Posts Tagged ‘cherries’

Sour Cherries and the Trouble with Pies

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

What is it about baking a pie that strikes fear into the heart of even accomplished home cooks and, ahem, food bloggers alike? A flaky pie crust is a lovely showcase for summer’s ripest berries and fruit, but it’s that pesky crust that seems to spoil the best pie-making intentions. I’m guilty myself of scrapping plans for a pie to make a cobbler or crisp instead. Even if you have a trusty crust recipe on hand, a pie must be planned for — with the requirement to chill the dough before rolling it out, it simply cannot be left to the last minute. (And then you’re supposed to let it cool before serving — rather than immediately spooning it out and scooping a spoonful of vanilla ice cream on top.)

sampling sour cherries

I dragged lured the whole family out to the Bloomingdale Farmers Market on Sunday to secure the elusive sour cherries* for pie baking. (Reid’s Orchard at the market is one of my favorite sources of summer berries and fruits.) Seriously, the mad rush for sour cherries at the more trafficked DC markets is even to put anyone off baking. Not so at Bloomingdale, where the boy observed the modest line at the berry stand and said, “Let’s come back to this one,” before continuing down to pick an array of summer squashes from Garner’s. We selected hot dogs from Truck Patch for grilling, pastries from Panorama Bakery to consume right there (with iced coffee drinks from Big Bear Cafe next door), and some cheese from Keswick Creamery (and chocolate pudding … for the husband). After cooling down on Big Bear’s patio — where the boy joined several other children in planting himself under the mister — we picked up a pint of Dolcezza gelato to go as well.

foodietots cherry pie

But back to the pie… Pie crust is nothing complicated — butter (or lard), salt, sugar, flour, water. Use cold butter and work quickly, and chill the dough thoroughly before rolling it out. Rolling a pie crust is an essential skill  for any child to learn, so sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your clean counter or cutting board and put them to work — and then, should it turn out less photogenic than you’d hoped, you can just inform your guests that your little one made the crust. 😉

Now the good thing about pie is that once you conquer your fears of crust-making, the filling is endlessly adaptable. A couple (~4) cups of berries or fruit, 2 tablespoons corn starch, 1/2-cup or so of sugar, squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of fresh herbs or spices. (I like nutmeg with cherries, a tiny bit of rosemary or thyme with peaches, and of course, cinnamon with apples.) Toss them together and pour into the prepared shell, dot the top with butter and arrange your top crust — or strips, latticed if you want to get fancy — over. Crimp the edges (again, no need to get fancy — a quick pinch will do), cut a few slices for venting, and bake. (400 degrees for about an hour, covering edges with a strip of foil to prevent over-browning.) Voila! Now just try to resist slicing into it until it’s cooled.

It’s #PieParty today, a virtual pie bake-fest created by GlutenFree Girl, and more than a thousand bloggers are conquering crust-phobia to share their pie creations.

When pie baking plans go awry (read: kids or life in general get in the way of baking time), here’s a fall-back strategy: pit the cherries (or otherwise wash/prep the fruit you have on hand), toss them with the cornstarch/sugar/spices, and pour into a gallon-sized freezer bag. Stick it in the freezer until another day… and enjoy almost-instant pie.

pickled cherries

* Wondering what else to do with sour cherries? Try homemade bourbon cherries (for the grown ups, of course), or pickle them for a wonderful accompaniment to cheese. If time is less of an issue for you, here’s a recipe to put up sour cherry pie filling for winter, via the domestic guru Mrs. Wheelbarrow.

Almond French Toast with Cherry Apricot Compote

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

As promised, July is cherry month here at FoodieTots. I know it’s the tail end of the season around DC, but elsewhere they’re just coming into season. While I bought all the Bing and sour pie cherries I could during our too-short season, I never spotted Queen Anne cherries this year — the yellow-red cherries that resemble my favorite West Coast Rainier cherries. But the Bing cherries were nice and sweet this year, and in an effort to use them in as many meals as possible I made this warm cherry apricot compote for Sunday brunch.

Recipe: Cherry Apricot Compote

1 cup sweet cherries, pitted and halved
4 apricots, diced
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions: Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook apricots until lightly browned on one side. Add remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat until fruit is warmed through and apricots are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Serve warm over Almond French Toast (below) or your favorite pancakes or waffles. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe: Almond French Toast

8 thick slices of day-old bread
1 tablespoon butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of ground nutmeg

Instructions: Whisk eggs in a shallow baking dish (big enough for your bread slices) until light and fluffy. Add milk, extracts and nutmeg and whisk until combined. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Dunk slices of bread, one at a time, in the egg mixture, letting soak for a minute or so. Cook for several minutes on each side, until golden. Serve with maple syrup and or/Cherry Apricot Compote. Serves 4. Enjoy!

Farms of Origin: cherries and apricots from Black Rock Orchard (PA) @ Falls Church Farmers Market, milk from South Mountain Creamery (MD), bread from Atwater’s Bakery.

Whole Wheat Cherry Crumb Cake

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Have you ever wondered why blueberries get all the coffee cake glory? Yeah, they’re good … but cherries are bigger, brighter and perfectly sweet. I’ve been eating too many soulless Starbucks coffee cakes lately and had a craving for a real, homemade crumb cake this past weekend. I remembered reading about Smitten Kitchen’s “Big Crumb Coffee Cake” and decided to start there. I added some whole wheat pastry flour to up the whole grains, and paired nutmeg with my cherries instead of her rhubarb and ginger (not that those wouldn’t be good, but alas rhubarb has already come and gone here). The cherries came from Black Rock Orchard (PA) at the Falls Church Farmers Market.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Cherry Crumb Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Big Crumb Coffee Cake

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon tapioca starch (or corn starch)

For the crumbs:
2/3 cup organic light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup whole milk yogurt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

Toss cherries with tapioca starch and set aside.

