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Easy Desserts That Showcase Seasonal Ingredients

When pears, apples, plums, and rhubarb are the star of the farmer's market, it's simple to turn them a centerpiece dessert.

Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Pear, Brown Sugar, and Oat Crumble

Serves 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

• 1 cup sugar

• 6 firm pears, such as Conference or Comice, peeled and thickly sliced

• melted butter, for brushing, plus 4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

• 1/2 cup soft brown sugar

• 1 cup rolled oats

• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 2 teaspoons McCormick's Cinnamon, Ground

• double cream or custard, to serve

1. Put the sugar in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring slowly to the boil and boil for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the pears and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pears are just tender.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a small round baking dish (about 9 inches in diameter) with a little melted butter.
3. Place the brown sugar, oats, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the cold, chopped butter.
4. Remove the pears from the syrup and arrange in the baking dish. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the top and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crumble is golden. Serve hot, with double cream or custard.

Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Baked Apples

Serves 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

• 6 dessert apples

• 4 tablespoons butter, melted

• 1/3 cup brown sugar

• 1/3 cup golden raisins 
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit, chopped 
• 1/3 cup chopped raisins

• 1 teaspoon mixed spice

• custard, cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the cores from the apples using an apple corer. Use a small sharp knife to score a line through the skin, around the middle of each apple.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Press the mixture into the cavities in the apples, then place the apples in a large baking dish.
3. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Drizzle the apples with the juices left in the baking dish and serve with custard, cream or vanilla ice cream.

Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Plum Cobbler

Serves 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 to 30 minutes

• 2 1/2 pounds plums, cleaned, halved and stoned

• 1 tablespoon sugar

• 2 cups self-rising flour

• 7 tablespoons butter, chopped

• 1/3 cup soft brown sugar

• 1/3 cup milk

• 1 egg

• 1 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract

• ice cream, cream or custard, to serve

• sifted confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the plums in a 1.5 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over and toss to coat.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until combined. Stir in the brown sugar and make a well in the center.
3. Whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla extract, then add to the dry ingredients and fold together until just combined – don't overbeat.
4. Place large spoonfuls of the batter next to each other to cover the fruit (this gives the ‘cobbled’ effect). Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the topping has risen and is golden brown. Serve hot, with ice cream, cream or custard, dusted with confectioner's sugar if desired.

Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Rhubarb and Apple Pie

Serves 8

Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus 15 minutes chilling

Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

• 2 1/2 pounds dessert apples

• 1/3 cup sugar, plus extra, for sprinkling

• 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Cinnamon, Ground

• 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

• 2 1/2 cups plain flour

• 3 tablespoons icing sugar

• 2/3 cup cold butter, chopped

• 3 to 4 tablespoons iced water

• 1 egg white, beaten

• ice cream, to serve

1. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into thick wedges and place in a large saucepan with the sugar and cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the rhubarb and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a further 7 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool, stirring occasionally to release the heat.
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of the chilled water and mix with a knife until the mixture starts to clump together, adding a little more water if it's still too dry – but not too much or it will become sticky.

4. Gather the dough into a ball, then divide in half. Roll out one piece on a sheet of baking parchment and use it to line a 1-inch deep pie dish measuring 8 inches across the base and 9 to 10 inches across the top. Roll the other piece of dough out on the baking parchment, large enough to cover the pie dish, with some overhang. Place on a board and chill, along with the pastry-lined pie dish, in the fridge for 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.
6. Spoon the rhubarb filling into the pastry shell. Let the top pastry soften slightly, then lay it over the pie dish. Crimp the edges to seal, then trim away any excess. Brush the top with egg white and sprinkle with extra sugar. Prick the center of the pastry a few times with a fork. Bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm, with ice cream.

Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Apple Strudel

Serves 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

• 2 pounds dessert apples

• 2 ounces raisins

• 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Cinnamon, Ground

• 6 sheets filo pastry

• 2 tablespoons melted butter

• 2 tablespoons ground almonds

• sifted confectioner's sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
2. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into three wedges and place in a large frying pan with the raisins, sugar, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and cook, turning gently, for a further 5 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool completely, turning occasionally to release the heat.
3. Lay the filo pastry sheets out on a clean work surface. Cover them with a clean, dry tea towel, then place a damp tea towel on top. Leaving the other pastry sheets covered, take one sheet of filo pastry, lightly brush with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with ground almonds. Repeat the layers, working with one filo sheet at a time, and finishing with a final sheet of pastry.
4. Spoon the cooled apple mixture along one long side of the pastry, about 3 inches in from the edge and 3 to 4 inches in from both ends. Fold the side and ends over, then roll up to enclose. Carefully place on the lined baking tray, seam side down. Brush with the remaining butter.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Dust with confectioner's sugar and cut into slices to serve.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest