Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake

STAY CALM

When I sound the fairy call, gather here in silent meeting, 
Chin to knee on the orchard wall, cooled with dew and cherries eating. 
Merry, merry, take a cherry, mine are sounder, mine are rounder, 
Mine are sweeter for the eater, when the dews fall, and you’ll be fairies all. 
- Emily Dickenson


Son returned from Vietnam and immediately dashed off to the coast with his friends, spending his days on the beach, no doubt playing guitar and barbecuing, living the high life. Living much the life he lived in Vietnam for a month, hanging out on an island beach, strumming guitar and eating and drinking with friends. Oh to be young and carefree. Husband headed south, off to spend ten days with his sister and mother. I spent the week at the old homestead with second son and dog, hanging out in the warm, breezy apartment, streaming American television shows, eating salads and working. I write every day, Ilva peeping over my shoulder, prodding me on, giving the occasional suggestion as she vacations in Sweden and escapes her own work for a few weeks.




Son and V. in Vietnam: not your usual vacation. Adventure abounds!

The worries of caring for elderly parents infuse our happy household with painful reminders of reality. As JP returned from the visit with his mother who is now dependent, I receive news of my own mom, stories that are far from cheerful. After years spent watching the degrading health of my brother and my father-in-law, of sharing responsibility with siblings for their care, after losing both harshly, violently and dealing with the aftermath, we had just gotten back on our feet, were just coming to terms with the emotional ravages and here we start all over again.


My days are filled with writing as I finish one article and mail it off and start on the next and the third. I juggle several other projects and try and stay ahead of the game as I am drawn to the sofa and the warm breeze, the calm city (France in August) just perfect for strolling, ideal for finding a café, order a Guinness for him, a fruit juice for me and kick back. Spend the afternoon watching the world go by and analyzing it inside and out with husband.


I try and write the second half of the story of Ettore’s Dishwasher and must focus. This is the first time that I have written about that car accident and by the time I slammed on my breaks and turned my head left and saw that other car plummeting directly at me, felt it slam into the side of my car hard. My eyeglasses flew off as the car spun, the shock pushing my car back off the road, the sound of metal on metal reverberating in my ears flowed from brain to fingertips, from fingertips to keyboard, from keyboard to page my heart was pounding, my hands shaking. I find it funny and fascinating how the brain works. We hover around a topic, refer to it briefly in passing, but avoid looking at it straight in the eyes. And everything remains calm. But the moment we begin telling the tale, we discover how fragile we really are, how raw and painful our heart and our emotions are no matter how much time has past. All I have to do is utter the words my husband spoke to me as he drove me home from the hospital and I choke up, my eyes well up with tears. These memories, the memories of my brother as I last saw him, thinking of his death must stay partially buried, only the tip peeping above the ground like a spring bloom, a hazy, happy image. As soon as I begin to dig, I still fall apart.


And so I write. The second half of that story, which does end on a humorous note, must wait while I finish my article with deadline looming. In the meantime, I have baked a Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake for everyone! This is one of those recipes that I found somewhere long ago and is scribbled in my old notebook, the one that has been dragged around the world with me for the past 30 years, collecting recipes as it fades, smudges and slowly falls into pieces. I did alter the recipe a bit here. And perfect it is! Husband and sister-in-law rolled their eyes heavenward with utter pleasure. Sweet sour cherries sit atop an incredibly luscious, moist cake layer, nestled under a crumble topping with a gentle hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and almonds.


After the Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta topped with Rum Roasted Cherries, this Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake has definitely moved to the top of the “Family Favorites” list, whether for breakfast, brunch, snack or dessert. So simple to make and maybe the best coffee cake you will eat. No cherries? Replace it with any other favorite berry, stone fruit or even chocolate chips.


SOUR CHERRY CRUMBLE COFFEE CAKE

For the crumble:

¼ cup (55 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs (20 g) flour
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbs (10 g) ground almonds or hazelnuts
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter
¼ cup (20 g) old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 heaping cup (about 30 plump) sour cherries, quartered or coarsely chopped

For the cake:

1 ½ cup (200 g) flour *
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
4 Tbs (60 g) unsalted butter
1 large egg
¾ cup (200 ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

* Lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup and then level.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 7 x 10 – inch (18 x 25.5 cm) baking pan or a round or square pan of equivalent volume.

Rinse and pat dry the cherries. Remove the stems and pits and discard. Quarter or coarsely chop the pitted cherries and set aside.

Prepare the crumble:

Place the brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground nuts in a small bowl and blend well. Add the butter in pieces and, using either a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingertips, rub/cut the butter into the dry ingredients until well blended and the butter chunks disappear. Blend in the oats. Place the crumble in the refrigerator while preparing the cake.

Prepare the cake:

Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl and blend well. Add the butter in small pieces and, using your fingertips rub the butter into the dry ingredients until well blended and the mixture resembles damp sand or crumbs. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, lightly beat the buttermilk, the egg and the vanilla together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and fold until well blended and smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan; smooth and spread evenly all the way into the corners of the pan. Evenly distribute the cherries across the surface of the cake batter. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the cake and cherries.



Bake the Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake in the preheated oven for 50 – 55 minutes or until the cake has risen and set and begins to pull away from the sides; the top will be golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack before cutting.


