Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sandwich Bread

I love bread. I am so pleased that I live in a time when the boom in artisanal bakeries has made it possible for me to experience breads made with all kinds of flours, fermentation methods and flavors. But every now and then I want to eat an old-fashioned American-style sandwich made with soft American-style sandwich bread. Unfortunately, the stuff available at the grocery store is generally tasteless or gummy and is loaded with preservatives. The solution, of course, is to make it yourself.

A few years ago I came across a sandwich bread recipe at the King Arthur website that is ideal for the style of sandwich I have described. It is easy to make, slices beautifully and is soft and tender. The only change I have made to the recipe is to incorporate a small amount of toasted wheat germ.

Lightly toasted, this bread makes a wonderful chicken salad sandwich:

Egg Salad, too:

I am certain that it would make a very fine cold meatloaf sandwich or even a nice fried egg sandwich with a thin slice of cheese. Because it is a bit fragile, I don't think it would stand up to peanut butter for a PB&J, or to anything too sloppy or juicy.

King Arthur billed this recipe as "Oatmeal Toasting and Sandwich Bread", but I use it almost exclusively for sandwiches. For the most part, I prefer toast made with a hearty whole grain bread, or a substantial sourdough or semolina. But I have to admit, that if someone were to serve me a warm slice of buttered toast made from this bread...with perhaps some homemade preserves on the side...I would manage to choke it down....

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

2 1/4 t. active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 1/4 c. lukewarm milk
2 1/2 to 3 c. unbleached bread flour
1/3 c. toasted wheat germ
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 t. salt
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 T. honey

Place the milk in a large bowl and add the yeast. Let stand a few minutes to allow the yeast soften. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour along with the remaining ingredients and stir to form a shaggy dough. If the dough seems too wet, add the remaining flour, a little at a time—using only as much as is necessary to form a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface

and knead until smooth and elastic (5 to 10 minutes).

Place the dough in a buttered bowl. Turn the dough to coat with butter and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 ½ to 2 hours).

When the dough is fully risen, deflate it gently. Shape the dough into a fat log and place in a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Cover loosely with buttered plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

You know it is ready if a slight indentation remains when the loaf is lightly pressed.  Bake in a preheated 350° oven until the internal temperature reaches 190°F—about 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.  Makes 1 loaf.

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour Company)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poulet à la Fermière

I taught a class last week called Chicken Basics. To illustrate the technique of braising I use a simple, one-dish recipe that I found several years ago in a "collectors' edition" issue of Gourmet Magazine that was entirely devoted to dining and cooking in Paris. I had forgotten how much I love this recipe. After having just a taste of it after my class, I was hungry for more and knew I had to make it again soon.

The name of the dish is Poulet à la Fermière which Gourmet translated as "Gratinéed Chicken in Cream Sauce". This is actually not a translation so much as it is a description of the dish—chicken in cream sauce, finished with a scattering of Gruyère cheese and gratinéed under the broiler. Poulet à la Fermière is more correctly translated as "The Farmer's Wife's Chicken". So the title of the dish is meant to convey the abundance of good ingredients available to a farmer's wife—chicken, cream, cheese, onions, carrots, baby potatoes and peas—basically the bounty of the farm...all in one dish.

For some reason, the original version of this recipe calls for frozen pearl onions. I am not fond of frozen pearl onions. If cooked until they are tender, they fall apart into mush. If maintaining their shape is important, they remain hard and are a bit sharp tasting. This time of year, fresh pearl onions are widely available, so there is no reason not to use them. Cipollini onions—little flat, sweet Italian onions—make a fine substitute.

If you do not want to take the time to peel any sort of tiny onion, sliced leeks would be an authentic and flavorful substitution.

As it turns out, neither pearl nor cipollini onions are that difficult to peel. Simply trim the ends and drop the onions in a bowl of hot tap water. After a few moments the thin, brittle skins will have begun to soften and will pull easily away with the help of a small paring knife. Spread the onions on a towel to dry them off after they have been peeled. To save time, they can be peeled ahead and stored (covered) in the refrigerator.

