Making Sweet Cherries Sour

White Chocolate–Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Pickled Cherries

dessert tray

Petite and perfectly round, ranging in color from stop-sign red to Burgundy wine, the sour cherries of the Hudson River Valley are tart but fruity. When you pit them, they’re shirt-stainingly juicy—but not too juicy or fleshy. These sour cherries are grown to be baked, their sharpness the perfect foil for buttery pastry and melting vanilla ice cream.

I first experienced sour cherries in a slice of lattice-crusted diner-style cherry pie. Thick, syrupy, and (paradoxically) saccharine, it didn’t set the bar too high for sour cherries or for cherry pie, but it still piqued my interest. It was later in my youth that I learned that sour cherries hold great importance for Iranians. Their growing season in Iran is as fleeting as it is here so folks preserve them in sugar syrup.

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A Delicious Lie

chewy-gooey ginger-molasses cookies

Cookie Sheet

I am, apparently, a liar. Based on my last post, I lied on two accounts. Unintentionally, of course. I try to be very honest in this space. This medium forces me to be brutally honest with myself, actually.

Last Saturday I thought I had sent this tweet early in the morning: “It’s Dec 1st. It’s snowing. Today’s plans: bake cookies, drink hot chocolate, decorate tree. When did my life get so adorable? It’s creepy.” I really had woken up to a beautiful day. December 1st. It’s the day on which I traditionally acknowledge that Fall is over. The day on which pumpkins can be trashed. On which bands can play and lights can flicker.

Cookie Dough
It was snowing, not treacherously so, but just enough to make my tiny home feel like the inside of a snow globe. I had no desire to run errands or to catch up after a busy week. I wanted to stay safely in that snow globe, sip my tea at breakfast, work mindlessly in the kitchen, and attempt to make a winter — following a fall that hadn’t been the happiest — brighter. To start on a positive note. To stay warm.

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Pies & Tarts

new-school banana cream tart

I cook for fun, I cook to eat, I cook to discover, but baking makes me feel something. A loaf’s slow rise helps me value simplicity and time, a multi-layered torte grounds me in the discipline it requires. In my heart, though, I am a baker of pies and tarts, as simple as they are in comparison. If I owned a bakery, I would be tempted to limit its offerings to these two things. The pie makes everyone smile. The tart is a canvass for combining classic flavor combinations or experimenting with new ones.

When I read the words of other pie enthusiasts, I usually find adorable stories about “Grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb” or “Mom’s Custard Pie.” I cannot reference any such history. In fact, while I have plenty of food memories, they don’t come from a long line of anything in my family, really. My grandmother doesn’t deal with crusts. My grandfather shares my love of pie – eating it, not making it. My mother stopped baking when I started and at that it was always just quickbreads and cookies. And my father can barely tell torte from tart from taco. Oh, and half my family lives 6,000 miles away, across ocean and continent.

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