I was surprised to learn that it was home-baking icon Betty Crocker who printed the first known recipe for lemon bars, the prototype of today’s citrusy sweets, in 1963. Betty Crocker, of course, never existed, except in the imagination of General Mills. Nonetheless, “she” became a culinary icon to many women. This version of lemon squares – developed by my recipe tester, Sandra Osojnik, for today’s home cook – are nothing like Crocker’s. These have a sophisticated twist: They aren’t too sweet and the lemony punch really works after a heavy meal. Adding cornstarch to the pastry makes it slightly softer and freezing the dough for 20 minutes improves its baked texture. Homemade marshmallows are trendy right now and so simple to make. Just remember to watch them carefully while they cook under the broiler so they don’t burn. If you have a kitchen blowtorch, it will be even easier for you to caramelize them. If you don’t have a piping bag, cut the corner of a resealable sandwich bag and use it instead.
If you cannot find the small blue or prune plums, then use apples. I have been disappointed in the prune plums this year, which are large and very sour. The small ones have been much better. If using apples, use 3 lbs (1.5 kg) mixed varieties. Olive oil pastry means you can serve this after a meat dish and it is healthier than vegetable shortening (unless you can find the organic kind). Good olive oil pastry is flaky and tasty but remember not to use a strongly flavoured oil.
Preparing ice cream, gelato or sorbet without an ice-cream maker is quite easy as long as you remember that, although the texture will be a little icy, the taste will be better than you ever imagined. Spiked with a splash of peach schnapps, my iced-yogurt sandwiches are best served for dessert at the end of a dinner party but I also like to enjoy them on a sunny afternoon. Prepare this frozen treat when seasonal fruit is spectacular: fresh, local and slightly overripe. I used juicy peaches though you could also try apricots or plums (stone fruit is best for this recipe). The ginger-snap cookies infuse the sandwich with a spicy flavour but you could use either chocolate or shortbread cookies as well.