Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Cherries are back! Which, always makes me think of the song, "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," written by DeSylva & Brown in 1931. The lyrics go like this:

"Life is just a bowl of cherries.
Don't be so serious;
Life's too mysterious.
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go.
So keep repeating it's the berries,
The strongest oak must fall,
The sweet things in life,
To you were just loaned,
So how can you lose what you've never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all."

Maybe we should all spend more time not taking life so serious, and doing things like this:

In addition, with cherries at their peak, why not make the classic French dessert, "Cherry Clafoutis," named from the lingering regional dialect of Provence, Northern Spain, and Northern Italy, known as "Occitan." It's the same as the natural beauty line of products by "L'Occitane en Provence," meaning "the woman from Occitania." Also note, that a "clafoutis" (kla-foo-tee) is only made with cherries. If other kinds of fruit are used, the dish is properly called a "flaugnarde."

This enhanced recipe from Martha Stewart Living caught my eye, because of the addition of kirsh (cherry brandy) and the seeds of a vanilla bean (as opposed to vanilla extract). The recipe turned out perfectly; although, my family thought it should be a little sweeter. So, maybe next time I'll add another 1/4 cup of sugar. In addition to a dusting of powdered sugar, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream, makes a nice addition.

Cherry Clafoutis

Serves 8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds cherries, stemmed and pitted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 tablespoons kirsch
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10" porcelain tart dish (I used a 11" deep dish pie pan), and fill with cherries. Set aside.

Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl. Add sugar. Gradually whisk in whole eggs, egg yolks, milk, and cream. Add vanilla-bean scrapings and kirsch; whisk to combine.

Using a sieve, strain the batter over the cherries.

Bake until puffed and browned, about 45 minutes.

Let cool until warm; it will sink slightly. Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie!

Rhubarb is one of the first fresh garden products of the season in cold climates. The stalks of these perennials are most often used in pies, which is why rhubarb is sometimes referred to as "pie plant." Although rhubarb is considered a vegetable, in 1947, a New York court decided that because rhubarb was used as a fruit in the United States, it was to be considered fruit, thus reducing tariffs on imported rhubarb. If you've never cooked with rhubarb before, I have a fabulous old-fashion recipe for you!

I feel it's important to preserve recipes from the past. Those personal recipes of honest home cooking are our history, it's what makes us American, it's what makes us family. This recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is from the wonderful Ruth Zylich of Barton, New York. This slightly sweet and slightly tart pie is a favorite of my husband and all of his family. Sometimes it's nice to take a deep breath and revisit the classics from our past.

Ruth's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 cups cubed rhubarb
1 cup cubed strawberries
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cinnamon, sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter, to finish the top crust
1 double-crust 9" pie dough (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the rhubarb and strawberries in a 9" unbaked pie shell.

Mix the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt together and pour over the top of the rhubarb and strawberries.

Place the second pie crust over the top, trim and crimp the edges to seal. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Cut 4 slits on the top and dot with the butter.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 45 minutes, or until the rhubarb is done.

Double-Crust 9" Pie Dough

Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Process the flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if the dough will not come together. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4" disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.