over something not almost any time…Understanding what to look for in ripeness or the names of fruit allows the reader to feel more comfortable in purchasing something they might not have in the past.

Cory: I think it is the nature of knowing the names, being comfortable with them, having some memory from childhood that is attached to these types of desserts and loving shopping for ripe fruit with all of its sensual offerings.

Q: The long gray winter is always a challenging time to cook seasonal foods in the Northwest. How did you develop your winter recipes, and make them true to the rest of the book’s spirit?

Cory: I think this comes from Julie’s childhood in New England. Love of apples, pears, dried fruit, use of frozen fruit and knowing that baking and/or cooking does not stop because the high season of  fresh product has ended. I personally love the olive oil cake with citrus as a winter dessert. 

Julie: We are super lucky in the Northwest to have a wide selection of storage apples and pears available through out the hard winter days.  This is also the time to reap the benefits from the freezing of berries and stone fruits (as mentioned in the book) that you accomplished in the summer months.  We also turn to dried fruits that are available year round and think about the wonderful citrus crops (although not local for us) that become available in the grocery stores.  

Q: Are these desserts we would find at (Julie’s bakery) Baker+Spice if we headed down to Portland, or were they chiefly developed for the book?

Julie: We make seasonal buckles, teacakes and pies on a daily basis and are featuring a recipe a week from the book on the weekends.

Q: Do you have any baking advice for all the people out there foraging blackberries from Seattle’s streets and parks?
Cory: Have a community blackberry cobbler/pie block party and build the urban food community. 

Julie:  I loved Cory’s idea!  And don’t forget you can freeze them for the cold winter months.
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