Weekend Cooking: Sour cherry cake and Biscotti

Remember that Black Forest cake I made?

(If you don’t, I posted it here!)

Anyway in that Black Forest cake (long eaten, it doesn’t keep well with all that fresh whipped cream), were lots of these lovely morello cherries, a jar of which I had bought from my friendly local Trader Joe’s.

I still had a good half of the jar left and unlike last year, when I completely forgot about the remaining cherries until it was way too late, I wanted to use them up.

There are quite a few things I could have done with it. A pie or crumble perhaps? But I didn’t really have very many cherries and I didn’t want to sweeten the cherries themselves too much (which I imagined I would have to do to make a sour cherry pie less sour?). So instead I looked for a sour cherry cake recipe and luckily this one sounded like it would work! I was attracted by the “Easy and Delicious” part, as well as the way the recipe was given in both volume and weight – I’m very fond of my trusty digital weighing scale, perhaps one of the most useful tools in my cupboard.

I pretty much followed the recipe steps except for using the zest of one small Meyer lemon and not measuring it to see if it was indeed 1/2 tsp worth. And not using quite enough cherries as it was about half the jar of Morello cherries. I think I would have liked more cherries in the cake and the recipe does call for the whole Trader Joe’s jar, drained of course.

The cake turned out just right. It wasn’t too sweet and offered a nice contrast with the sour cherries. I don’t like when cakes are too sweet so tend to reduce the sugar amounts when using American recipes. But this one didn’t seem like very much sugar so I left it as is.

The only thing is that my 5yo was a bit dismayed that the cherries were still a bit sour.

Oh and the remaining juice in the jar? I ended up adding that to a sirloin pork roast dish I made. I had braised the pork in beer but wanted to add more sweetness to the dish. So I took the cooking liquid that remained in the slow cooker, added a good slug or four of the cherry juice to it and reduced it way down to a kind of beer-cherry reduction. And it was the perfect sauce for the pork.

In case that wasn’t enough baking and cooking for one day, I also tried out this King Arthur Flour recipe for vanilla biscotti. I was intrigued by the “American-style” description, as the recipe hints that it’s more light and crunchy and not as hard as Italian-style biscotti. I’ve been thinking about Christmas gifting, usually I bake gingerbread cookies to give to school teachers and friends but this year, maybe I’ll give biscotti!

The interesting part about this recipe is that after the first bake (when they’re still in log form), the logs are given a sprinkling of water, which makes slicing easier, and which I guess makes them less hard?

I followed the recipe closely, reducing the sugar just a little but I think next time I will reduce the sugar more. And maybe increase the salt to 1tsp. I’d also like to try it with add-ins, perhaps chocolate chips (which my kids would love), perhaps one batch with some roasted almonds, and I would love to try one with earl grey, and maybe cardamom. The only thing I don’t want to do is glaze or ice them!

What flavors do you like in biscotti?

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

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What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

In the first chapter of this book, I learn a surprising fact about China – it has one standard time zone, despite it spanning five geographical time zones! How confusing is that?

Luckily this book, despite its interweaving stories of an expat family, a long-lost brother, and a housekeeping staff-turned-ayi, isn’t confusing at all.

Sunny is from rural China. She works as a maid cleaning rooms and serviced apartments at a hotel in Shanghai. Her name isn’t Sunny of course – it’s just a name tag she picked out of the bin, finding something that seemed right about the name, although she couldn’t even read it herself.

“Chinese names were too difficult for foreign residents to pronounce and carried too much meaning to be revealed to the Chinese speakers. When characters in a name were combined, they produced a complex of feelings and images. That was no good; the best thing for a housekeeper to be was forgettable. Better to take on the blankness of American names.”

One of the apartments that Sunny cleans belongs to the Zhen family, an expat family returned to China after a decade in the US. Lina and Wei have had a long history, having been betrothed since they were young. Wei works long hours at his advertising job, Lina is one of the many taitais in the hotel – “ladies of luxury who could not be called housewives because, aside from cooking the occasional meal, they did no housework at all”.

Wei’s long-lost brother Qiang, contacts them out of the blue after 22 years, and comes to visit. What exactly does he want? Why did he disappear all those years ago? And it turns out that Qiang and Lina have had a history of their own.

