Berry simple, summery dessert (and gluten-free)

Sugar-and-liqueur-soaked fruit is an easy topper to cake or companion to ice cream. Photo by Laura Groch

Sugar-and-liqueur-soaked fruit is an easy topper to cake or companion to ice cream. Photo by Laura Groch

I recently brought this cool and easy fruit dessert to a warm-weather dinner party, where, I was happy to see, it was polished off, except for the “polite” spoonful left in the serving dish.

With berries and stone fruits in season now, this is a versatile option, especially if some of the guests, as in our group, must avoid gluten.

The dish started as a trifle — layers of liqueur-soaked pound cake, pudding, fruit — but I decided to go even simpler. This uses a simple technique called macerating, which is basically soaking cut fruit and/or berries in liquor and/or a sugar syrup. (Kind of like marinating, but when you do it to fruit, it’s “macerating.”) You can swap out the fruits and berries to your liking, ditto the liquor. You don’t even have to use liquor; the sugar will pull juices out of the fruit to create a simple syrup, which you can enhance with a bit of lemon, lime or orange juice.

We poured this fruit-liquor mixture over pound cake for those who could eat gluten. Non-gluten eaters got their fruit topped with vanilla ice cream (and the gluten eaters had some, too). Whipped cream would also be good.

I used a colorful mix of seasonal blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Photo by Laura Groch

Sugar-and-liqueur-soaked fruit is an easy topper to cake or companion to ice cream. Photo by Laura Groch

You can prepare this mixture ahead of time, but not too early. A couple of hours beforehand should be plenty. The fruit will soften and give up its juices fairly quickly. (You don’t want fruit mush.) Also, keep in mind that fruit that is cut up — strawberries, watermelon, peaches — will become juicy much faster than fruit that is covered by a skin, like berries or mandarin orange segments. And remember that washed fruit, such as berries, will have some water already clinging to it, so adjust accordingly. You want a nice fruit syrup, not fruit water.

I used rum the first time I made this, plus a dash of orange juice, a splash of Triple Sec and some orange zest. The second time I just used rum and brandy with the sugar. Both tasted good, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Depending on the quantities of fruit, sugar and liquor you use, your results will vary. But it all tastes good, with or without the cake — even without the ice cream.

Berries over cubed pound cake: tasty and summery. Photo by Laura Groch

Sugar-and-liqueur-soaked fruit is an easy topper to cake or companion to ice cream. Photo by Laura Groch

BERRY SIMPLE DESSERT

4 cups blueberries, washed, drained

1 cup blackberries, washed, drained

1 cup raspberries, washed, drained

2-3 tablespoonfuls sugar

2-3 tablespoonfuls liquor of your choice, optional

Dash of orange zest and/or orange juice or liqueur (optional)

Put blueberries and blackberries into a large nonmetallic bowl. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons sugar over fruit; add 1-2 tablespoons liquor (or juice) of your choice. Stir gently, mashing one or two berries. Let bowl sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature, and stir again to coat fruit. Add another tablespoon of sugar and another tablespoon of liquor (or juice). Stir gently again and let sit another 15-20 minutes.

Stir again, add orange zest and juice or liqueur if using, and taste. Adjust sugar and flavorings to your taste.

Add raspberries (or other delicate fruit) last because they will break up when stirred.

Serve, with plenty of the juices, over slices or cubes of pound cake, or serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves from 6 to 8 people. Got leftovers? Use on pancakes or French toast.

(c) Copyright 2016 Laura Groch

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