Tag Archives: dessert

Cherry Grump

Piece o' grump

I have a new favorite word: Grump. I like the verb best, as in to grump. It may look like a noun, but in my mouth it acts just like it sounds, like a bad mood coming to life. (Say it a few times. You’ll see.)

My friend Sarah said it first, when her dog was grumping around the house, pouting about being bullied by her cat. Then my dad’s knee started grumping, and before I knew what hit me, my pie crust started doing it, too.

Washington cherries will really start rolling into Seattle next week. (I can never wait. I bought two pounds from California. I consider it training for the cherry season.)

I wanted to make a big cherry galette, the kind whose folded, sugar-sprinkled edges are the high-end jeans of the dessert world. (You know the type: They’re supposed to be low-maintenance, but by the time you buy everything, trim the edges just right, and find the perfect thing to slip on top, you’ve spent just as much time as you might have spent on something “fancier.”) In the end, galettes look so perfectly unperfect, each pleat folded neatly over the one before, juice bubbling up and over one precisely unprecise undulation in the dough.

“Who, me?” says a galette. “I just threw on an old pair of jeans.”

Usually, though, like the jeans, galettes are worth it. More so than pie, if you ask me, which is why I’ve been making them recently.

(I just replaced those chocolaty jeans, by the way, because they also happened to have holes in unladylike places. It took me two whole months to find the ones, but they’ve been worth every penny.)

Bowl o' pits

This time, I started with a whole wheat crust, whipped about in the food processor with plenty of unsalted butter. I pitted a giant container of cherries, enough that by the end I wanted to toast and eat the actual pits, since I’d worked so hard for them. (Has anyone done this?)

fresh halved cherries

I mixed the little ruby halves up with lemon juice and a whisper of ginger, to satisfy my husband, who equates “ginger” with “dessert.” Just when I thought I was ready to pile the fruit into the crust, though, I noticed the cherries’ thin red liquid coating the cutting board and spilling out onto the counter, into the cracks between my granite tiles and down the facing on my kitchen cupboards (white, of course).

I’ll be honest: It’s hard to be in a bad mood when there are cherries in the kitchen, but I wasn’t having a very good day yesterday. My hands ached from typing (and then, stupidly, pitting), and this goshdarn notsummer weather Seattle’s been hanging onto wasn’t doing me any favors. (I’m wearing ski socks today.)

You could say I was grumping a bit myself.

I took one look at the juice, and self-doubt flooded in. I wondered whether I’d put enough cornstarch into the cherries to convince them to gel up together. I thought about the time I put too much fruit in my galette, and the edges simply unfolded like a flower. The dough relaxed under the weight of the berries and they all rolled right out in a blueberry stampede, so I ended up with a round of uncrusty dough, topped with a pool of blue goo.

I grumped that day, too.

Yesterday, my pie crust looked perfect, but I worried the edges weren’t up to their task. I didn’t want a cherry galette that would be, in Eloise’s words, ruined ruined ruined. Plus, I’ve been a little down on my luck recently. There were the cashew noodles that seized up into a delicious, but entirely too sticky mass five minutes after they hit the serving bowl. And those giant calzones, made with a sausage I somehow didn’t realize was chicken-based (and smoked, which I hate) until entirely too late. My ego wasn’t up for another failure.

I decided to hedge. I made my galette bloom-proof by cornering it in a cake pan.

Pie making seldom offers one a sigh of relief, at least not before it goes into the oven. But as I rolled the crust out and flopped it into the pan, I was more relaxed than ever, knowing that instead of patting and gently squishing and cutting and folding, I would only have to slop the edges over the cherries, easy as dropping a wet towel on the floor. It wouldn’t matter if there were a few microscopic holes in the crust, because the pan would hold any errant juices in.

That pie crust, I think she was a little relieved, too. I mean really, each and every time, she has to mind her manners. Not too hot, not too cold, not too hard, not too soft. This time, she could really let her guard down, and grump if she wanted to. I felt like I might have been doing her a favor, flipping her on top of the cherries like that, without a speck of pretention.

The galette turned into a deep-dish cherry galette, with straight, sturdy sides that stand up royally on a plate.

I’ll call it a grump, because from now on, it’s what I’ll make when I’m grumping. When I know I don’t have the attention span for pie, or the self-confidence for a pretty galette. When I need something that puts me in a good mood the instant it pops out of the oven. (I think its success is impervious to bad moods.)

Whoever started naming fruit desserts after one’s constitution was a genius. Take the grunt, for example. It’s a fruit dessert, topped with big plops of biscuit dough. On its way into the oven, it’s sloppy enough that you almost always emit some sort of unsatisfied grunt. It’s perfect for the days when nothing can impress you.

In my opinion, though, even with betties and slumps and cobblers, that person didn’t go far enough.

Think of those days you dawdle in the kitchen – when you really mean to make dessert, but one thing leads to another, and suddenly dinner’s on the table and the chosen fruit is still languishing on the counter, unattended – why not go for a Raspberry Dither?

I’d love to know what comes out of the oven on the crankiest days. Maybe a Blueberry Bitch?

