What the hell is self-rising cake flour and, more importantly, where did I get it?
Recipe: Nigella’s Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
So today my shining light of a daughter turns 18, which makes me 97, or maybe it just feels that way. Anyhow, with such an auspicious occasion to mark, I wanted to find an appropriate treat to cap the festive birthday dinner — traditionally the birthday girl’s choice, and as always she’s requested mac and cheese with grilled asparagus on the side.
I found this delightfully easy recipe for chocolate cherry cupcakes in Nigella’s Domestic Goddess book, and was congratulating myself on coming up with the perfect marriage of the adult (sour cherries, dark chocolate) and the childish (cupcakes) in an incredibly simple recipe (bonus!), when I noticed that it called for self-rising cake flour. Now, this item struck me as just a tad exotic to have on hand, but lo and behold after a bit of frantic rummaging I did find some in the dark recesses of the pantry. It is, to say the least, unusual to find exactly what I need on any given day; however, given my customary frame of mind during a trip to Fairway, it is not surprising that I have in stock things I can’t recall ever buying.
Dessert in a Hurry: Clafouti
You know how it is. You’re yacking it up in a bar. The drinks are flowing and you’re feeling a deep and abiding love for mankind in general and your tablemates in particular, so you invite them over for a little home cooking at your place in a couple of weeks. But tequila slammers being what they are, you don’t necessarily recall issuing the invitation the next morning, in which case, you probably won’t remember that you’re supposed to be getting a company meal on the table two weeks hence. So when your pals call to confirm three hours before they’re set to arrive, you really have only two choices: fake sick (in which case I’d suggest choosing an extremely communicable vector-borne disease – mononucleosis, swine flu, or a herpes outbreak, depending on the nature of the friendship) or suck it up and get the chow on the table.
In the event you choose door number two, here’s what you do.
Say yes to cherries!
I love cherries, but let’s be honest, the pits are a real issue. Now, I’m willing to commit to some lingual gymnastics when eating fresh ones, and actually that’s a skill set that can come in handy. Hypothetically speaking, say you’re having a pleasant evening in a bar but realize you’re a bit short on cash and suspect your cards will go all code red if swiped even one more time. Quite often, I have heard, the ability to tie that maraschino cherry stem from your Manhattan into a knot using only the tongue can be parlayed into a side bet that yields adequate funding for another round. In my younger days, I might have seen or heard of such behavior, but these days, well, anyway, let’s move on.
So, recently I was visiting Costco with a friend (and mooching off her card to buy industrial size boxes of fabric softener and Cheerios, I’ll admit) and I stumbled upon these huge bags of dried cherries. I had been buying them at the gourmet grocery for upwards of $20 a pound, but here they were at Costco (and at various sites on the web) for less than $10 a pound. And they taste as good as the high end ones. Happy day!
Let me tell you, dried cherries are the greatest things to have on hand. Tart, sweet, chewy and delicious. You can put them in your oatmeal, add them to brownies or chocolate chip cookies or apple pie, toss them in salads, or just pop a handful in your mouth when you need a little something sweet.