Desserts from the garden
Herbs sing in these sweet finishes.
Mint appears in plenty of desserts, but rosemary, thyme, and basil can give sweets an unexpected, aromatic twist. Often these herbs leave diners tasting and thinking, trying to identify the flavor. There’s nothing overt here – the herbs used are all about nuance. Thyme contributes a woodsy elegance to the lemon mousse, and rosemary imbues the orange sorbet with its piney, faintly mentholated essence. The basil speaks louder but no less unexpectedly in peach cobbler.
¾ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
2 eggs, separated, plus 4 yolks
1/3cup freshly squeezed juice from 2 medium lemons
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
In a medium nonreactive saucepan, stir ½ cup sugar and thyme until moist and fragrant. Add 1/3 cup water, set the pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a gentle boil, swirling the pan to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Off the heat, cool the syrup to room temperature, then cover the pot and set aside to steep for at least 4 hours (or as long as overnight).
Strain the syrup into a medium heatproof bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Sprinkle the gelatin over the syrup and allow to stand until the gelatin starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water over low heat (the bowl’s bottom should not touch the water) and cook, stirring frequently, until gelatin dissolves and bubbles start to appear, about 4 minutes. Remove the bowl with the syrup mixture from the saucepan and set aside.
In another medium heatproof bowl, whisk the 6 egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, and cook, stirring constantly (do not allow to boil), until the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail with crisp edges on the back of a spoon when you run your finger through it, about 5½ minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan, stir in the syrup mixture, and immediately strain into another large nonreactive bowl. Cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, beat the 2 egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the 1 teaspoon sugar, increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until the soft-peak stage, about 1 minute. Stir about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the lemon mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
In the same bowl used for the egg whites, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until uniform and no streaks of white remain. Divide the mixture evenly among 6 serving bowls or glasses, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 and up to 24 hours, and serve.
Makes about 1½ quarts
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated zest and 4 cups freshly squeezed juice from about 10 medium oranges
2½tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vodka
In a medium nonreactive saucepan, stir the sugar, orange zest, and rosemary until moist and fragrant. Add ¾ cup water, set the pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a gentle boil, swirling the pan to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Off the heat, cool the syrup to room temperature, then cover the pot and set aside to steep for at least 4 hours (or as long as overnight).
Strain the syrup into a medium bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in the orange and lemon juices and vodka, cover, and chill until mixture reaches 35 to 40 degrees.
Following the manufacturer’s directions for your ice cream maker, churn the mixture until frozen, then scoop the sorbet into a bowl, cover it, freeze until firm (about 2 hours), and serve.
3 pounds medium-large peaches (8 or 9), peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick liner. In a large strainer set over a large bowl, toss the peaches with 2½ tablespoons of sugar, then set aside to drain for 30 minutes, tossing them once or twice. In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup of the exuded peach juices (discard the rest) with the cornstarch and set aside. In a large bowl, stir 2½ tablespoons sugar and the basil until moist and fragrant. Add the peaches, peach-juice mixture, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice, and stir to mix. Spread the mixture in an 8-inch square baking pan.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated (do not overmix). With a greased ¼-cup dry measure, scoop up a scant ¼ cup dough, pat it into the cup measure to shape it, and place it onto the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. In another small bowl, mix the 1 teaspoon sugar and the cinnamon, sprinkle over the mounds, and bake them until puffed and set on the bottom, about 8 minutes, and set aside.
Bake the peaches until they begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Arrange the biscuits over the peaches and bake until the filling is bubbly around the edges and the biscuits are golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Cool for at least 10 minutes and serve.
Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at email@example.com.