I’ve read quite a few books by Chinese authors but this one is written from a very different perspective of a returning Chinese family. Their move from China to the US and then back to China was such a contrast – from a young couple with no money to spare, entertaining themselves by wandering into drugstores and looking at all the goods on display and not being able to buy anything, to becoming a well-off expat family living in a fancy apartment, owning Rolex watches and expensive jewelry. It was a bit hard to like Lina though, although I felt like we had plenty in common in that I am an immigrant to the US myself and while Singapore isn’t such a huge contrast from the US with all its shopping malls and what not, there were all these very “American” things that fascinated (and sometimes frustrated) me. Like the way our first apartment had an open kitchen and this combination cooker hood/microwave over the stove – how was one to get rid of all the cooking smells if that was all?

“American kitchens weren’t designed for wok use, Lina complained. She had tried the American recipes and decided people here didn’t know what real cooking was. All that boiling and baking? Those were safe ways of preparing food. Oil was meant to be splattered on walls, the wok lid held in front of your body like a shield. Cooking, she said, was an act of love and creation. Danger should be somewhere in the mix or it didn’t count. You had to put yourself on the line; you had to sweat. Chinese cuisine required more energy and a higher flame.”

What We Were Promised is a story of contrasts. Sunny’s qunzu fang, a room she shares with five others and which reeks of boiled cabbage and urine vs the large and luxurious jasmine-scented Lanson Suites she cleans. The silk factory where Lina’s father worked vs the skyscraper in which Wei’s office is located. Rural vs city life, rich vs poor.

In case you can’t tell by now, I loved this book and I am just so excited to see what else Lucy Tan writes.

Is it too late to join #NonFictionNov ?

 

 

 

 

Week 1: Your Year in Nonfiction So Far (Hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness)
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

 

So far this year I have read 15 nonfiction books, 9 of which were audiobooks. That may sound like a decent number, but it’s really not, as it’s only 7.5% of my total so far this year! And as for why most of them are audiobooks… I don’t have a long commute and when I’m in the car with the kids (that is to say, a good part of my day) I let them listen to audiobooks of their choice (current fave is the Wings of Fire series). I listen to audiobooks when I’m taking a walk and prefer to listen to nonfiction books, which are easier to pick up again after some time away. Oh and in the past year or so I’ve been crocheting and audiobooks are the best thing to crochet with.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

In terms of my nonfiction reading, I read mostly memoirs and a few science nonfiction. My favourite nonfiction is I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong, which really opened my eyes to the fascinating world of microbes! As for favourite memoir, it’s hard to pick really! I enjoyed Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, partly because it was set in South Africa, and Shaun Bythell’s Diary of a Bookseller, a sweet and funny read by the owner of Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

I really don’t read as much nonfiction as I want to but I think in the past couple of years I’ve been more attracted to science-related nonfiction.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Book recommendations! And also inspiration to read heaps more nonfiction! I’m currently on the look out for a true crime read, in order to finish the Popsugar challenge!

Thanks for reading! And feel free to throw all kinds of nonfiction reads my way.

It’s Monday and it’s November!

Hello November. Why is it still so hot?

We attended a class picnic for my second-grader on Saturday and it was a hot day. Luckily the picnic area was nice and shaded but the playground was in the sun and the kids were all sweaty after. And it was a fun variety of food from tamales to fried rice to Señorita bread.

On Sunday, we finally got to take the husband out for a nice birthday meal and he wanted sushi.

And of course the big day last week was Halloween. There was a school Halloween parade, a class party for the kindergarteners and then trick-or-treating at our neighbourhood. It seemed a bit quieter this year and we actually had candy leftover. The boys of course were thoroughly pleased with their haul, and they had fun going around the neighbourhood with their classmates who live nearby.

Making a spider out of marshmallows and pretzel sticks

 

Someone had a last-minute change of heart about his Batman costume and decided to be a ninja for the school parade. So I hastily crocheted him some gear to make him a ninja!

The Black Forest cake I made for the husband’s birthday.

Currently…

Reading:

Watching:

West Wing and Queer Eye

Listening:

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Eating:

Kabocha squash buns

Drinking:

Water but I just had some Yorkshire Gold earlier

Cooking:

Korean sweet potato noodles with Napa cabbage and chicken

Maybe shepherd’s pie this week

Last week:

I read:
Red Sparrow – Jason Matthews
Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover – Sarah Maclean
Fledgling (reread) – Octavia Butler

I posted: 

Weekend Cooking: Black Forest Cake

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

Weekend Cooking: Black Forest Cake

My husband’s birthday is on Halloween so it’s always a tricky thing to celebrate. The day itself is difficult as there’s so much going on – school parade, class parties and of course trick or treating! And this year with Halloween falling on a Wednesday, it seemed too early to celebrate on the weekend before (and too late the weekend after). So we made do with the day before.

