It's not just grandma's squishy prunes.
If “compote” or “stewed fruit” conjures a childhood memory of canned fruit cocktail or grandma's squishy cooked prunes, it’s time to “think different” about the modern possibilities of fruit in syrup. The concept is simple: Stew fresh and/or dried fruit in sweet syrup, perhaps with herbs, spices, strips of citrus peel, vanilla bean, fresh ginger, or just about anything flavorful that you might think of.
Whether you call it by the French term, compote, or just stewed fruit, the method is easy and invites invention. Look in your spice drawer and pantry for inspiration. Replace all or some of the water with wine or spirits, tea, fruit juice, or coffee (as I did for Plums in Brandied Coffee Syrup). Trade all or some of the sugar for another sweetener. Most fresh fruit that is on the firm side is fair game, as is the astonishing array of dried fruits now found in farmers markets and better green grocers.
A great compote is a light and refreshing dessert after a rich meal. But then, why not add a crunchy nut cookie, rich butter cookie, or small biscotti, choosing flavors that play well with the fruit in the compote? Add a dollop of crème fraîche or nestle a scoop of creamy ice cream into the compote for a more luscious and decadent dessert. For breakfast (or a lighter choice), top your compote with yogurt instead of ice cream.
Apples in Cardamom-Lime Syrup is simple and spectacular—much greater than the sum of its parts. Serve it with crunchy coconut cookies, coconut wafers, or coconut ice cream. Or, fish the apples from the syrup and serve them with square of spicy gingerbread.* Make a cocktail, or flavor a glass of sparkling water with leftover syrup.
*Recipes for Crunchy Coconut Cookies, Coconut Wafers, and Buckwheat Gingerbread can be found in Flavor Flours. The recipe for Fresh Gingerbread can be found in Pure Dessert.
From Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan 2012)
Makes about 1 quart
16 cardamom pods
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 9 or 10 limes)
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
3 medium-large flavorful apples (such as Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Pippins, Pink Lady, Sierra Beauty, or Braeburn), with skins left on, cut into 8 or 10 wedges)
Pick up a copy of Alice's new book Flavor Flours, which includes nearly 125 recipes—from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread—made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too).
Photos by James Ransom