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Cherry – Orange Blossom Cakes

Cherry Orange Blossom Cakes-Copyright©Tartelette 2008More cherries! I went to visit an old friend this weekend and at the end of our visit, she handed me a bucket and pointed at the cherry tree we could see from her living room window "Go ahead…Go get them. They are delicious". Her husband tends their vegetable garden and it is always a treat to visit them as I am fed fresh tomato sandwiches, cucumber salads and tiny yellow "mirabelles" for the few hours that I am there. I rarely come home empty handed either.

We come from different cultures and yet share many things, we are also quite apart in age but I found Beverly to be a child at heart, one who wished she was not limited to her house right now, one little girl aching to run in the fields and drink icy cold lemonade. Her husband and her are a example of love and understanding, passed the illness, the tantrums, the tough nights. Otis cries sometimes when I am there, quietly, while filling his bucket of water for the herb garden. They have been through this twice already, and Beverly has come out ok so far. He cried a little harder this time because he knows that he has got to stop calling her back, if it is time he must let go. "She is a fine lady" he said "she never gets mad at me for holding her back. I know she is tired though. I need to tell her it’s ok to go if she wants"

I picked up quite a few buckets of cherries and then I called B. because I knew it was getting late I heard Beverly shout from the other room "you are staying for dinner, tell him to get here too." Yes Ma’am!! I pitted some of the cherries and made little cakes while Otis fixed shrimp and grilled veggies. We took our coffees to the veranda and ate quietly when Beverly exclaimed, shaking her head "It ain’t fittin’…It just ain’t fittin’…" (not making this up!). "what’s that?" asked Otis. "It just ain’t fittin' to have cherry cakes and no cherry wine!" Leave it to Bev. to keep it real!

Spending time at their house reminds me of my childhood in Apt, picking cherries, figs and apricot like there was no tomorrow. It also reminds me of the old couple who lived behind our house, with their vegetable garden and their funny house. As a Provencal, I tend to use orange blossom water in a lot of baked goods and I find that it goes really well with cherries. It is widely available now in health food stores and online but feel free to substitute it for almond or vanilla extracts. As a wink to Otis and his fabulous garden, I baked these in mini herb pots lined with parchment paper but muffin tins or other small molds work just as fine.

Cherry Orange Blossom Cakes-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Cherry – Orange Blossom Cakes:

Makes 8
Printable Recipe

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tb. olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp to 1 Tb orange blossom water
1 tsp. baking powder
grated zest of one lemon
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh (or frozen) pitted cherries

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, oil, milk and orange blossom water.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients. Fold in the cherries.
Bake at 350 F, for 20-25 minutes.

Et Voila! Once you get the basic down, you can modify this cake to what is in season. It is one of my go-to formulas when I am urged to bake something in somebody else’s kitchen. Easy, delicious and comforting. I am telling you…success lies half in the smells coming out of your kitchen and half in how fast these little guys disappear.

Cherry Orange Blossom Cakes-Copyright©Tartelette 2008

To the Anonymous comment (did not know people still name their kids that), here are a couple four thoughts for you:

– There are and will be many good news coming to this blog but there is also that other side of thing: life deals you some weird cards sometimes and I can’t just blog about "woohoo" "yippee" moments.

– When Bev called me this morning, she said "Woohoo!! I am on your blog!! And those cherry cakes? We do know how to celebrate life, don’t we?!" . So I think you missed the point of this story. I sure am glad she did not read your comment.

– I bet Barbara, Bri, Bev, Jen and others did not decide to fall sick at the same just to make you uncomfortable. The fact that I chose to honor their fight with a dessert is nothing compared to what they need but it is a little pick me up. I want to say "Gosh, you have no heart".

Goat Cheese Ice Cream and Fresh Cherries

Goat Cheese Ice Cream And Cherries-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Lately I have been on a fresh goat cheese and cherry kick. A bite of soft cheese of bread followed by a couple of cherries, pitted cherries filled by a spoonful of creamy goat cheese, chopped cherries folded into goat cheese cream on toast for breakfast. Nope, not pregnant, just enjoying the simple pleasures of summer and life in general. Like dipping my feet in the river when I can catch the right tide, catching crabs or taking the neighbors' kids down the creek at low tide to watch the herons. I live for moments like these and thank you Tea for reinforcing my feelings that the immediate, simple things in life are to be lived to the fullest.

You must be wondering if I live in some sort of idyllic community. It’s hard to understand our rhythm until you come visit like my aunt and uncle did earlier this month. Dinner? Let’s go check the crab traps! Sunset? Let’s get the sailboat and go for a ride? Just yesterday, C. called because our dogs had decided to trade house for the evening! I had Poo running award in the yard and she had Tippy begging for cake! Finally the twins created a little diversion with the cat and the turtle and everybody was back in their due abode. If we are eating outside on the patio and there is activity next door outside, it’s not long before we are "summoned" to bring that plate over and we’d better add a beer with it! Thanks to the weather, winters are just about the same.

