This is the time of year bakers have been waiting for. There is nothing like using just picked fruit in your desserts. Are you getting your berry recipes out just in time for Vermont’s berry season? Fragrant strawberries nestled under leaves in the warm sun are meant to be enjoyed just as they're picked. If you can make it home with all your berries, then it can be fun to serve them simply with cream and sugar or perhaps in a fresh berry galette with flaky pastry drizzled with a local honey.
We spoke with Amanda Wildermuth, pastry chef of Honey Road restaurant in Burlington to learn where she gets her inspiration and how she celebrates seasonality in her desserts. Honey Road is a James Beard nominated eastern Mediterranean inspired restaurant that serves small plates and mezze. Amanda combines flavor, texture, color, and temperature into desserts that are fun, beautiful and, of course, delicious.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into pastry and desserts?
I have always been interested in food and pastry as a hobby, but had never considered a career in the food industry. After college I worked at Lake Champlain Chocolates, intending to leave when I found a job in my field. While working there I fell in love with local food and decided I wanted to pursue a career in the industry. I went to culinary school for baking and pastry and since then have had the opportunity to work at Hen of the Wood as a pastry cook and help open Monarch and the Milkweed as pastry chef. I have been working at Honey Road for a year and a half as pastry chef, which has been an amazing opportunity.
What inspires your desserts for Honey Road? Do you have a favorite right now?
I am inspired by the exceptional ingredients we are able to source. We are lucky to be able to get amazing local products as well as high quality regional products sourced from the Mediterranean. Most dishes that I create are rooted somewhere in tradition, whether it’s bringing a modern American twist to traditional Mediterranean desserts or using Mediterranean flavors to reimagine American classics.
My favorite on the menu right now is the coconut & lime basbousa (an Egyptian semolina and coconut cake). The coconut cake is soaked in a coconut and orchid root syrup and rolled in coconut. It’s served with a coconut ice cream, coconut meringue, and a coconut water and rum granita.
How excited are you for berry season? Which berry farms do you work with?
I am so excited for berry season! It’s the best time of year! I am a huge fan of Adam’s Berry Farm - they offer so many unique and delicious varietals. We also get amazing berries from Full Belly Farm and Last Resort Farm.
How often do you change the menu? What can we look forward to this summer?
I change the menu seasonally, usually about once a month. Some desserts (like the fan favorite tahini sundae) will stay on the menu throughout the year, but for the most part, as the seasons change so do the desserts. I love making frozen treats, so expect to see lots of those this summer! I’m working on a chocolate and fresh mint icebox pie which will be new this year and I plan on bringing back the saffron and pistachio ice cream sandwich which was a hit last summer. Fresh local fruit will be all over the menu, of course!
Do you have a go-to technique or tip for highlighting fresh berries?
I think the key is to use the berries when they’re at their peak, whether it’s serving them fresh or preserving them. I serve most berries while they are in season fresh or lightly macerated. I also try to preserve as many berries as possible while they are at their best so that we can enjoy them throughout the winter in jams, syrups, and sorbets. Berry season can feel so short in Vermont, but by preserving them we can enjoy peak berries for so much longer.
What is your favorite flavor combination at this time of year?
I am so excited for strawberries - I think they are delicious tossed in coriander sugar. I also love pomegranate molasses with strawberries - the sweet and tart go really well together.
Could you share a favorite recipe with the DigInVT community?
Strawberry pomegranate molasses sorbet has been a staple on the summer menu, whether it’s served by the scoop or paired with creme brûlée custard borek.
Strawberry & Pomegranate Molasses Sorbet
Strawberries 2.5 lbs
Pomegranate molasses (best quality) 100g
Granulated sugar 200g
pinch of kosher salt
Blend all ingredients in a blender until just puréed, do not over blend. Freeze in an ice cream machine. Enjoy!