Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

I’m obsessed with oatmeal for breakfast. However, due to my long commute and extreme disdain for early mornings, it’s difficult for me to actually make breakfast in the morning. Anything that requires more than pouring into a bowl or heating in the microwave isn’t realistic for me in the long term.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

That’s where making steel-cut oats overnight and this awesome baked oatmeal come in handy. Both can be made in big batches and store beautifully in the fridge throughout the week.

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

Cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal

This cherry-vanilla baked oatmeal is an adaptation of Heidi Swanson‘s baked oatmeal from the gorgeous Super Natural Every Day. I’ve made her recipe verbatim before and absolutely loved it. This past weekend, I wanted to make it again but only had cherries and vanilla soy milk on hand, so Cherry-Vanilla Baked Oatmeal was born.

Cherry-Vanilla Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day (original recipe can be found via Lottie + Doof)
Serves 6-8

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup sugar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups vanilla soy milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Spray a 9×13 glass casserole dish with cooking spray (or use butter).

In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half the walnuts, sugar (if using), baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk the maple syrup (if using), soy milk, egg, butter and vanilla.

Arrange 1 cup of the pitted/halved cherries in a single layer at the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover with the oat mixture, then slowly drizzle the wet mix over the oats. Give the dish a couple of gently thwacks on the counter to ensure even distribution of the wet mixture through the dry. Scatter the rest of the cherries and walnuts on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal is set. Let cool for a few minutes before serving, and store leftovers in the fridge (will keep up to a week or so).

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie with lattice top

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

Something magical happens when you mix sour cherries with sugar and lemon juice.

Wait, let’s back up. First, we need to talk about sour cherries.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

Apparently, fresh sour (a.k.a. tart) cherries are not easy to come by, at least in the Bay Area. While markets will have piles of fresh, sweet Bings and Rainiers ready for the taking, it is much less likely that the same markets will have fresh sour cherries available. Instead, sour cherries can be found canned, frozen, or dried, and if you’re lucky, at your local farmers market. A friend informed me that she usually gets sour cherries from a farmer selling at the Civic Center market; however, this summer, due to wackier weather, this farmer didn’t have any for the selling.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

I have very little experience making pies (the last time I made an apple pie, I forgot to peel the apples first), so I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Should I just make the pie with sweet cherries, adding more lemon juice to mimic the traditional tartness? Should I just wait until next summer and try my luck again? My sister (a pie-making guru if there ever was one) made a pie with sweet cherries and said it wasn’t that great, and I didn’t like the idea of waiting until less than a month before my 30th birthday to complete this portion of the 30 before 30 project.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

So where to get sour cherries now? Alemany Farmers Market didn’t have any. We called Rainbow Grocery, and they didn’t have any. Should I look for the canned variety? I wouldn’t even know where to start, and using canned cherries seemed to go against the whole point of this project.

So we turned to Berkeley Bowl, and lo and behold, tart cherries were in stock! The cherries had been shipped in from Washington in 2 pound plastic containers – the exact quantity that I needed.

So, back to the pie.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

This pie was amazing. I mean . . . I’m basically speechless. I’ve never had homemade, classic cherry pie before, and this was truly unreal. The crust is buttery, flaky perfection (despite the fact that I overbaked it). And the filling. Oh, the filling. Sour cherries mix with sugar and lemon juice and some cornstarch (for thickening), and the result is just heavenly. If you can find fresh sour cherries, I can’t recommend this enough.

Cherry-hunting aside, making this pie was fairly easy. It takes a while to pit all the cherries (I highly recommend a cherry pitter), and making/shaping the crust is a precise process, but otherwise it’s not back-breaking or overly complicated. And the finished product is more than worth it. Times ten.

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

30 before 30: Sour cherry pie

I used two recipes for this pie: Cooks Illustrated’s pie crust (which uses both butter and shortening for taste and texture, respectively), and Bon Appetit’s sour cherry filling (via Lottie + Doof).

I will dream of this pie every day until I can get sour cherries once again.