The husband’s favourite cake is Black Forest and I’ve been making it for the past few years. When I started out it was a bit of a disaster but I think this year I’ve gotten it almost right – well except for my cake decorating skills. I really had a tough time putting those chocolate shavings on nicely!

Black Forest Cake

Last year I used the recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen but felt that the sponge cake wasn’t chocolatey enough and a bit too finicky for my liking – it uses a lot of eggs and has to be baked immediately or it starts to deflate.

When I made my son’s birthday cake earlier this year, a chocolate raspberry cake, I used this great chocolate cake recipe from King Arthur Flour which has a great chocolatey taste and texture – it uses yogurt/buttermilk and boiling water and somehow that seems to make for a great moist cake.

Black forest cake in the making

So I used that same great chocolate cake recipe for the Black Forest cake and it turned out to be the right choice.

I use the jar of sour cherries from Trader Joe’s, cutting each cherry in half and saving the juice, to which I added some sugar and boiled down a bit to make a syrup. The syrup is then brushed onto each layer of cake to add to the flavour and moisture of the cake.

Then it’s topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream – I used 3 1/2 cups of heavy cream to 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and you could add a splash of kirsch if you want.

And place some of the halved cherries on top of the cream, making sure to spread them out but not to put too many pieces. Keep going with the layers until you reach the top layer which should just have a layer of whipped cream.

I then did a quick crumb coat of a thin layer of whipped cream on the sides, stuck it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and then finished off piling on the rest of the cream on the top and the side.

For the chocolate shavings, I just used a vegetable peeler on a bar of dark chocolate. And somehow try to pat them onto the side of the cake and sprinkle some on the top.

And that was my Black Forest Cake of 2018!

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Weekend Cooking: Pizza Party Buns

Most of the time my email box is full of things to delete. But there are some emails I look forward to, like those from King Arthur Flour filled with recipe suggestions. Last weekend there was one about pizza riffs. And a recipe for their pizza party buns.

I wasn’t planning a party but I thought that these would make for great school lunches!

My 7yo is in second grade and my 5yo is in afternoon kindergarten so both of them need a quick and easy lunch.

Pizza Party Buns to the rescue! You can find the recipe here.

I put my own spin on the recipe, exchanging about a third of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour and added some dried Italian herbs to the dough.

While it was rising, I got to work on my sauce. I usually go with the Smitten Kitchen uncooked tomato sauce but wanted to add in some extra vegetables so that this would be a more of a meal-in-one kind of bun. So I finely chopped carrots and celery and cooked it with garlic, added strained tomatoes and some herbs and spices.

The dough was easy to work with and roll out.

I didn’t have pepperoni so instead used some deli ham, chopped up, and shredded mozzarella.

I wish I had read about using dental floss earlier as slicing the rolls with a knife was tricky and I had to reshape them when I placed them on the tray to proof a second time.

We couldn’t resist trying one or two – they smelled so good!

I stored some in the fridge for school lunches this week. And then some in the freezer.

I reckon this would be great as a pesto and cheese bun. I’d love to try it with different cheeses too. And was wondering what other vegetables I could try it with. Spinach perhaps? I’ve been wondering if it would be too weird with Brussels sprouts (we love Brussels sprouts!). What do you suggest?

It’s Monday

We had a fun weekend with tennis, swimming class, lots of food and a classmate’s birthday party.

We tried out two new-to-us eateries – one a Korean place known for its fried chicken (The spicy version was especially good!) and the other a Japanese rice bowl (don) place where I had a really good roast beef don.

Also, persimmons are back at the farmers market! I always look forward to persimmon season!

Also the boys tried on their Halloween costumes and were all excited!

Currently…

Reading:

The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Watching:

The West Wing

Listening:

I Contain Multitudes – Ed Yong

(Finally getting there! I’m at 90% now and learning about FMT or Fecal Microbiota Transplantation)

Eating:

Homemade raisin bread

Drinking:

Yorkshire Gold with milk

Last week:

I read:

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor
Being Jazz – Jazz Jennings
The Overstory – Richard Powers

I posted:

The Overstory by Richard Powers

#ripxiii Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date