Little things like these are big things for me being so far away from home. The warmth and appreciation for life in our neighborhood make it a lot easier to be away. It is never intrusive, always supportive and I am glad that my family got to sample a little bit of our life in this sea town that is Charleston. The heat and the water nearby make it very difficult not to feel like you are on vacation most of the week…except when the mean man calls about a past due phone bill…oops! My rhythm adapted along the years, not very different from my upbringing in Provence, and I don’t think I could go back to big city life now!!

Why this rambling about living to the fullest and being appreciative? Well, because I needed to write it out and also to tell you about another basic pleasure I enjoy: homemade ice cream. And you thought this post had nothing to do with food! The ice cream machine has indeed been working overtime this week, churning batches of classic flavors like vanilla and salted butter caramel but more interesting ones like goat cheese. With this heat, I have had no desire to crank the oven on, except to make our bread and that was done way late at night when it was a mere couple of degrees cooler.

I chose a fresh mild goat cheese for the ice cream since I was taking it over to the neighbors and did not want anybody to go "ewww" on me. It worked beautifully with the cherries that I just pitted and sprinkle with some lime juice. Obviously, with the heat outside, the whole thing turned into cherries with puddle of goat cheese cream, but at least I did not hear any complaints!! I hope that Mike from Mike’s Table likes the concoction because I a virtually sending these over his way for his Frozen Dessert Event!

Goat Cheese Ice Cream and Cherries-Copyright©Tartelette 2008Goat Cheese Ice Cream And Fresh Cherries:

Serves 6
Printable recipe

For the ice cream:
2 cups milk (50 cl)
1/3 cup heavy cream (10 cl)
3/4 cup sugar (170 gr)
2 egg yolks
1 Tb vanilla bean paste or 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
3 oz goat cheese (90gr)

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. In a saucepan set on medium heat, bring the milk and the cream to boiling point, slowly pour a small amount on the egg yolks to temper. Pour the remaining over the yolks and sugar. Stir well then pour back in the saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the cream thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the goat cheese until completely melted and incorporated.
Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Process in an ice cream maker according to your machine’s manufacturer’s instruction.

For the cherries:
Mix together 2 cups pitted cherries and 2 Tb fresh lime juice

Cherry and Coconut Coffee Cake

As I am writing this there is only one piece left of this delectable coffee cake. We had company over this morning and the six of us practically devoured it all. It took all the persuasion in the world to save this little piece for a photo opportunity. "Good" would be a small word to describe it…it brought silence to a table of people mighty hungry after a boating excursion.
I usually have a brioche ready for sunday brunches, either toasted with butter or turned into French toast, but I kept seeing coffee cakes popping on a couple of blogs and my stash of fresh cherries was demanding some attention, other than clafoutis or muffins.

I fell in love with coffee cakes a few months after moving to the US. What’s not to love in a cake filled with spices or fruit and topped with shortbread crumbs? What’s no to love in a cake so versatile that you can adapt it to the seasons ans have any time of the day? Made with coffee or served during coffee breaks, it seems to have taken a life of its own regarding ingredients much like creme brulee has its variations.

I figured that there was only a few authorities capable of giving me the "perfect" recipes, and I turned to our trusted Dorie Greenspan for ideas. I adapted her original recipes to fit the ingredients I wanted to use and since I am still on my coconut and cherry kick, well, here they are again!

Cherry and Coconut Coffee Cake, adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Serves 8

For the crumb topping:
5 Tb unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup almond, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Put all the ingredients, minus the nuts in a food processor and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs. Put into a bowl, sit in the nuts , cover and refrigerate while you prepare the cake.

For the cake:
2 cups, fresh pitted cherries (can use frozen, not thawed)
2 cups plus 2 tsp. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
grated zest of one lemon
6 Tb. butter, room temp
2 eggs
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup grated unsweet coconut

Toss the cherries with 2 tsp. flour and set aside.
Combine the remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and grated coconut together.
With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together with the lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time and add the coconut extract. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure it is all combined. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the the flour mixture and coconut milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
Gently stir in the cherries.
Pour the mixture in a 8×8 inch square baking dish lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Spread the top with the crumb topping.
Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes back clean.

I have to say that this is one cake I am looking forward to make on a weekly basis and adapt it to whatever I have in the fridge or pantry.
I hope it will make a nice addition to Rosa's Sunday Brunch Event .