Guess I’ll find out. The season’s just beginning.

cherry grump

Cherry Grump (PDF)
Made with a robust whole wheat flour (I buy Stone-Buhr , if you must know), the crust for this faintly gingered grump – just another variation on fruit pie, made in a cake pan without pinching, folding, latticing, or worrying – has a sweet, almost graham crackery flavor. Serve it warm, with vanilla, ginger, or coconut ice cream.

TIME: 45 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

For the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water

For the filling:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
2 pounds Bing cherries, stemmed, halved, and pitted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on crust
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
Milk, for brushing crust

First, make the crust: Whirl the flours, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the water a little at a time, pulsing as you go, until the crust holds together when you press a handful into your palm. (You’ll need more water on a dry day, less on a humid one.) Transfer the dough to wax paper, form into a flat disc, wrap well, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and grease an 8” cake pan with butter. Cut the tablespoon of butter into small cubes, and set side.

Make the filling: Combine the cherries with the lemon juice in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir the sugar, cornstarch, and ginger together with a fork until no lumps remain. Add this dry mixture to the cherries, and stir until moist. Set aside.

mixing cherry grump

Remove the crust from the refrigerator, and let sit on a floured surface at room temperature for a few minutes, until soft enough to roll. Using a floured pin, roll the dough into a roughly 14” circle (no need to be too precise about the shape). Fold the dough into quarters, transfer it to the cake pan, and unfold it, centered on the pan. Gently fit the dough down into the sides of the cake pan, allowing the edges to flop over outward.

grump crust

Fill the dough with the cherry mixture, and dot the cherries with the reserved butter. Fold the dough’s edges inward, over the cherries, allowing them to land wherever they may. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle the crust with sugar.

grump headed ovenward

Bake the grump for 10 minutes. Decrease heat to 350 degrees, and bake for 60 minutes more, or until the crust is browned and the filling bubbles excitedly. Let the grump cool about an hour before slicing (the fruit will firm up as it sits). Serve warm.

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Falling

Chai-Scented Applesauce 2

In French, there’s a term for making a noun out of another word, nominalization. (Nom means both name and noun in French.) We do it in English, too, but since I learned it in French, I think of it as a French linguistic term.

I tend to do the opposite, stuffing nouns into action verbs as I see fit. There must be a word for this.

Right now, for example, it’s falling outside. As in, fading and darkening and preparing to hibernate, forcing the last drops of summer out in fits of burstiful color to make room for what’s to come. I think a person could be falling, too, and not just like I did yesterday, stumbling to my knees on the hike down from our campsite. Yesterday, I was also falling when I started making applesauce: it’s a physical representation of reserving energy and gathering strength for a real or metaphorical winter.

Fall has tended to be my worst time, in terms of lupus symptoms. Four years ago, this time of year, I felt the first aching pains of joint involvement, and started to notice how Raynaud’s Syndrome turned my fingertips first an eery shade of white, then filled them with blood, the ruddy purple tone reminding me just how much my skin hides underneath. The last three years, I’ve had time to rest in early fall. I’ve had mini hibernations, two weeks or so of a transition between a summer of personal cheffing and three seasons of writing and recipe testing.

Now, fall is coming, and maybe I’m not falling enough, not getting ready. Not stopping. The warm, secure blanket of sunshine I’ve been cozied under since July 1st is suddenly gone, and I’m Wile E. Coyote, ten feet off a cliff but still running running, barely aware that the chasm below me could develop into a minor problem.

Yesterday, when we got home from hiking, I plunged right back in while my husband spread our gear all over the backyard to dry. Writing calling reading cooking writing. Then the friends we’d been hiking with stopped by on their way out to grab a movie, admitting a three-hour nap had overtaken them the moment they’d walked in their door, and I saw it: I saw the ground below me, and my legs pumping, and wow, I should learn a thing or two from these people.

But exactly how does one begin to slow down? My brakes don’t work very well.

Last fall, I was fine. But last fall, at this time, I was sitting in an empty living room, waiting for a moving truck to arrive. Last fall, I was also on 15mg of prednisone, too high a dose for comfort, and today I hit 7mg, my lowest since the spring of 2006. I hope my body says yes. Rather, I hope I can do the things I need to do so it doesn’t say no.

If only it would give me a list. That would be easier.

I suppose I’ll have to make my own. Obviously, it’ll be a list of Not To Dos. It’ll start with Do Not Make Laps. That means slowing down, standing over a pot of fragrant, crisp apples, stirring them patiently into softness instead of bouncing back and forth from my computer at the same time.

Chai-Scented Applesauce 4

Chai-Scented Applesauce (PDF)
Recipe 267 of 365

As always, freshly ground or grated spices give the most flavor, but even the tinned kind give this applesauce a kiss of spice that’s just a bit different from your typical cinnamon-loaded applesauce. Eat it for breakfast, or for dinner over pork chops or curried chicken.

TIME: 25 minutes prep
MAKES: About 5 cups

5 pounds tart apples (a mix of varieties is best), peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the apples in a large soup pot. Mix the sugar with the spices in a small bowl, pour over the apples, and stir to combine. Cook over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until the applesauce reaches desired consistency (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Leave the sauce a little chunky, or puree in a food processor or blender until smooth, and store in glass jars in the refrigerator, up to three weeks.

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Filed under dessert, fruit, recipe