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High Summer - Desserts

DK Publishing logoDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Season’s best apricots

Apricots are small and sweet but with a hint of tartness. They are in season throughout the summer, but best in early summer. With golden-orange, velvety skin often flushed with red, they exude a delicious fragrance when ripe. They are not as juicy as other stone fruits, but blossom when cooked. Apricots are delicious poached in amaretto, and with almonds or coconut. Team them with lamb, ham, poultry, or venison, too.

Royal Blenheim

This is a delicate, exquisite heritage variety with a musky perfume and soft, downy skin, which resembles golden suede lightly speckled with pink. It is a rare find, so if you are lucky, savor it fresh.


This large, meaty apricot has an attractive orange color with a red blush. You can eat these fresh or make into delicious jam.


A popular, widely grown variety, Patterson scores highly in terms of durability and shelf life. It is plump, well shaped, and soft to the touch when ripe. It is an excellent choice for baking and cooking.

Apricots need well-drained soil and sun but don’t require much attention. They are often picked unripe, but since they don’t ripen any further, it may result in disappointing fruit.

How to pit apricots

Apricots are very easy to prepare if ripe, so always check before buying and cutting. Unlike peaches, their skin is seldom removed before cooking.

Choose ripe apricots. To test, place in the palm of the hand and squeeze gently. It should give slightly. Wash and dry with paper towels before cutting.

Cut in halves and the pits will come away easily with the point of a knife. If they don’t, the fruit is not ripe.


Varieties available

Numerous varieties: either pure orange, green-tinged, or with pink specks or a red blush.


Select plump, smooth, slightly soft apricots with a rich color. Reject pale, dull, or hard fruit.


Can be kept at room temperature (for a few days) or in an open paper bag at the bottom of the fridge.


Bake stuffed or in tarts and pastries, poach, purée for desserts and sauces.


Bottle in liqueur or syrup; make jam or chutney.

Recipe ideas

Apricots and almonds in amaretto

Apricot clafoutis

Apricot conserve

Apricot crumble shortbread

Apricot meringue roulade

Season’s best peaches and nectarines

Peaches have a downy skin with a fragrant, sweet delicate flavor, whereas nectarines, which are close relatives, are smooth-skinned with a sweet but sharper, more intense flavor. They are the classic summer fruits and perfect partners with raspberries and strawberries, almonds, soft white cheeses, chile and sweet spices, brandy and amaretto, and also pair well with bacon, pork, and chicken.


So named because it is shaped like a doughnut with a sunken middle, this peach has mildly sweet flavor with a hint of almonds. Eat fresh, use in salsas, or halve and grill.

The downy skin of peaches is best removed before eating.

Red Baron

Large and richly colored, this freestone peach has firm yet juicy yellow flesh. Its fine flavor makes it an all-around winner, to be enjoyed both fresh and cooked.

The flesh of this variety does not adhere to the pit, hence the term “freestone.”

Snow Pearl

Round in shape with warmly colored skin, this nectarine has firm, white flesh that clings around the pit. It is a good choice for pies and baking.


This is an excellent firm, sweet nectarine with yellow flesh. It is ideal for both eating and cooking.

Yellow-fleshed fruit has more robust flavor suited to baking, grilling, sautéing, or poaching.


A small- to medium-sized peach, this has fuzz-free, blushed skin. The white flesh is tender, juicy, and tangy sweet. Eat fresh or use to make perfect Bellini.

White-flesh peaches and nectarines have fragrant, low-acid flesh that is best eaten raw.

Peach and nectarine trees are grown in hot and temperate climates. They can be trained on south-facing walls to protect them from the wind and for maximum sunlight, which ripens and sweetens the fruit.

How to peel peaches

Peaches need to be peeled before use as their downy skin can be tough and unpalatable. Nectarines have smooth skin but can be treated the same way.

Starting at the base, with a sharp-pointed knife, make a cut crosswise around the middle, just through the skin. Then repeat the cut in the other direction.

Place in a heatproof bowl and pour in boiling water. Let stand for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon. Plunge in cold water. Drain and remove the skin.


Varieties available

Numerous varieties of peaches and nectarines with either yellow or white flesh. Varieties depend on local conditions.


Select by touch, but handle carefully: when ripe, the fruit should yield to gentle pressure and have a sweet fragrance. Look for fruit with unblemished skin.


Keep at room temperature for a couple of days, or in an open paper bag at the bottom of the fridge for up to a week. Both peaches and nectarines are suitable for freezing.


Eat raw; slice and sauté; or halve, stuff, and bake for hot desserts. Halve and grill to serve with savory dishes.


Bottle in syrup or alcohol; make jams and jellies; or use underripe fruit for chutney; dry.

Recipe ideas

Peach Melba ice cream

Peach pie

Peach tarte tatin

Sweet and sour nectarine and cherry relish

Season’s best melons

Sweet and succulent, melons can be round, oblong, or ovoid. Smaller summer ones have a smooth or netted rind with orange, green, or yellow flesh. Large dark green-skinned watermelons have pink-red flesh dotted with black seeds. Imported all year but some are homegrown; both are best in summer and autumn, when yellow or green ridged-skinned honeydews are also good. Enjoy them with raspberries and other fruits, seafood, prosciutto, ginger, and mint.


A honeydew-cantaloupe cross, the Galia is larger than the cantaloupe and has creamy, light green flesh. It is spicy-sweet with a lovely aroma.

The soft, juicy flesh is at its best when eaten chilled.


A small, round summer melon, also known as muskmelon, this has pale orange flesh with a sweet, slightly musky scent.

The rind has the typical lacy net pattern.

Charentais (French cantaloupe)

The green ribs on the rind of this round summer melon make it look as if it comes pre-sectioned. With its tender, apricot-orange flesh and its heady and delicious fragrance, this is a gorgeous dessert melon.

The vivid orange flesh is honeyed and perfumed.


It is round or oblong with dark green skin and super-sweet red flesh. The “icebox” variety (Sugar Baby pictured here) makes a fabulous sorbet.

The vivid, slightly granular flesh is scattered with black seeds.

Members of the gourd family, melons used to be cultivated only in hot, sunny regions (both tropical and subtropical), but are now grown in temperate climates too, such as the UK.

How to seed and cut melons

Halve and seed melons before serving. Fill halves with seafood, berries, or some ginger wine for an appetizer, or further prepare in wedges or chunks as required.

Halve the melon and hold it over a bowl. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds into the bowl and discard.

Cut each half in wedges, then firmly holding a wedge with one hand, cut the flesh away from the rind in one piece with a chef’s knife.

Serve in wedges with proscuitto or shrimp for an appetizer, or cut into chunks of desired size to add to fruit salads or fruit kebabs.


Varieties available

Many varieties of summer melons, watermelons, and honeydews.


Summer melons should feel heavy for their size and give off a pleasant aroma through the skin. Watermelons should be firm and evenly colored, and feel heavy. They should not sound empty when tapped, but give out a ringing sound.


Whole melons are best kept in a cool, airy place, but when cut should be stored in the fridge.


Eat halved, or in balls, chunks, or wedges; purée for soups and sorbets; or briefly sauté in savory dishes.


Make into jams. Chunks of watermelons can be pickled. Roast and salt seeds.

Recipe ideas

Chilled melon and ginger soup

Melon and tomato salad

Watermelon and lime sorbet

Watermelon salad with feta and pumpkin seeds

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