This recipe is intended to be simple and homey—the chicken is cooked and served on the bone and the sauce is left a little bit on the thin side. The final dish is delicious when made just this way and for a weeknight family meal, this is exactly how I serve it. But if you are entertaining and would like to make the final result a little more refined, there are easy ways to remedy both of these things.

If you would like to have a slightly thicker sauce, when the chicken and vegetables are finished cooking, simply remove the chicken to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm. Add the cream and peas as directed and simmer the cream sauce and vegetables together, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Don't overdo it. This shouldn't take more than a minute or two. It is much better to have a sauce that is just a bit thinner than you would like than to have a thick and gloppy one. When the sauce is thickened to your liking, return the chicken to the pan and proceed with the recipe.

If eating bone-in chicken covered in cream sauce strikes you as being rather inelegant, it is an easy thing to remove the bones after the chicken is fully cooked. To do this, when the chicken and vegetables are finished cooking, remove the pan from the heat and remove the chicken to a plate. When the chicken thighs are cool enough to handle, take one and turn it over so the skin-side is down. With a sharp boning knife make an incision from knuckle to knuckle along the length of the bone. Grab one end of the bone and twist slightly to release the meat from the bone. You may need to use the tip of your knife to release bits of meat that want to cling to the bone, but if the chicken is properly cooked you should be able to gently lift the bone up and away from the meat without too much trouble. Tuck any bits of meat that have come away back into the interior of the now boneless thigh and flip the thigh back over so it is skin side up. Repeat this operation until all of the thighs have been deboned.

To finish the dish, return the pan of vegetables to the heat and add the cream and peas. Bring to a simmer and reduce the sauce slightly. Taste and correct the seasoning. Nestle the boneless thighs back in amongst the vegetables and gently heat through. Scatter the cheese over all and gratinée as directed.

I like to serve this dish family-style—directly from the pan it was cooked in—but you could also transfer the vegetables and chicken in cream sauce to a broiler proof serving dish (such as a gratin) before topping with cheese and browning. However you choose to finish this dish, it makes a pretty great one dish meal. Although it doesn't need anything else, because it is slightly rich, a salad makes a nice accompaniment—which is how I served it to my book group friends this week. Altogether, it made an utterly satisfying meal for a cold and blustery February night.

Poulet à la Fermière
(Gratinéed Chicken in Cream Sauce)

2 lbs. chicken thighs (anywhere from 4 to 8 thighs)
1 to 2 T. unsalted butter
4 carrots (about 12 oz.), cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 cups pearl or cipollini onions, peeled (see note)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lb. small (1 ½-inch) boiling potatoes (8 to 10), peeled & halved
2/3 cup heavy cream or crème fraiche
1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat butter in a 12-inch ovenproof deep heavy sauté pan over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add the chicken, skin side down and brown all over, in batches if necessary to keep from crowding the pan. Regulate the heat as necessary to maintain an active sizzle. This will take about 15 minutes. Don't shortcut this step.  If the fat in the skin is not rendered as much as possible, the final dish will be greasy.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off all but 1 T. of fat from the pan.

Add the carrots and onions to the pan and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the vegetables are beginning to brown, add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, thyme and chicken, skin side up, along with any juices from the plate.

Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, nestling them down in the sauce, in between the chicken pieces, and salt & pepper to taste. Continue to simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through—20 to 25 minutes.

When the chicken and vegetables are cooked, preheat the broiler. Discard the thyme. Add the cream and the peas, swirling the pan to distribute the cream and peas throughout. Bring the cream to a simmer. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle the chicken and vegetables all over with the Gruyère and broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat until browned and bubbling—about 3 to 4 minutes.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Note: If using cipollini onions, halve or quarter them if they are large. Two medium leeks (white & pale green parts only) halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick, may be substituted for the pearl or cipollini onions.

(Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine March 2001)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pear & Dried Tart Cherry Crisp with Hazelnut Browned Butter Topping

Although I enjoy cooking with (and eating!) hazelnuts, they are not a food that I tend to consume in great quantities or with great frequency. If you have been keeping up with my blog this month, this statement might come as a surprise. Today's post will be the third in the past couple of weeks with a recipe that includes them. And it is the second post that contains the combination of pears, dried tart cherries and hazelnuts...a particularly fine combination of tastes and textures.

