Baked Seasonal Fruit
An eggy pasta dough seals a casserole while fruit is baking with vanilla bean halves. Almond cakes made of brioche soaked with almond-flavored milk are served with the warm fruit and garnished with a vanilla bean half and verbena sprig. The combination of fruit used may be varied according to what is available in the market.
- Sealing Dough
- Flour - 1-1/2 cups
- Salt - 1 teaspoon
- Eggs - 2, medium
- Nectarines - 2
- Peaches - 2
- Unsalted Butter - 4 tablespoons
- Granny Smith apples - 2
- Pears - 2
- Plums - 4
- Strawberries - 12 large, hulled
- Vanilla Beans - 2, split
- Egg - 1
- Cool Water - 1 tablespoon
- Almond Cakes
- Brioches - 4 individual, or 1 brioche loaf
- Simple Syrup - 1/4 cup (see Cooking Basics)
- Almond-Flavored Milk - 1/4 cup, or 1/4 cup milk with 1 tablespoon almond liqueur
- Almond paste - 1/2 cup
- Almonds - 8 ounces, sliced, toasted
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- Verbena Sprigs or Mint Sprigs - 4
To prepare the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Working with your fingers, gradually blend the eggs into the flour. Gather the dough into a ball and knead several times, until elastic. Gather back into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
To prepare the fruit: Peel and pit the nectarines and peaches. Cut each into 8 wedges. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Sauté the nectarines and peaches for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to soften. Remove from the sauté pan and set aside in a bowl. Set the pan aside. Peel and core the apples and pears and cut each into wedges. Put the pan back on the heat and add 1 more tablespoon of the butter. Sauté the apples and pears for 2 to 3 minutes, until beginning to soften. Remove from the pan and add to the nectarines and peaches. Peel and pit the plums and cut into quarters; cut the strawberries into quarters. Put the pan back on the heat and add the remaining butter. Sauté the plums for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly soft; remove and add to the other fruit. Sauté the strawberries for 1 minute and add to the other fruit. Place the fruit in a covered ovenproof casserole dish. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean halves into the casserole, then put the pods in, too.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl to form an egg wash. Roll out the sealing dough 1/2-inch thick. Cut into four strips. Brush the top of each casserole with egg wash. Wrap a strip around the top of each casserole dish, forming it with your hands, creating a gasket. Brush with egg wash again. Place the covers on the casseroles and seat firmly in the sealing dough. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and let cool until they can be handled.
To make the almond cakes: Whisk the syrup and almond milk together in a shallow bowl. Cut the brioche into four cylinders, 2-1/2 inches wide and 2 inches tall, with a steel ring. Soak the brioche cylinders in the almond milk or milk-almond liqueur mixture until they have moistened but are still firm, then lift and place on a baking sheet. Put the almond paste in a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip. Pipe a spiral of almond paste on top of each brioche cylinder, filling all the space. Place the almonds on top in concentric circles, starting with the outside and overlapping each circle slightly over the previous one until you get to the center; place a single almond slice in the center. Preheat the broiler to high. Dust the tops lightly with confectioner’s sugar. Place under the broiler and broil until the sugar caramelizes and is lightly browned. Remove and let cool.
To serve: Place an almond cake in the center of each dessert dish. Open the casserole and spoon the fruit around the almond cakes. Spoon the juice over the fruit. Place a vanilla bean half on each plate. Garnish with a verbena sprig.