I cannot tell a lie…

I scarfed the whole thing down while watching reruns of River Monsters last night. But you’d do the same if a quart of Michigan sour cherries dropped in your lap one August afternoon, don’t tell me you wouldn’t! Anyway I’m not sorry because tart cherry pie is, in the parlance of the kids today, tha bomb. Shape yours in the same way I did here for peach pie. Combine all your ingredients, save for the crust of course, in a large bowl and stir it all together.

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Filed under:  Cherry Pie, Pastry | 23 Comments

The Pits

Reader Zee wants to know why I’m using almond extract in my cherry pie instead of something like vanilla. Isn’t that a little, well “Euro” for a classic American pie? he asks. Zee, it may be, however I find that a little almond extract is great in a cherry filling. The almond flavor is already present in cherries, you see, so the combination isn’t forced at all. It’s natural to the point of being almost invisible.

But why is almond part of the cherry flavor profile to begin with? It’s because it’s a drupe, and the pits of drupes — specifically those of the genus prunus — all taste like almonds. Almonds themselves are actually drupe pits, not nuts if you can believe it. And in fact there are other drupe pits out there that taste even more like almonds than almonds. Apricot pits, for example, which are used to make the almond liqueur Amaretto.

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Sweet Cherries, Sour Cherries

Reader Mac asks how sweet cherries compare to sour cherries when they’re in pie form. Mac, that’s a loaded question for a guy who grew up so close to Traverse Bay. To me sour cherries are the only proper filling for a pie, tart, Danish or blintz, and the only cherry I’d consider for making jam. Sweet cherries are excellent just to eat as they are, but are a little one-dimensional as a baked-in filling. …

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Cherry Pie Recipe

My father loves sour cherry pie so much he planted a cherry tree in our back yard when I was a kid. I can still remember how he draped the thing with nets to keep invading birds out…and the hours my twin sister and I spent pitting cherries for pies. Oh, the stains our our school uniforms! But it was worth it since there’s nothing quite like a good sour cherry pie. To make one you’ll need:

1 recipe standard pie crust
4 cups pitted sour cherries
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
generous pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

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Filed under:  Cherry Pie, Pastry | 13 Comments

Hold the Phone!

Look what Mrs. Pastry and the girls brought me from up North! Two quarts of fresh sour cherries. Oh yeah. If there’s one thing that stinks about living in the more southerly portions of the United States it’s that fresh sour cherries are all but impossible to find. If you don’t hear much from me today it’s because I’ll be spending what free time I have making pie. Excuse me, won’t you?…

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Filed under:  Pastry | 17 Comments

How to Prevent Chocolate Bloom

As I mentioned just below, there are two kinds of chocolate bloom: fat bloom and sugar bloom. Neither are catastrophic to your chocolate supply (just melt the stuff), and both can be prevented to one degree or another.

First, fat bloom. If you’re applying melted chocolate as a glaze or as a coating on some home made truffles, all you need to do to inhibit streaks is to put the finished products into the refrigerator. The quick burst of cool essentially freezes the cocoa butter molecules in place before they have a chance to congregate on the surface of the chocolate. Note that the effect isn’t necessarily permanent once the chocolate is removed from the refrigerator, so you might want to keep your whatever-the-are’s chilled…

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What is chocolate “bloom”?

Reader Jey asks if I would talk a little about chocolate bloom and provide some tips for preventing it. Jey, I would be delighted. First let’s define our terms. The grey streaks or spots that appear on chocolate when it melts and re-firms, or when it’s stored for long periods in the refrigerator or freezer, is called “chocolate bloom”. There are two kinds of it: fat bloom and sugar bloom. Both have different causes and fixes.

Fat bloom is caused by cocoa butter pooling up and forming crystals. This doesn’t happen when chocolate is tempered properly because a.) the controlled cooling process keeps the chocolate emulsion nice and stable and b.) it creates a strong and even crystal structure. However untempered chocolate, being something of a riot of different sorts of fat crystals, is prone to unsightly streaks.

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Is there anything more pathetic than a man alone?

Mrs. Pastry and the girls are in Chicago visiting family for four days. This is the second night in a row I’ve had Cheez-It’s and beer for dinner. Men…are we sad characters in isolation or what? Ladies, all you need to do if you want to witness the thin line between civilization and barbarism is to leave your husband alone for the weekend. Oh, the state of the kitchen sink.

Filed under:  Pastry | 20 Comments

Cocoa Powder

When chocolate liquor, the paste you get when you grind roasted cacao nibs, is placed in a hydraulic press and squeezed, two products result: cocoa butter and cocoa powder. However it’s important to note that the process doesn’t entirely separate the two. Some cocoa butter remains in the cocoa powder, which is designated as either low, medium or high fat, the fattiest being 24% cocoa butter and the leanest being 10% cocoa butter. The rest is all cocoa solids.

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Filed under:  Cocoa Powder, Pastry | 2 Comments

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is a very unusual fat. Granted, in its refined form it doesn’t look like much. It’s white, flavorless, odorless and soap-like in its firmness. However it doesn’t take too much fiddling with it to understand how unique it is. First there’s the low melt point. Cocoa butter is comprised of 21 different fats, all of which melt between 55 and 114 degrees Fahrenheit. The average melting temperature of those fats is 87 degrees Fahrenheit. Which means that cocoa butter melts easily in the mouth — even on the skin, which is why cocoa butter is in such high demand in the cosmetic industry.

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Filed under:  Cocoa Butter, Pastry | 2 Comments