Cherries and Coconut Mini Cakes

How is it that every time I turn the computer on and spend more than 30 minutes looking at the screen, my "favorites" box ends up being full of luscious, simple, adventurous, down to earth recipes that I know I won’t have time to get around? How is it that everytime I hit the market, my produce guy, Sunny, hands me a box of the best he’s got around and charges me pennies for it? Maybe because he knows I will bring you a share of whatever I end up making.
Sunny knows my love for berries, blood oranges, lemon, all things tart and puckery, and naturally of all things "cherries". He tried to compete with Beverly for all things local and homegrown but when it comes to cherries, he knows one tree is not enough for me…so he brings me case after case.

Every night this past week, I sat down at the dinner table, covered in old newspaper and I pitted cherries, pound after pound. I have preserved, jammed (oh yeah, I am cool like that), jellied, pickled and froze 30 pounds so far. Crazy? maybe, I don’t know…I see red everywhere…If I see one more pit I might scream…I think people wonder why I paint under my nails…! But there you have it: first installment of a very cherry summer to come (oh, yeah , I am funny like that) in the form of mini cakes inspired by 3 different recipes I had bookmarked from other blogs, and as a Taurean, not quite capable of making up my min,d I decided to combine all three and make my own little tambouille (French slang for nosh).

Cherries and Coconut Cakes

Makes 8-10

8 oz flour (230 gr)
6 oz sugar (170 gr)
2 eggs
2 Tb. melted butter

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. baking powder

grated zest of one lemon
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh or frozen pitted cherries

1/2 chopped almonds or coconut

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, melted butter, coconut milk and extract.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients. Fold in the cherries. Sprinkle with almonds. I wanted to use coconut but ran out after another baking project.

Divide between muffin tins lined with cupcake liners, or other molds. I used Reynolds heart shaped molds, coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 F, for 20-25 minutes

Sour Cherries, Avocado and Mascarpone Verrines

I am not what people would call a "fashion victim", food wise or clothes wise. I know the shape and curves of my body and what will feel good on it, what fabric I like and cuts that I love and look good on me. The same goes with food… with the exception of verrines, or what one might call "creations in a glass". Whether savory or sweet I have been fascinated by them since I saw them on Mercotte's blog over a year ago, and since I was given this book at Christmas. The European culinary scene seems to have been quite fond of them for a couple of years now and I totally fell for them , so go ahead…say it…I am a verrine fashion victim…and it is mighty sweet.

I am also another kind of food fashion victim as I love to participate in blog events. Not only do I have the chance to share my passion with others but I also discover a multitude of great blogs and talented cooks everywhere in the world. When I read about Chris from Mele Cotte’s event Cooking to Combat Cancer, I knew I could not sit back and not participate.

Too many people in my life have been taken away by cancer, particularly my grandmother and my brother. I felt complete loss of control when they died: could I do anything to prevent this in me? Probably not if it is in my genetic profile, but since there is no way to know and since our family health history is not that great, it could certainly be improved, and I could do my part with what I would put in my body. My diet was not bad to start with since my parents very rarely served us boxed or processed foods but I think I developed a sort of acute awareness to the cancer fighting essentials around me.

I know what looks good on me, but I also know what does my body good and food wise, even desserts can do their part in fighting cancer. For this particular event I wanted a shock full of cancer fighting foods in evey bite and although I was not sure how my little creation would turn out I thought it was worth the try. These verrines turned particularly tasty, surprisingly tasty!
I am new to avocados in desserts but after my first try a few days ago, I have to say I am a convert and they won’t go only in my salads anymore!

Sour Cherries, Avocado and Mascarpone Verrines:

Makes 4-8, depending on the size of the glas you use.

Mascarpone mousse:

5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces mascarpone, softened to room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Cream together egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until mixture is thick and doubled in volume. Remove from heat. Stir in the mascarpone until completely blended.
In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Avocado Mousse:

3 avocados, pitted, skin removed and cut into cubes
1/4 sugar, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
juice of 1 lime
In a food processor, combine the avocados, sugar and lime juice and puree until smooth. Whip the cream to soft peaks and slowly fold it in the avocado mixture.

Sour Cherry Topping:

1 cup sour cherries
1 cup sour cherry jam

Heat the jam and cherries over low heat. Let cool to room temperature until ready to assemble.


Do this just before serving as the avocado will oxydize a bit and get brown over time.

Layer the mascarpone and avocado mousse in glasses or conainers of your choice and top each with a 2-3 Tb. of the sour cherry mixture.

This dessert is health in a glass (if you forget the heavy cream….) as avocados are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body. They are also high in protein, fiber, niacin, thiamin, ribofalvin, folic acid, zinc and healthy fats (see…you can forget about the heavy cream!). Cherries contain the anti-cancer bioflavonoid quercetin.

Update: I apparently converted my temperatures wrong for the salted butter caramels. I corrected the recipe accordingly.