19 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I am so sorry to hear about your mother and mother-in-law... Painful times.

This cake is wonderful. A soothing treat!

Cheers,

Rosa

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Beautifully written as always. How appropriate that you this recipe should be about Sour Cherries. The sourness of the cherries is a metaphor for the pain that you feel through all your losses; however, your greatness is that you were able to turn it into something sweet. Cherishing the sweetness of the memories and the times you had together as a family. The catharsis of baking and writing allow your emotions to flow into something delicious on both the page and in our bellies.

Helene Dsouza said...

A bitter sweet post or sour sweet fits better... I am sorry for your losses, it hurts every single time. =(
But life goes on as it always does, and your son living it to the fullest just proofs it. Sounds like he is a survivor, a person who is ready to discover the world, the good and the bad.
We have a sour cherry tree in Austria, it's extremely sour so we can ti usually. I ll translate the recipe for my mum, she will enjoy it for me. =)

Jill Colonna @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Life is a bowl of cherries? Or Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get... (Forest Gump...) springs to mind. Sensitive times with losses yet happiness - and sheer bliss with this crumble, Jamie. I can see why it's a family winner. Must try it - I can't stop making your roasted cherries. Made it with red wine and served with duck the other day too... it's another winner! Enjoy the calm of August!

Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things said...

Dear Jaimie, such a beautiful post, a beautiful cake and beautiful photographs. I would love to sit and chat with you someday... I feel we have much in common and much to share. Writing is cathartic and, while the painful memories are still there... it can help the long, slow healing process.

Ivy said...

Sorry for the late visit but have been very busy and it seems you have as well. Sour cherries are at their end here in Greece but they are so cheap. I have made many into fruit preserve but have never used in it cakes. I use cherries instead. Next time I go to the farmers' market if I find them I'll try your dessert.
BTW having problem leaving comments when using chrome, I can't understand why.

Jamie said...

@Ivy: You can use any kind of cherry for the recipe, not necessarily sour cherries. Just the more flavorful they are, the better against the delicate flavor of the cake!

Valerie Lugonja said...

The cherries are so dark, they look like sweet cherries. I have kilos of sour cherries freshly plucked off of my tree yesterday and cannot have enough ideas about what to do with them.
This looks yummy.
:)
V

Jamie said...

@Valerie: to tell you the truth, I am not sure what the difference is between sour and sweet (is that horrible of me?) but just use any really flavorful cherry for this....

Barb | Creative Culinary said...

Bittersweet memories tempered with a very sweet and wonderful cake.

You make the most beautiful cakes and desserts, most that I just admire from afar but this one? This I am making. I bought cherries from the farmer's market on Saturday for a sangria I'm posting this week and I have a whole bowl full left over that I 'need' to use...this fills that need perfectly!

How did we let this last week go by with nary a Skype. Life needs to slow down a bit sometimes it seems. I did buy a house this past weekend; it won't be ready to move in til November but I'm hoping (praying) that my own life will have that greater luxury of time once I'm again settled. Then we will have to find a day without interruptions and chat to our hearts desire! XOXO

Rambling Tart said...

Oh luv, I'm sorry to hear about the painful and scary things in your life right now. XO Wishing you courage and peace and strength to face each situation. I'm so glad you have so many wonderful people in your life to love and care for you. XO

Jeanne said...

Oh Jamie, aged parents... it's so hard. And I know what you mean about being to skim over a painful memory without much trouble but that stomach-churning feeling when you actually take the time to turn it over and examine it closely... Ugh. Gorgeous recipe! I so envy the gorgeous French cherries...

Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes said...

Such a bittersweet post, so hearfelt. I didn´t know we shared the same tragedy with a sibling, maybe it´s the reason I felt so at ease with your blog from the beginning, even without knowing? Lovely cake Jamie.

Pam said...

This is a great post. Take care during these trying times. And I'm addicted to sour cherries, and will be trying your recipe.

Carolyn Jung said...

I think it's one of the hardest things in the world to see the generation before us get more and more frail and fragile. Condolences on your losses. But kudos to you for finding a bittersweet lining to it all. ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I felt as though I was peeking over your shoulder Jamie. What a beautiful cake and I hope that your family are ok. I watch my carefully closely for signs that they're still ok :)

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

My mother-in-law is in a similar situation and goes between being "in there" and "off the planet." That's why we have my father-in-law with us. It's not easy but the laws here make things very difficult. Until she has a crisis, it's apparently okay that she can't remember how to use a phone, the dishwasher, the washing machine or the stove - until she hurts herself or others. It's really hard and my heart goes out to your family.

A piece of that cake would make it better. :)

Terra said...

Finally I am stopping to share how much I truly love this recipe! After my trip home to Michigan, it made me miss the never ending amount of Michigan Cherries! I love reading that your son is exploring and enjoying life. I wish I would have taken more trips when I was younger, oh well:-) I hope you have a lovely week, sending hugs, Terra

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com said...

I'm so sorry about your losses and i know how it must be so difficult for you and the family. Food is definitely a way to pour out your emotions. And your fabulous writing is something I'm so appreciative whenever I pay your space a visit.

Sending you loads of hugs my friend. xoxo

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