Bite into a ripe peach, pick your own juicy blueberries, or sit in the yard nibbling cherries, propelling the pits onto the grass. Perhaps you’ll grow a tree. Lazy summer days, when berries and soft fruits are deliciously ripe, are a glorious time. All these red, orange, and yellow fruits are showcased at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and supermarkets.
When we asked readers for their favorite fruit-filled family desserts, as part of The Recipe Box Project, in which you send us the things that you make for your own table, our inbox was richly rewarded with pies, crumbles, puddings, and stories to go with them.
Millbury resident Debbi Dymek contributed a cherry-studded peach crisp, ready to serve warm with its nutty, oatmeal topping. An open-faced Pennsylvania Dutch peach pie, with a streusel topping, came from Katherine M. Myatt of Mattapoisett. We couldn’t resist substituting ripe nectarines to produce a deep golden filling. Slices of juicy, blush red plums tinted a dense butter cake from Lisa Sazer’s “stylish 88-year-old mother,” Louise Berlin of Newton.
With New England sliding into late summer, we received many recipes made with everyone’s favorite blueberries. Sue E. Conrad of North Redington Beach, Fla., sent her old-fashioned blueberry pudding-cake, in which a layer of the juicy blues is covered with batter, a sugary topping, then with boiling water, and baked to form a crusty cake with a bubbling berry bottom. Robin Whitney of Princeton sent in a treasured recipe she learned from “a lovely Maine lady,” made only with wild Maine blueberries. This no-bake layered confection has a creamy bottom (and with apologies to the original baker, we used larger cultivated berries with great success).
Baking with fruit can be tricky. Plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, and blueberries contain more than 80 percent water, according to the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Kentucky. The fruits emit considerable liquid when baked, and any added sugar turns to liquid in the batter, further increasing the possibility that your pie will not set. To thicken the juices enough to make a pretty pie wedge, toss the fruit with flour, cornstarch, or tapioca before baking.
Although making a pie crust from scratch is a notch in a baker’s belt, it’s summer. The livin’ should be easy. Try a good quality prepared pie crust. When fall comes, and routines are back to normal, you’ll have more time in the kitchen. A freshly baked pie is welcome any season.
Check out our new recipe sharing website at boston.com/recipes
Debra Samuels can be reached at email@example.com.