INGREDIENTS:

Pie crust
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Sour cherry pie filling
Adapted from Bon Appetit/Lottie + Doof

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Milk (any kind), for brushing on top

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Make the pie crust first, since the dough has to chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out and assembling (and you can use the chill time to pit your cherries). For the next few steps, I used a food processor, but they can also be done in a bowl with either a pastry cutter or two knives or just your fingers.

Add the flour, sugar and salt to the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix together. Take your butter and shortening out of the fridge and cut into small (1/4 inch or so) pieces. Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture in the food processor, and pulse 5 times to incorporate. Repeat the same steps with the shortening. You want the mixture to resemble very coarse cornmeal. Note: I ended up with a mixture that had butter/shortening chunks that were slightly larger than small peas, as opposed to the Cook’s Illustrated instructions – since I didn’t want to overmix, however, I just went with it. The crust turned out wonderfully, regardless.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water into the mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula (add 1 more tablespoon if the dough isn’t coming together). Using your hands, shape the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4-inch wide disks (I forgot this step), dust with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

After chilling the fridge, remove the dough from the refrigerator and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Make the filling. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl, then gently stir in pitted cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

Roll out the smaller disk of dough between two lightly floured pieces of plastic wrap (this is optional; I certainly found it easier to use the plastic rather than roll out directly on the counter) into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie dish, and trim the edges to 1/2 inch length (I forgot to do this, and just ended up with some extra crust – no big deal).

Roll out the larger disk of dough between two lightly floured pieces of plastic into a 12-inch round. Using a pizza cutter, knife or pastry wheel (I used a pizza cutter), cut the round into 10 equal long strips (about 3/4 inch wide strips).

Give the filling one last stir, and gently pour into the dough-lined pie dish, mounding slightly in the center, and dot with the butter pieces. Follow these helpful instructions for arranging the strips on top of the filling to form the lattice. Fold the bottom crust over the ends of the strips and seal together all around the pie. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Brush the lattice pieces with a little bit of milk, then sprinkle with sugar (around 1 tablespoon).

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet (because the filling will spill out, and the baking sheets prevents a big stinky smelly mess in your oven). Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, drape foil lightly over the whole pie until the end (I didn’t check mine soon enough and my crust was already a bit too brown, but it still came out great).

Once the pie is finished baking, remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Resist the urge to cut into the pie before it’s finished cooling; as the filling cools, it thickens up into the perfect pie consistency that’s worth waiting for.

Cornmeal-cherry cookies

Cornmeal cherry cookies

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed a Good to the Grain recipe. And oh my goodness – this one certainly measures up to all previous efforts. In the book, these cookies are presented as Cornmeal Blueberry cookies – I decided to go with cherries, since a) I had a feeling they’d taste like Arizmendi‘s cornmeal-cherry scones in cookie form (and they did!), and b) I only had dried cherries at my disposal. If you’d like to see the original recipe with blueberries, Lottie + Doof has it.

Cornmeal cherry cookies

These cookies were delicious. Perfect buttery mounds of sweet cornmeal, nicely offset by the tart cherries.

Cornmeal cherry cookies

Cornmeal-cherry cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain

2 cups corn flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (Good to the Grain says to use only “finely-ground” cornmeal; I only had standard cornmeal and it tasted just fine to me)
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position the two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small (1/2 inch) pieces. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugar together using a mixer (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment) on low, until they are just combined, then increase the speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl using a rubber spatula.

Mix in the eggs one at a time, until each is combined. Add the flour mixture, blending on low speed until barely combined (roughly 20-30 seconds). Scrape down the bowl again, then add the milk and the cherries. Mix until the dough is combined.

Butter two baking sheets and set aside. Pour the sugar into a small bowl. Scoop out mounds of dough 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls, and dip each ball into the sugar, coating lightly. Place the balls on the baking sheets with about 3 inches between each cookie – any extra balls of dough that don’t fit on the baking sheets should be chilled until ready to bake.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the cooking time. The cookies will bake into lovely little mounds, complete with cracks on top, and are done baking when the sugar crust is golden brown (but the cracks still a bit yellow).