Category Archives: cherries

Sour Cherry Babka with Quark Cheese & Maple Glaze Recipe


Keep the Metamucil close, because I’m coming at you with this totally irresistible, incredibly addictive Babka with sour cherries, quark/cream cheese and maple syrup glaze. This brioche-like Babka is an awesome culinary cross between Slavic and Jewish Easter recipes. It’s a great sweet bread to make few days in advance of Easter and keep it at the room temperature or in the fridge (while secretly cutting slices at night when no one can see you devouring it with melted chocolate drizzle and ice cream).

The maple syrup glaze made with one of those gorgeous maple products you procured the other day at the SS fair will have time to get absorbed and you can add a fresh layer of it just before serving.

The down side of this yeasted cake is that you have to find half a day to make it. Allow yourself exactly 4 hours and 40 minutes to have the Babka finally baked and cooling. We made it last night, finished at almost midnight, so there will be no detailed pictures of the steps of making the dough, but I don’t think you really need them. I know the leavening part is imputed to often baking flops. Many of home bakers lambaste themselves over it, but you’ll never know until you try, right? When armed with the proper ingredients, right proportions and yeast that IS actually ACTIVE, I see no reason anyone would fail this mission.

On the upside, this Babka is incredibly deliscious and versatile with some extra additions like honey, melted chocolate, butter, maple syrup, caramel, etc. It can be stored at the room temperature for up to three days or for few days longer in the fridge.

Sour cherries give a great fresh tang balanced delicately with the cheese mix (lightened with the quark cheese instead of pure cream cheese and maple syrup to replace sugar) and spongy, yeasty dough. Simple and attainable goodness and a stunning center piece (given you saved your night trips to the fridge for the better days).

Our midnight steps… followed by some blurry final shots…

The boring part is the waiting times for the dough to rise, which on the other hand, gives you time to do many other things in between. Otherwise it’s fun to whisk, rock and roll. But if you feel that you are not yet ready for the challenge and might find the experience still humiliating, just wait till I post something much simpler but equally adorable next week.

Happy Easter Baking!
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PS: Here are some other good ideas for the Easter breads we’ve posted previously:  
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MAPLE GLAZED SOUR CHERRY BABKA WITH CHEESE
Yields: 10 to 12 portions
Ingredients:
For the Babka Dough:
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup, plus 2 tbsp plus a pinch of granulated sugar
¾ cup warm milk
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour, extra for the surface
Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, extra for the bowl, pan and lining parchment paper
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp of cream for an egg wash
1 ½ cups pitted fresh, thawed or drained sour cherries
For the Filling:
6 ounces quark cheese
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ cup maple syrup plus 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
For the Glaze:
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp milk
Instructions:
Sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over warm milk in a medium bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.
Whisk together remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the egg, and yolk. Whisk into the yeast mixture.
Combine flour and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a mixer. Add egg mixture. Beat on low speed until almost fully combined, for about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough-hook attachment. Add butter. Beat until smooth, soft and slightly sticky, for about 10 minutes.
Butter a large bowl. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface; knead for a few minutes until smooth. Place in bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Make the filling: stir together quark cheese, cream cheese, egg yolk, maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.
Punch down dough. Transfer to a floured work surface. Let stand for 5 minutes. Roll out to an 18-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush edges with egg wash. Spread the filling over the dough. Top with cherries. Tightly roll dough like a jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. Coil into a snail shape on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Drape plastic wrap over dough. Let stand in a warm place until risen by half, 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap. Cut six ½-inch slits into top. Bake rotating halfway through, until golden, for about 55 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake until deeply golden, 15 to 20 minutes more (cover with foil if the top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cake cool.
Make the glaze: Mix together maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar and milk. Add more sugar or milk to reach the desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from: Martha Stewart’s Yeasted Cheese and Sour Cherry Coffee Cake

Sour Cherry-Happy Pie vs Phony Fruitcake


Fresh sour cherry summer pie is one of those foods that I just can’t stay away from no matter how hard I try: it’s the best way for me to enjoy those intensely tangy and rich little fruits in season. In the juxtaposition with the neutral and subtle baked pear, the cherries shine even more. I intensified the filling taste with lemon zest, ginger and cinnamon and added a bit of almond flour to the crust dough to give an extra nutty charm to the flaky crunch. I also replaced the standard vanilla ice cream with quick homemade yogurt cream. The result: simply irresistible summer concoction bursting with freshness and flavors!