I don't remember the original inspiration for this Pear & Dried Tart Cherry Crisp with Hazelnut Browned Butter Streusel, but it has become my favorite winter fruit crisp. As I mentioned in a post last summer, I think fruit crisps are best when made with two kinds of fruit. In this crisp the tart cherries are a wonderful foil for the sweet pears. They add nice texture too. Soaking them in a little bit of brandy adds to their interest.

As nice as the pears and cherries are together, it is the topping that sets this crisp apart. Instead of my usual crisp topping made with whole (un-melted, un-clarified) butter, I brown the butter before adding it to the dry ingredients. Browning butter gives it a toasty, nutty flavor that compliments any nut you might want to pair it with. It is especially good with hazelnuts.

To brown butter, melt some butter over medium heat. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally. The butter solids will begin to turn brown and the butter will take on a nutty aroma. Transfer the butter to a heat-proof container to stop the cooking. For a more detailed description of the process of browning butter (with a picture), check out my post from last summer on Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

Whether I am making a crisp topping with whole butter, melted butter or browned butter, I think it is always a good idea to chill the topping before you use it. I have noticed that crisps that go into the oven with warm or room temperature toppings can be a bit greasy when they are done baking. Also, when the topping has been chilled, it seems to me that the topping is a bit crispier...which is kind of the point of making a crisp....

In my Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie post, I touched briefly (in the text of the recipe) on how to peel hazelnuts. Since they have been appearing with such frequency on my blog, I thought it would be a good idea to repeat the instructions here. This time with pictures.

To peel hazelnuts, spread them on a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven until the skins begin to split and the nuts (visible through the cracked skins) are turning a golden brown—about 10 to 15 minutes.

Wrap the warm nuts in a towel (use an old towel—the hazelnut skins will stain your towel) and allow them to steam for a few minutes to encourage the skins to come off. Rub the nuts vigorously with the towel to remove as much of the skins as will easily come away.

The process of peeling hazelnuts can be a bit tedious. How tedious depends on the nuts, but I have not figured out if this has to do with the cultivar or perhaps where they were grown, or (most likely) how fresh they are. If you have found a place that sells hazelnuts that peel easily, you have found a good thing and you should stock up. They keep well in the freezer. It is worth going to the trouble to remove as much of the skin as possible since the skin tends to be bitter.

This recipe makes a very large quantity of crisp—serving 10 to 12 generously. It can obviously be halved, but my favorite size is a third of the recipe. When made in this quantity, it fits nicely into a small 1 1/4 quart gratin and makes four generous portions—perfect for a small household. Unless you have four very hungry diners, there will be just a little leftover the next morning for someone (like me) who is not above eating fruit crisp with yogurt for breakfast.

Pear & Dried Tart Cherry Crisp with Hazelnut Browned Butter Streusel

12 T. Unsalted butter, browned (see below) & cooled
1 ½ c. light or golden brown sugar
1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 c. toasted and skinned hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Combine the sugar, flour, & salt in a medium-sized bowl. Drizzle the butter over and stir with a fork until the ingredients are combined and have a crumbly appearance. Stir in the hazelnuts and chill until ready to use.

¾ c. dried tart cherries, plumped if necessary and drained
1 T. Brandy, optional
1 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
3 3/4 lbs. ripe, but firm, pears (Bartlett, Anjou or Comice), peeled, quartered, cored & quarters cut cross-wise in 1/3-inch thick slices--you will have about 10 cups cut fruit
juice of half a small lemon (about 1 1/2 to 2 t.)

If using the brandy, toss the brandy with the cherries and let sit overnight (covered) or while you prepare the pears.

In a small bowl stir together the flour and sugar; set aside. In a large bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients and stir until all of the flour-sugar mixture is moistened. Fold in the cherries (including any unabsorbed brandy, if using).

Turn the fruit mixture into a buttered 3-quart gratin or ceramic baking dish.

Spread the crumb topping over all.

