Craving Sweets? 5 Local Chefs Share Their Summertime Dessert Recipes

We asked some of our favorite Sonoma County chefs to share a prized recipe and tell us what they choose to sip alongside.

The best wine tastes better when it’s in a glass next to great food. If that dish happens to be dessert, even better. With summer nights in our sights, indulging in a dessert and wine pairing does more than satisfy a sweet tooth, it encourages us to linger at the table a little longer. We asked some of our favorite local chefs to share a prized recipe and tell us what they choose to sip alongside. Enjoy, and you’re welcome!

Delicious Wine Country Desserts

Sondra Bernstein is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her Sonoma restaurant The Girl & the Fig this summer. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Chef Sondra Bernstein of the girl & the fig in Sonoma. (Christopher Chung)

Chef Sondra Bernstein

“As summer produce starts to show up at the farmers market, it is the perfect time to make a cobbler,” said chef Sondra Bernstein of the girl & the fig in Sonoma.

She suggests two different wines for her Apricot & Blackberry Cobbler. Choose between Anaba Wines, 2018 Late Harvest Sonoma Valley Viognier, and the Loxton 2015 Sonoma Valley Syrah Port.

Apricot & Blackberry Cobbler

Makes 6 to 8 individual cobblers or 1 large 8×8-inch cobbler

For the dough:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3⁄4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

12 fresh apricots

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

4 pints blackberries

1⁄4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the dough:

In a mixer on slow speed, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, allspice, and salt. Add the egg to the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and mix. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and chill the dough for at least two hours and up to overnight.

Divide the chilled dough into 6 portions. Roll out the dough between pieces of wax paper so the dough is at least 1⁄2-inch larger than the size of the ramekin on all sides if making individual cobblers. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

To prepare the filling:

Quarter the apricots and coat them with lemon juice. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water. Add the blackberries, apricots, and brown sugar to the bowl with the apricots and mix gently. Place an equal amount of the filling into each baking dish. Add 1⁄2 tablespoon of butter over each portion. Cover with a layer of solid dough or create a lattice topping by trimming the dough into 14 to 16 1⁄2-inch strips using a knife or a pizza wheel. Weave the dough strips over the filling by going over and under to create a lattice. Let the strips come a bit over the edge of the baking dish as the dough will slightly shrink as it bakes. Bake the cobbler for 40 to 50 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Let cool.

To serve:

Serve each portion with a scoop of ice cream or gelato.

Chef/partner Liza Hinman of The Spinster Sisters. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Chef Liza Hinman of The Spinster Sisters. (Christopher Chung)

Chef Liza Hinman

“This recipe can be used for any combination of summer fruit and berries. I typically like to have two fruit together – often one stone fruit and one berry (2:1 ratio), which go wonderfully together,” said chef Liza Hinman of The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa.

Three variations she recommends include: apricot and cherry, peach and blackberry, and plum (or pluot) and raspberry. Hinman’s go-to wine to pair with this dessert is Amista’s Sparkling Grenache.

Summertime Fruit Crisp

Crisp topping:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup all-purpose Flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup rolled oats

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup roughly chopped almonds

Crisp topping procedure:

Add dry ingredients and almonds into a bowl and whisk lightly.

Add the melted butter and vanilla to the dry ingredients and, using your fingers, lightly incorporate until moist clumps appear (loose cookie dough consistency). Hold in the refrigerator while you prepare the fruit filling. Topping can also be made ahead and frozen in a plastic bag for up to 3 months.

Fruit filling:

4 cups of stone fruit, cut into wedges or chunks

2 cups of cleaned berries

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch (may need additional if fruit is quite juicy)

1 tablespoons lemon juice

Fruit filling procedure:

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a large bowl to remove any lumps. Add the stone fruit to the bowl with the lemon juice and toss lightly to coat.

To finish the crisp:

Pre-heat to 350°, and butter a 9×9 or 11×7 baking dish.

Spread the stone fruit over the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle the berries over and lightly mix together. Scatter the crisp topping over in clumps. Place into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the edges are bubbling, and the topping is golden brown. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with whipped cream or crème fraiche, or a rich vanilla ice cream.