This pie actually broke my almost 10 days of strict diet regimen. In strive to get more of a bikini body towards vacation time I decided to be more active: I took up running and (almost) eliminated sugar and carbs from my diet (fats die hard with me). My only dessert during this time was a little fresh watermelon cake, the recipe of which I picked up from Better Homes & Gardens (June 2014 issue), although I’ve discovered many of them on Youtube and internet after.

I got really hooked: it was refreshing and innovative with almost zero calories and great quench. I named it phony fruitcake and continued to experiment with the concept of having the no-bake body of a cake made of fresh fruit. I eliminated the frosting part (which was a little too kitsch for me) and just kept carving my phony fruitcakes from melon, pineapple, papaya, etc. topping them with fresh berries and sometimes a lace of berries coulis with maple syrup instead of sugar. The cake didn’t have much of a substance, but I liked the simplicity and the skinny side of it.

The phony fruitcake became my best dessert-friend for a while and I really hoped that our connection would last… Then the sour cherry-picking time arrived and I became ravenous-hungry for an old-fashioned simple rustic pie with lattice crust. (Last summer I already disclosed my weakness for sour cherries here).

So when a friend came with a pack of pie dough in shell (yes, I’ve even cheated on the dough this time) to help me cherry picking and asked me to ditch the diet for once (politely) and whirl the grandma’s cherry pie with her, I gave up. Later that night I was devouring the best cherry pie I’ve had in a long time, even with commercial crust (below is my recipe of the pie dough from scratch).

I quickly traded the previous motivational quote by Kate Moss: ‘’Nothing tastes as good as thin feels’’ (heck, I don’t even remember how thin feels, although I’m sure even Bethenny Frankel often feels like that too) for much more appealing one by Woody Allen: ‘’ When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.’’ (What a great soul bargain – I like it!) 

Like anything seasonal, my phony fruitcake has to go into temporary liquidation. Obviously it’s hard to compare these two desserts because both are very different and have almost the opposite designations.   The phony fruitcake might be a great addition to some over-the-top posh micro-cuisine table d’hote, or some special occasion, but sometimes you just need a simple cherry galette to nourish your body and soul. It should be noted, the cherry pie tastes much more complex and interesting than just a piece of water melon and is much more than just an empty calorie. It wraps me mentally in my grandma’s blanket and I close my eyes and realize that I’m already in vacation at so many levels…

I suggest you try them both and tell me which one you prefer: the Cherry Pear Pie or the No Bake Fresh Watermelon Cake.  Cheers!

 
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SOUR CHERRY & PEAR PIE WITH YOGURT CREAM
Yields: 8 portions
Ingredients:
For Double Crust Pastry
 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond flour (optional)
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter cut in cubes
1/3 cup (or more) ice cold water
  
For Filling & Assembly
 4 cups (1 lb) sour cherries, pitted (about 1 ½ lbs whole unpitted cherries) fresh, frozen or canned
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
 3 tbsp cornstarch
2 medium size pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp lemon zest
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tbsp butter, to dot
1 tbsp milk for brushing the crust
Instructions:
Combine flour, almond flour, sugar, salt in a bowl or food processor. Add butter and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or rub with fingers until the small clumps form).  Add ice cold water gradually while pulsing until the mixture forms a ball.  Divide in two pieces, form each piece into a ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days).
Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix cherries with sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add lemon zest, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Add pears and mix. Set aside.
Roll out the first dough disk on floured surface to 12 inch round. Transfer to 9 inch diameter round pie dish. Roll out the second dough disk on floured surface to 12 inch round. Cut 10 ¾ inch wide strips from dough round with pizza knife or similar.
Transfer the filling to dough-lined dish. Dot with butter. Top with dough strips in a lattice pattern. Trim the dough overhang to ½ inch. Crimp the edges to seal. Brush lattice crust with milk. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Place pie on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Bake for another 45-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Transfer pie to the rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with yogurt cream, frozen yogurt, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
YOGURT CREAM
1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
1-2 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
Mix the three ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Green Mountain State & Sour Cherry Banana Bread Pudding

I call this simple dessert the epitome of summer happiness as it truly gives your taste buds that special touch of freshness you can only find in sour cherries. Their season is short, however, so if you are a sour cherry lover, you better hurry to the farmer’s market now for these little delicate fruits only show up once a year and not for long. Sour cherries are amazing in baking: they hold well under the temperature while their tartness and tanginess bring any dessert to a new tasty heights. As antioxidant-rich fruits (viva quercetin!) they are also huge on nutritional benefits and are known to relief stress, prevent cancer, improve cardio-vascular and anti-inflammatory functions.