Bake in a 375° oven until the topping is golden and crisp and the fruit is bubbling—about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Notes & Variations:
• To "brown" butter, melt some butter over medium heat. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally. The butter solids will begin to turn brown and the butter will take on a nutty aroma. Transfer the butter to a heat-proof container to stop the cooking.
• A good rule of thumb for making crisps is to use twice as much fruit as you have topping. In this recipe there is about 10 cups fruit and 5 cups topping.
• Choose a wide, shallow pan for crisps. But not too wide--the topping should completely cover the fruit.
• Fruit crisps will have a crisper topping if the topping is made ahead and chilled before using.
• When making a smaller version of this crisp (2/3, 1/2 or 1/3) you may need to reduce the baking time.   Begin checking at 30 minutes. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Roasted Vegetable & Farro Pilaf, Farro Cooked Risotto Style and Some Farro Cooking Basics

Since purchasing my first bag of farro last month, I have been experimenting with it as much as my schedule will permit. I thought I would take a moment today to talk about what I have been doing with it. I love main course grain and vegetable pilafs, so both of the things I have made so far are variations on that theme. But either dish would make a fine side dish too.

There appear to be two commonly used methods for cooking farro—although you will find lots of minor variations on these two methods. The first method is to simply boil the farro in salted water—much as you would pasta—until it is al dente. It may then be drained and used immediately, or drained and spread on a sheet pan to be cooled and used later.

The second method is the standard "pilaf" method used for cooking any grain: Cook some onion (or shallots, or spring onions, or green onions, along with any other aromatic vegetable you would like) in a generous amount of olive oil or butter. When the onion is tender, add any herbs or spices that you might be using and cook until fragrant. Add the grain (in this case, farro) and cook for a minute or two to coat the grain in the fat and get it hot. Add liquid (water or stock) and salt and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer, covered, until tender, but still firm in the center—20 minutes for pearled farro and 25 to 30 minutes for semi-pearled farro. Remove the farro from the heat and allow it to sit and rest for a few minutes.

When using the pilaf method, most recipes call for about 2 1/2 cups of liquid for every cup of farro. In my limited experience, the farro will not absorb all of this liquid. But this does not seem to be a problem—just drain off this excess liquid. It may be discarded or reserved to finish the final dish. Once the farro has been cooked, it can be "finished" in a number of different ways.

The first thing I made was a risotto-style dish. This style farro is compared to risotto because it is very like risotto in its final texture and consistency—tender, slightly chewy grains are suspended in a creamy, thick liquid. This result can be achieved in a couple of different ways. The first is to cook the farro from start to finish using the exact same method one uses when preparing risotto (toasting the grains in some fat and then adding liquid in small amounts, at regular intervals while stirring frequently, until the grain is tender and the dish creamy). The second way uses risotto that is cooked first using either of the methods outlined above. The cooked farro is placed in a saucepan, along with a few tablespoons of the farro cooking liquid (or another liquid of some kind) and some butter. The farro is then heated through while stirring constantly until a creamy texture is achieved. Most of the time I have seen this style dish referred to as farro "risotto", but I also found a recipe in Judy Rogers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook that calls this dish "Farrotto".

When I made my farro risotto (farrotto), I cooked the farro using the standard pilaf method. To the onion base, I added some diced fennel, diced carrots, thinly sliced garlic and picked thyme. Because there were only a few tablespoons of liquid remaining when the farro was tender, I didn't even bother to drain it, I simply added some butter (along with some sautéed mushrooms and minced parsley) to the rested pilaf and stirred over medium heat until the farro was creamy and risotto-like. I couldn't believe how good this was.

The second dish I made was inspired by a farro pilaf in Olives & Oranges by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox. To a base of cooked farro, Jenkins adds Brussels sprouts, turnips and beets. Although I happened to have some nice Brussels sprouts in my fridge, I didn't have any beets or turnips. I also didn't feel like running to the store. I did have some carrots—which I love in combination with Brussels sprouts—so I used those in place of the beets and turnips. Jenkins cooks the farro for this recipe by boiling it like pasta. Because I'm fond of the pilaf method, I used that method instead. Following her lead, I topped the finished dish with some shaved cheese (she suggests Pecorino Toscano, I used Dubliner). This too, was excellent. With the addition of some wedges of hard cooked egg, it made a satisfying and substantial dinner.