To make crumb topping, melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and stir until combined. Fold in flour and set aside.

For the cake batter, whisk together yogurt, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. In the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Gradually add yogurt/egg mixture and mix until smooth.

Pour the batter into the baking dish. Spread cherries over the batter, then spread crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake 45-55 minutes, until crumb topping is lightly browned and cake is cooked through. Cool before cutting, and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar. Makes 9 servings. Enjoy!

Bourbon Cherry Cobbler

Friday, July 10th, 2009

old wye mill mdA Southern Cherry Cobbler Recipe: The sour cherries we bought from Toigo last weekend went into a July 4th cobbler. I started with a recipe from 101 Cookbooks, the wonderful blog whose author is also responsible for the “Super Natural Recipe Search” button you may have noticed over on my left sidebar. I made a few additions — bourbon and corn meal — for a Southern twist. And the boy gets the credit for the blueberry polka dots, his contribution to create the requisite red, white and blue color scheme.

The corn meal, which is actual organic, local corn meal grown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and milled once a month at the Historic Wye Mill, is a fairly course grind so I pulsed it in a food processor with a pinch of tapioca starch to make more of a corn flour. I found the bourbon flavor more pronounced the next day, and you can certainly omit the bourbon for a more sober dessert.

Recipe: Bourbon Cherry Cobbler
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

toigo sour cherries


  • 2 1/2 cups sour cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch (or organic corn starch)
  • 1/3 cup corn meal, finely ground
  • 3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup organic buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon fair-trade bourbon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter, melted and cooled

Instructions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan and set aside. Gently toss together cherries, bourbon, starch and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Whisk together remaining dry ingredients. Separately, gently beat egg and combine with vanilla, buttermilk and butter. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Pour cherries into pie pan and dot with dollops of batter by the tablespoon, leaving a few gaps in between. (Optional, dot topping with blueberries or additional cherries.) Bake 20-22 minutes, until cherry liquid bubbles up and topping is lightly golden. Enjoy!

foodietot makes cherry cobbler

Farms of Origin: Toigo Orchard, PA (cherries), Westmoreland Berry Farms, VA (blueberries, hand-picked), Wye Mill, MD (organic corn meal), and a local egg from Tom the Cheese Guy, PA.

At Market: Cherries, Charcuterie & Canteloupe (and a Honey Bee love note)

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Updates on the early July finds at our local farmers markets, and scroll down to learn why you should satisfy your sweet tooth with something honey-sweetened today!

At the Del Ray Farmers Market: Last week we returned to the Crystal City Farmers Market to check out its newest additions, and returned to the Del Ray Farmers Market after a weekend out of town. It seemed like summer took forever to arrive and now berries and cherries are making their fleeting appearance while the first peaches are already trickling in. Sweet corn is also making its first appearance, but we held off on that and instead picked up a cute, sweetly fragranced cantaloupe from Three Way Farms and sour cherries from Toigo Orchard. The melon was enjoyed for breakfast, wrapped with some not-at-all-local Ibérico ham (jamón) — but, I rationalized the purchase as supporting both a local chef, José Andrés (the importer) and local cheese shop La Fromagerie.

del ray farmers market july

At the Crystal City Farmers Market: Earlier in the week, at Crystal Farms, we were pleased to see the two charcuterie vendors had arrived, Red Apron and MeatCrafters — with the latter cooking up a generous amount of samples to satiate the hungry boy. We brought home the patriotic Capital half-smokes this time, but the Merguez lamb sausage and sopressata were my personal favorites. The boy strutted through the market as if he owned the place — since this is an after-work market it doesn’t attract as many families as weekend markets, but there were plenty of kids helping out their parents at the stands.

crystal farms arlington va

The boy was thrilled that Kuhn Orchard had saved the last kid-sized cup of berries “just for me!”, bought purple string beans from a young assistant at Barajas Produce, chips and tomatillo salsa from the mom and daughter team of Salsa las Glorias, and had an involved chat with the J-Wen dairyman’s son about the various flavors of milk offered. (The boy settled on chocolate for himself and root beer for his father.) This market seems to be doing quite well, and the summer produce bounty is only just beginning so be sure to visit soon. They’ve also instituted a bag share program, where you can drop off extra reusable shopping bags that may be cluttering up your house or car, and pick one up if you forgot to bring one along. Fantastic idea.

Love food? Eat Honey July 10, Save a Honey Bee! Today is “Don’t Step on a Bee Day,” originally conceived don't step on a bee dayto discourage people from going barefoot in the summer, and then stepping on a bee. The holiday was re-purposed to highlight the plight of the North American honey bee, whose declining numbers could seriously jeopardize our future food supply. (Serious Eats has a short video that explains colony collapse disorder.) So eat something honey-sweetened today (real honey, preferably from your local farmers market) and raise a glass to our friends, the honey bees! If you’re in the DC area, get a bite to eat at the Fairmont Hotel or Clyde’s Willow Creek Farm, both of whom raise honeybees on site, or drop by Buzz for free “honey cups” for the kids and an assortment of Josh Short’s honey-sweetened desserts.

Sending this honeybee note over to Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade – take a look for more real food inspiration!