Bread pudding is often associated with a heavy, cloying desserts most often served during fall or winter, but just wait until you try this one and you will surely be surprised. This recipe was inspired by our recent trip to the Green Mountain State – a week of a prolonged indulgence in the green beauty and locally grown organic food. For most of us Vermont is known for its skiing or fall foliage, but it is actually in summer that it really shines and you can see for your own eyes why it has consistently ranked the healthiest state in America. 
Vermont is so much more than just maple syrup or Ben and Jerry ice cream. It’s a lifestyle. The farmers’ markets are bustling with everything from locally grown food, to cheese and wine, arts and crafts. The switch to more organic, good-for-you products is apparent everywhere, even at the level of the convenience stores.
Lush green mountains, crystal clear lakes, pastoral scenic roads, rolling farmlands, rivers and waterfalls – you notice immediately how ”green and clean” this state is. You can actually enjoy the scenery while driving – no billboards obstructing the view. Back in 1968 Vermonters voted to regulate business for the benefit of the landscape and thirsty travelers. Since that time there has been no billboards along their roads. Surprised? Me too. (Curiously, the billboards are also banned in three other healthy and least populated states including Hawaii, Maine and Alaska).
Living in the green paradise clearly has its perks and you quickly notice that well-being is another Vermonters’ forte. People are shockingly friendly and relaxed. So nice and welcoming (so rare in our remorseful post-affluence society) that I felt I was lost in time somewhere between Norman Rockwell’s characters and Happy Hippies. I had to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I was not having a hallucination.
 Like taking a sip of a clean cold water on a hot summer day, so truly refreshing was my summer-in-Vermont discovery. I promised myself to embark on this wanderlust again shortly. So, when am I going back? This weekend, as a matter of fact. Yep, that’s how much I liked it! But let’s get back to our pain perdu aux cerises (French for our Cherry Bread Pudding), my little tribute to the state of all foods good and wholesome.
This lazy-amazing bread pudding takes only 15 minutes to prepare and easily converts to gluten free if you choose to use a gluten free bread like I did. In fact, I much more prefer it with gluten free bread (I used the most popular white rice flour bread variety you can get anywhere, from Walmart to Loblaws) since its major ingredient is rice, and, rice (as we all know) is awesome in puddings. Fresh sour cherries are of course the star of this dessert, but, frozen, dried or canned sour cherries work well too, or, you can vary the flavor using other sour fruits (i.e. apricots, plums, apples, cranberries, etc.) and adapt it to the summer’s bounty your way. One big ripe banana is a must as it makes a perfect taste & texture juxtaposition with any fruit combination. So, in four easy steps: 

  1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees F; pit the sour cherries using safety pin to make about one cup of pitted cherries; cut the bread in 3/4-inch squares to make about 4 cups; peel and cut one ripe banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces;
  2. using a wire whisk, stir together beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl (sometimes I use blender for this to cheat on the whisking);
  3. place 2/3 of the bread cubes in an 8x8x2-inch buttered baking pan or dish; distribute cherries and banana slices; top with remaining bread cubes; pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread mixture;
  4. bake uncovered for 65 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean; cool slightly and serve warm with a splash of cream and maple syrup drizzle (optionally, I also splash it with Grand Marnier) or a topping of your choice.

Looks convincing? Tastes too, you bet!
Bon Appétit and have a Happy Summer Time!
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SOUR CHERRY BANANA BREAD PUDDING
Ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar, or mix of sugar and maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups of milk (or almond milk)
4 cups gluten-free rice flour bread (or regular raisin bread), cut into 3/4 inch squares
2/3 cup fresh or (frozen, canned or dried) sour cherries
1 large ripe banana, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pit the sour cherries using safety pin to make 2/3 cup of pitted cherries. Cut the bread in 3/4-inch squares to make 4 cups. Peel and cut one ripe banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces.
Using a wire whisk, stir well beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl (or use a blender).
Place 2/3 of the bread cubes in an 8x8x2-inch buttered baking dish; distribute cherries and banana slices and top with remaining bread cubes. Pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread mixture.
Bake uncovered for 65 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean; cool slightly and serve warm with a splash of cream and maple syrup drizzle (optionally, I also splash it with Grand Marnier) or a topping of your choice.