Both dishes reheated beautifully for lunch the next day. I can't wait to try farro in something else, because so far, farro is batting a thousand in our household. It is certainly well on its way to becoming a staple in my pantry.

Creamy Risotto-Style Farro with Fennel & Mushrooms

3 T. olive oil
1/2 small onion, cut in a 1/3-inch dice
1 large carrot, cut in a 1/3-inch dice
1 small (1/2 medium) bulb of fennel, trimmed and cut in a 1/3-inch dice
1/2 T. picked thyme, chopped
1 large clove garlic, halved or quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 c. semi-pearled farro (rinsed)
2 1/2 c. hot chicken stock (or water)
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, quartered and sautéed in some olive oil or butter until tender and caramelized
1 T. butter
2 to 3 T. minced parsley

In a wide saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and fennel along with a pinch of salt and sweat until tender—about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme and continue to cook until fragrant.

Add the farro and continue to cook and stir until the farro is well-coated in the fat, lightly toasted and hot through—about 3 minutes.

Add the stock, along with some salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, partially covered, until tender but still firm in the center—about 25 minutes. Let the farro rest, covered, off of the heat for minute or two.

Return the pan to the heat, add the mushrooms, butter and parsley. Stir until the dish is creamy. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve immediately. Serves 2 to 3 as an entrée; serves 4 as a side.

Note: If there is an excessive amount of liquid (more than a few tablespoons) left in the pan after the farro is cooked, drain the farro. Return the cooked farro to the pan, along with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the liquid and proceed with the recipe.

Printable Recipe

Farro Pilaf with Roasted Carrots & Brussels Sprouts

1/2 lb. carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick pieces on a short diagonal
olive oil
1/4 medium onion, cut in a 1/4-inch dice
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 t. chopped thyme
2/3 c. farro, rinsed
1 2/3 c. hot water
6 to 8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved.
2 T. minced flat leaf parsley
Dubliner, Cheddar or Pecorino

Toss the carrots with enough olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small baking dish just large enough to hold the carrots in a snug single layer, add a splash of water and cover with foil. Place the carrots in a preheated 400° oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to roast until the carrots are tender and beginning to caramelize—another 10 to 20 minutes.

While the carrots roast, sweat the onion, thyme and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, in some olive oil until the onion is tender—5 to 10 minutes. Add the farro and continue to cook and stir until the farro is well-coated in the fat, lightly toasted and hot through—about 3 minutes. Add the water, along with some salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook, until tender but still firm in the center—about 25 minutes. Let the farro rest, covered, off of the heat for minute or two.

While the farro is resting, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan wide enough to just hold the Brussels sprouts in a snug single layer. Add the sprouts to the pan, cut side down. Season well with salt and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until the sprouts are golden and tender—about 5 minutes. (If the sprouts are small and tender, 5 minutes will be sufficient.  For larger sprouts, it may be necessary to add a splash of water to the pan after they are golden so they can continue to be cooked to tenderness without burning.)

Transfer the sprouts to a large bowl. Drain the farro and add to the bowl along with the carrots and parsley. Toss to combine. Taste and correct the seasoning. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and toss again. If the farro and carrots are not hot when the sprouts are done cooking, the pilaf can be assembled in the pan the sprouts were cooked in so that the pilaf can be warmed through over moderate heat.

Served topped with thin shavings of cheese. Serves 2 as an entrée.

Printable Recipe

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sour Cherry & Almond Kuchen

When I began teaching cooking classes at The Community Mercantile several years ago, there was a woman working there as a class host and assistant who eventually became a dear friend. Because of the shifting seasons of life, she is no longer working there...and I miss her a great deal. A seasoned cook in her own right, she made a wonderful assistant, always willing to tackle even the most unfamiliar tasks. And no matter what kind of day I had had as I prepared for the class, she was always able to make me laugh and put me at my ease.