Chef Charlie Palmer owns Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg in addition to more than a dozen restaurants across the country.

Chef Charlie Palmer

Chef Charlie Palmer shared his recipe for Pear Tarte Tatin, which appears in his American Fare cookbook. He typically pairs it with a nice Riesling or a Sonoma Coast Gewürztraminer. Two of his favorites include: Gundlach Bundschu, 2018 Estate Gewürztraminer, Sonoma Coast, and Scribe 2017 Riesling Arrowhead Slope, Sonoma County.

Pear Tarte Tatin

Makes one 9-inch tart

3⁄4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 large firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters

1 piece frozen puff pastry (see Note), thawed

Whipped cream, crème fraîche, frozen vanilla yogurt, or caramel ice cream, for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Combine the sugar and 1⁄4 cup cold water in an 8-inch nonstick, ovenproof frying pan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Allow to cook at a gentle boil, without stirring, for about 6 minutes or until a golden syrup has formed. Stir in the butter and cook, stirring, until well blended.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully arrange the pear quarters, cut sides facing up, in a slightly overlapping circle in the caramel, and place 2 or 3 halves in the middle to fill any open space.

Lightly flour a clean, flat work surface. Place the pastry onto the floured surface and, using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to a shape large enough to cut out a circle about 9 inches in diameter. Using a paring knife, cut out the circle and place over the pears. Fold the excess edge under to enclose the fruit. Using a paring knife, cut at least 4 slits in the center of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake the tarte for about 35 minutes or until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown.

Let cool on a wire rack to set for about 5 minutes. Using a small, sharp knife, loosen the edges from the pan and then place the serving plate over the pan and carefully invert the tart onto it. Remove the pan.

Serve warm, with a topping of choice if you like.

Note: Both Trader Joe’s and Dufour make excellent frozen puff pastry. The first is, obviously, available at Trader Joe’s markets; Dufour is available at many supermarkets and specialty food stores as well as online.

Chef Duskie Estes and John Stewart with their catering chef, Chris, on their Black Pig food truck in the VIP area at BottleRock 2019. Heather Irwin/PD
Chef Duskie Estes and John Stewart on their Black Pig food truck in the VIP area at BottleRock 2019. (Heather Irwin)

Chef Duskie Estes & Chef John Stewart

The love for summer fruit continues to shine in this recipe for Cherry + Rhubarb Crostata with Rose Geranium Gelato from chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart.

“You can also garnish with some almond whipped cream, if the ice cream making is too much work,” said chef Duskie Estes of Farm to Pantry. “But nowadays we have more time at home.”

For the wine pairing, Estes recommends Gratitude Late Harvest Viognier from Davis Family Vineyards or bubbles from Iron Horse Vineyards. “I love the rainbow cuvée!” said Estes.

Cherry + Rhubarb Crostata with Rose Geranium Gelato
Makes 4 crostatas

For the crostata dough:
8 oz cold unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups flour
a pinch of kosher salt
3 – 4 tablespoons ice water

For the crostata filling:
1# cherries, pitted and 1/2’d
1# rhubarb, diced
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg, beaten
demerara sugar to sprinkle

To make the crostata dough, cut the butter into small chunks and place in a food processor with the flour and salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. With the processor running, gradually add the water, using only enough water to bring the dough together. Wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface to 4 circles, 7 inches in diameter each, and about 1/8 inch thick. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb & cherries with the sugar, cornstarch and almond extract. Mound the fruit in the center of the dough. Gently fold the dough up toward the center of the rhubarb, creating an edge about 1 1/2 inches wide, pleating dough evenly as you fold around each circle. Brush the edges with the egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

For the gelato:
3 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
A sprig of rose geranium or 1 cup picked leaves packed

In a pot on medium-high heat bring ingredients up to a simmer. Cool in an ice bath and let steep 1 hour. Strain off the leaves and turn in ice cream maker according to its instructions. Scoop and serve on top of warmed crostata.