Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cherry Streudel from the Settlement Cookbook

Nothing with baked cherries ever tastes entirely bad. 
Well, I am back to both cooking and blogging about cooking after a good month or so in which I did neither. First, my husband and I went to Tanzania. It was amazing and perfect, but the extent of my food preparation was pouring some Jim Beam into highball glasses around sunset. 
The food on this trip was good, but not particularly memorable. It was the sort of food you'd find in a nice hotel anywhere. The one really special thing was the fresh fruit: 
Best-tasting, freshest fruit. 
Then, a day after returning from Africa, I left for New Haven to attend a rather intense teacher conference where I stayed in a hotel for ten days.
My good friend Amanda is getting her PhD in New Haven, and she loves food just like me, so we had some great dinners, most notably, the macaroni and cheese at Caseus. This mac and cheese was one of the best things I've eaten in years. Transcendent, fabulous mac and cheese. 
I am in awe of the deliciousness of Caseus' mac and cheese. Don't ever leave New Haven without eating this. 
Right after the program ended, I took to train to New York to spend the weekend visiting my husband's family. It was a weekend of fantastic eating. 
We had soupy dumplings and Peking duck near his father's on the upper East Side,at a lovely Chinese restaurant with hundreds of waiters, called Shun Lee.  There are really few things as delicious as roast duck with crispy skin, rolled up with a bit of hoisin and scallions. 
Then the next morning, after a long debaucherous night out with friends--where we were serendipitous-ly picked up by the Happy Cabby and treated to a crosstown disco, then drank and screamed karaoke till 2 am--we woke up late and ordered in bagels and lox while staring out the windows at seaplanes taking off from the East River. 
Then we headed to Brooklyn. Adam's mom planned his absolute favorite food event available on this planet: dinner at Peter Luger's. Adam is far less given food-rhapsodizing than I, but he can speak at length on why Peter Luger's is the perfect restaurant. We had tomatoes-and-onions, steak, spinach, and potatoes. Then for dessert, Adam and his mom got pecan pie and apple strudel, and I just ate scoops of the giant bowl of whipped cream ("schlag") that came with. If I even get close to cooking steak half as good, my life will have been worth it. 
Full and happy. 
After dinner we walked off our full bellies along the newly-redone waterfront area by the Brooklyn docks. On a Saturday night it was teeming with families, walking and playing soccer and barbecuing. A joyful and egalitarian view of city planning.
In Brooklyn, we also got Italian ice and pizza.
So, this summer has had some fantastic food, but not much cooking. 
OK, I got so excited remembering everything I've eaten in the past few weeks that I forgot what I was writing about! Cherry Streudel! 
OK, so I found this very old cook book on the shelves in my mother-in-law's house in Brooklyn. She's lived there since the 70's so I find interesting old stuff every time I stay there. 
The 1932 version of the Settlement Cookbook.

This belonged to Adam's paternal grandmother, who, according to his father, was a very poor cook. Tucked  into the pages was a handwritten recipe for "prune cream whip."
This book is very well-known and loved in Wisconsin. It contains a few chapters of general house-wifely information: baby feeding schedules, how to cook for an invalid, what to wear while cooking ("a breathable cap") etc. The recipes are simple--few ingredients--bland, and labor intensive. Being pre-WW2, there are very few instant, canned or other convenience foods.
 I stole it and brought it back to Denver to try some recipes. 
Milwaukee, what the hell.
 There were a lot of recipes for strange and unappealing-looking foods lost to history. I don't know if anyone could be a good cook it this was her main source of information. But I decided to try a recipe from it anyway--I decided cherry struedel because it sounded delicious and cherries are beautifully in-season right now. 

I made the dough, pitted a ton of cherries, and baked the whole thing. It was fun and relaxing, putzing around all day doing cooking projects. 
Drinking PBR, making pastry and not teaching--why I love summer. 

So how did it turn out???
Meh. OK.
It better than not eating cherry struedel, but not as good as pastry-wrapped fresh macerated cherries ought to taste. The dough didn't call for any sugar or fat, and ended up being a sort of tough bread. I read a bunch of recipes online that called for phyllo dough or a more buttery pastry--if you want to make cherry struedel, I would recommend finding one of those, and not using this recipe. I am not even going to bother retyping it.
Tastes ok, but not fantastic. 
My apologies to Ms. Simon Kander, but I don't know when I'll be attempting one of her recipes again, other than for a joke. Though I'm sure, if you could find the fresh fruit, this would have been a real treat back in 1932 Milwaukee. 
I have a couple of precious weeks left before school starts. Looking forward to getting back to some excellent home cooking, dinner on the deck, and relaxing as much as possible before getting back to the grind.

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