Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mair Farm-Taki's Cherries and Nash's Flour

I discovered more pie cherries in my freezer. Not my favorite North Star cherries from Grouse Mountain Farm but the Montmorency variety from Mair Farm-Taki. These organic cherries are actually the $8 to $9.75 a pound cherries. This is because Katsumi brings them early in the season, when everyone is desperate for fresh cherries. (The organic cherries from Grouse Mountain are not as expensive--$6.00 a pound. This is true of many fruits and vegetables, if you wait a week or so before buying, the price often drops a bit. For pie cherries, I buy what I can as soon as I see them and Katsumi has such great produce, I like to buy from him.)

Like I mentioned in my last post, I had actually wanted to make a dessert for Tom, so with my thawing cherries in mind, I stopped at Nash’s farm booth at the market to get more Soft Wheat Flour. But like many seasonal things at the market—one week it’s in, the next it's out. On Nash's table they had Soft White Pastry Flour and I think Hard Red Wheat Flour. I had to choose the white flour.

With flour, keep in mind that soft means pastry and quick breads, hard means yeasted breads.
Kia said they sifted the germ and bran out because white flour makes better piecrusts and cakes. I’d rather use whole-wheat flour even though the baking results seemed slightly denser. It’s that wheat germ flavor I was crazy about. I figured they probably did this for chefs in highbrow restaurants since many farmers sell to local chefs. But I make my desserts at home and I loved the flecks of wheat and the fresh wheat germ--how cool is that? And I had doubts about the flavor. How would it be different? Even my kitchen assistant is curious.

I wanted something different than Upside-Down Cake so I considered these options:
I don’t recall ever making a pie cherry crisp, so that’s what I choose. There’s a basic recipe I love in one of my first cookbooks—The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook (1971) by Jean Hewitt. I like this recipe even better than the one Mom gave me years ago. The recipe is called Apple Crunch and I often use variations of the ingredients to create my own recipes.

Pie Cherry Crisp

(Serves 4)
This dessert is all about the crispy topping and heavenly local fruit. You can adapt it to just about any seasonal fruit. I use less sugar in the fruit base so the cherries are flavorful and memorable. Maple syrup is the secret for making the top crispy in this recipe. If you want to make it dairy-free, use margarine.
1 cup Nash’s Soft White Pastry Flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 cups pie cherries (fresh or frozen)
Zest and Juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons crushed kuzu root starch (or use 2 tablespoons arrowroot, or 1 tablespoon organic cornstarch)

1. Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats and baking soda. Blend well. Mix in brown sugar; then cut in butter with a pastry blender until well blended. Stir in maple syrup and set aside.

2. In a 1-quart casserole dish gently combine the cherries, juice, and kuzu. When these are well blended, place the topping over the cherries. Smooth and pat down. Bake for 50 minutes. Top will be browned and crispy. Let cool slightly before serving with coconut sorbet or vanilla ice cream.
A good kitchen assistant takes time to pose with anything, but I don't think that's Finn's favorite part.

This is what he really wants. Use this crisp recipe year-round for all your favorite fruits.

The flour wasn't as flavorful as the Soft Wheat Pastry Flour, and I still like wheat better than white, but the cherries, once again, were the real stars of this show. Go forth and create your bliss.

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