Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thinking of Cherry Almond-Crumble Pie on a Chilly Day in May...

Last weekend, Jamie and I went to my parents' house for a Mother's Day / my Dad's Birthday lunch, and we cooked all kinds of yummy things on the grill--steak and chicken, veggie kabobs, and corn on the cob--I love summer grilling!  I also made Corniest Corn Muffins from my baking cookbook by Dorie Greenspan, a book I just love.  And for dessert, as mentioned in my previous post, I made a Cherry Almond-Crumble Pie.

With the chilly, rainy weather today, I was wishing I had another piece of that pie with my coffee, although also glad that it wasn't here to tempt me.

One of my favorite things about summer is the variety of fruit--cherries, plums, nectarines...  As perfect as fresh cherries are, though, I don't have the patience to pit pounds of them for a pie, so for this recipe I recommend frozen cherries. 
Cherry Almond-Crumble Pie

  • 2 prepared pie crusts 
  • 2 pounds frozen black cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon

Crumb Topping:
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbs) butter, room temperature (not melted) 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, stir constantly, cooking the mixture until thickened, about two minutes.  Stir in the almond extract, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Set aside to cool, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Place one pie crust in a deep-dish pie pan.  Sprinkle lightly with flour to prevent a soggy crust.  Pour cherry filling into crust.  Spread 2nd crust over cherries;  dampen the edges with a little water and press together; crimp the edges.  Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.  If you prefer not to use crumb topping, you can do something fancier with the top crust, then brush with egg wash for a shiny, browned finish.

Place pie on a cookie sheet and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  While pie is baking, prepare the crumb topping by mixing all ingredients together with your fingers until you have large crumbles.

After 20 minutes, take the pie out of the oven, and sprinkle the top with the crumb toppings.  Gently wrap the edges of the pie with foil, to prevent over-browning of the edges.  Return pie to the oven, and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  Let cool completely before cutting.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

In a cherry orchard-2004

Margherita Pizza

I wasn't always a great cook.  Or even a good cook.  My mom used to say I was a complete hazard in the kitchen!  In high school, I managed to melt more than a few spatulas in a hot skillet, burned the bottom of her favorite stock pot completely off leaving it stuck to the burner, caught her oven on fire (when I preheated it, I didn't realize there was a large piece of Tupperware stored inside it for lack of room in our small kitchen), and burned off the wooden handle of an antique kettle (I was home sick and wanted hot tea, but left the kitchen and forgot I was boiling water... when the handle fell down and caught on fire against the burner).  I've added Worcestershire sauce instead of Vanilla extract to cookie batter, and made beef stroganoff with bits of bone in the cream sauce.  

After college, I moved to China for three years to teach English, and while living there, I slowly learned how to cook.  I started by making my mom's recipe for Beef Vegetable Soup (ground beef with potatoes, corn, green beans, onions, and any other vegetable you like, although I wasn't familiar with any seasoning other than salt and pepper).  Then I started trying some recipes from an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook with a broken, orange cover (still in my cupboard).  I liked Betty Crocker for her simple ingredients and easy instructions.  I made biscuits, cinnamon rolls, and even tortillas (living in China, if you wanted American food, you had to make it yourself!)  I didn't make many meat dishes, though, until I met my boyfriend, Jamie.

Among his many wonderful qualities (which I won't go into, or he'll be embarrassed), he's a fabulous cook.  Together, we've experimented with a lot of new dishes, which I started posting pictures of on Facebook for the past year, in my "Cooking Adventures with Jamie" photo album.  I'm feeling the urge to share more, though, about our cooking experiences, as well as our life together.

So this is my first post for my new blog, and I'm very excited!  I've spent the day designing my page, web designing being something I have no experience in (I'll admit I cried more than a few times in the first computer class I took in college where I had to create PDF brochures--I had no idea what I was doing, but the teacher seemed to assume that everyone had some experience and he was annoyed with my lack of knowledge.) 

But who wants to talk about computers instead of food?  :)  Every week, Jamie and I take turns planning our weekly menu and making the grocery list, and for the most part, we try to be pretty healthy so we don't counteract our workouts (which was completely undone by the decadent Cherry Almond-Crumble Pie I made last weekend for Mother's Day / my Dad's Birthday, made even more delicious by the Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream we topped it with).  

Weeknights are simple meals--we don't get home until 7:30 or so since we go to the gym after work--so weekends are our chance to be a little more creative.  Jamie decided on Margherita Pizza for last night, using some pizza dough I'd made a few months ago and frozen in batches.  There are times when nothing tastes better than the greasiness of a deep-dish Pizza Hut pizza, covered in pepperoni, black olives and mushrooms, my favorite toppings.  But I really love thin, crispy crusts, too, and last night that's what I was going for.

We cranked the oven up to 550F (which, as it turns out, is as hot as ours will go), and while that was heating, rolled the crust out very thin (I tried twirling it in the air, but all that accomplished was getting flour everywhere...) and prepared the toppings--a simple marinara sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and herbs, fresh mozzarella, basil, and a few kalamata olives.

The edges did get very nice and crispy, and the top bubbly and brown, but the center of the crust was not crisp at all like what I wanted.  But, in spite of the not-so-perfect crust, the flavor was yummy!  For the next try, I may preheat the pan first, or get a pizza stone, so if anyone has advice on getting the crust crispy in the middle, please tell me your secret!  :)

Until next time...