We don't see each other nearly as often as I would like now. Occasionally when she knows that I will be in town teaching a class, she will appear at the classroom door to say hello. Because she embodies the generosity that marks those who truly love to cook, frequently she brings something to share with me—eggs from her hens, freshly pressed cider, or the incomparable sour cherries that grow on her cherry trees.

Sour cherries have a very short season. They are also highly perishable—beginning to rot almost as soon as they are picked. Even at my farmers' market, I am disappointed with the quality of the sour cherries that I have found. It seems you must have your own tree—or a good friend with a tree. This past summer when my friend stopped by with her cherries, I think she had made the trip into town just to bring them to me. They had been picked that morning and they were beautiful.

I'm not sure there is a better way to adequately express thanks for such a special gift than to enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed.  So I went home and made a sour cherry pie the next day.  In years past my friend's cherries have made their way into summer fruit crisps (my favorite is with apricots), mini turnovers and sour cherry preserves. One year I used the preserved cherries the following Christmas to make a Cherry-Chocolate Trifle for my family's Christmas dinner. And I always pit and freeze a large quantity of them, knowing that I will find ways to enjoy them throughout the coming year. Because of their brilliant red color, I tend to think of using them most often at Christmas and Valentine's Day. This year, as we approached Valentine's Day, I thought I would use some of them to make a kuchen.

I don't speak German, but apparently kuchen is simply the German word for cake. In America, a kuchen is a specific kind of coffee cake. Made in the style of a German or Austrian breakfast pastry, a kuchen is a fresh fruit-filled cake that is frequently topped with a streusel. To me, it could be compared to a fruit and streusel tart made with a cake-like crust. Some definitions state that the cake portion should be yeast-raised, but recipes that use a simple butter cake as the base are common.

My kuchen is modeled after a coffee cake that my mother made when I was growing up. Her recipe was from a Minnesota-based regional cookbook and unfortunately called for canned cherry pie filling. Everyone in my family has always liked this cake, so when it began to fall to me to make our family's traditional Christmas coffee cake, I decided to create my own scratch version. After fixing the filling, I have continued to tinker with the rest of the cake over the years—adjusting the cake itself, then the streusel, and finally the size and shape of the pan—until the cake became what it is today....a Sour Cherry & Almond Kuchen.

I am sure that this cake would be good made with other kinds of fruit fillings. But I am partial to the cherry version...and I think I have just enough cherries left in my freezer to make one more before the winter is over.

Sour Cherry & Almond Kuchen

1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. (5 T. plus 1 t.) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
1 large egg
1/3 c. milk
1 recipe sour cherry topping (see below)
1 recipe almond streusel (see below)

Preheat an oven to 350º F. Butter a 10- by 2-inch round cake pan, line with a round of parchment and butter the parchment. Flour the pan. Set aside.

Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the extracts, followed by the egg. Fold in the dry ingredients in two additions, alternately with the milk in one addition.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and spread the sour cherry topping evenly over the batter, leaving a border of exposed batter about 1/2-inch wide around the edge of the pan.

Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake by running a thin knife around the edge of the pan. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a plate or a rack. Remove the parchment round and flip the cake back onto a serving plate (or wire rack).

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8 to 10

Sour Cherry Topping:
10 oz. pitted frozen sour cherries, (2 heaped cups)—see note for using fresh cherries
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. plus 1/2 t. cornstarch
a pinch of salt
1/8 t. almond extract

Place the frozen cherries in a bowl and allow to thaw until there is just enough liquid to moisten the cornstarch.

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the cherries, along with any juices, stirring until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.

Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. The liquid will begin to thicken and become translucent. Gently boil for 1 to 2 minutes—until the juices are clear and thick. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the almond extract. Cool completely before using. It is best to make this the day before.

Note: If you have fresh sour cherries, you will need 12 oz. of cherries. Pit them and combine them in a small saucepan with the dry ingredients—reducing the cornstarch to 1 T. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes so that the cherries will begin to release their juices. As soon as the dry ingredients are fully moistened, proceed with the recipe.

(Sour Cherry Topping adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Almond Streusel:
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
3 T. unsalted butter
1/3 c. sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled

In a small bowl, rub the butter into the flour and sugar. Add the almonds and toss to combine. Set aside.