Son returned from Vietnam and immediately dashed off to the coast with his friends, spending his days on the beach, no doubt playing guitar and barbecuing, living the high life. Living much the life he lived in Vietnam for a month, hanging out on an island beach, strumming guitar and eating and drinking with friends. Oh to be young and carefree. Husband headed south, off to spend ten days with his sister and mother. I spent the week at the old homestead with second son and dog, hanging out in the warm, breezy apartment, streaming American television shows, eating salads and working. I write every day, Ilva peeping over my shoulder, prodding me on, giving the occasional suggestion as she vacations in Sweden and escapes her own work for a few weeks.
The worries of caring for elderly parents infuse our happy household with painful reminders of reality. As JP returned from the visit with his mother who is now dependent, I receive news of my own mom, stories that are far from cheerful. After years spent watching the degrading health of my brother and my father-in-law, of sharing responsibility with siblings for their care, after losing both harshly, violently and dealing with the aftermath, we had just gotten back on our feet, were just coming to terms with the emotional ravages and here we start all over again.
My days are filled with writing as I finish one article and mail it off and start on the next and the third. I juggle several other projects and try and stay ahead of the game as I am drawn to the sofa and the warm breeze, the calm city (France in August) just perfect for strolling, ideal for finding a café, order a Guinness for him, a fruit juice for me and kick back. Spend the afternoon watching the world go by and analyzing it inside and out with husband.
I try and write the second half of the story of Ettore’s Dishwasher and must focus. This is the first time that I have written about that car accident and by the time I slammed on my breaks and turned my head left and saw that other car plummeting directly at me, felt it slam into the side of my car hard. My eyeglasses flew off as the car spun, the shock pushing my car back off the road, the sound of metal on metal reverberating in my ears flowed from brain to fingertips, from fingertips to keyboard, from keyboard to page my heart was pounding, my hands shaking. I find it funny and fascinating how the brain works. We hover around a topic, refer to it briefly in passing, but avoid looking at it straight in the eyes. And everything remains calm. But the moment we begin telling the tale, we discover how fragile we really are, how raw and painful our heart and our emotions are no matter how much time has past. All I have to do is utter the words my husband spoke to me as he drove me home from the hospital and I choke up, my eyes well up with tears. These memories, the memories of my brother as I last saw him, thinking of his death must stay partially buried, only the tip peeping above the ground like a spring bloom, a hazy, happy image. As soon as I begin to dig, I still fall apart.
And so I write. The second half of that story, which does end on a humorous note, must wait while I finish my article with deadline looming. In the meantime, I have baked a Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake for everyone! This is one of those recipes that I found somewhere long ago and is scribbled in my old notebook, the one that has been dragged around the world with me for the past 30 years, collecting recipes as it fades, smudges and slowly falls into pieces. I did alter the recipe a bit here. And perfect it is! Husband and sister-in-law rolled their eyes heavenward with utter pleasure. Sweet sour cherries sit atop an incredibly luscious, moist cake layer, nestled under a crumble topping with a gentle hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and almonds.
After the Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta topped with Rum Roasted Cherries, this Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake has definitely moved to the top of the “Family Favorites” list, whether for breakfast, brunch, snack or dessert. So simple to make and maybe the best coffee cake you will eat. No cherries? Replace it with any other favorite berry, stone fruit or even chocolate chips.
SOUR CHERRY CRUMBLE COFFEE CAKE
For the crumble:
¼ cup (55 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs (20 g) flour
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbs (10 g) ground almonds or hazelnuts
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter
¼ cup (20 g) old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 heaping cup (about 30 plump) sour cherries, quartered or coarsely chopped
For the cake:
1 ½ cup (200 g) flour *
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
4 Tbs (60 g) unsalted butter
1 large egg
¾ cup (200 ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
* Lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup and then level.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 7 x 10 – inch (18 x 25.5 cm) baking pan or a round or square pan of equivalent volume.
Rinse and pat dry the cherries. Remove the stems and pits and discard. Quarter or coarsely chop the pitted cherries and set aside.
Prepare the crumble:
Place the brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground nuts in a small bowl and blend well. Add the butter in pieces and, using either a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingertips, rub/cut the butter into the dry ingredients until well blended and the butter chunks disappear. Blend in the oats. Place the crumble in the refrigerator while preparing the cake.
Prepare the cake:
Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl and blend well. Add the butter in small pieces and, using your fingertips rub the butter into the dry ingredients until well blended and the mixture resembles damp sand or crumbs. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, lightly beat the buttermilk, the egg and the vanilla together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and fold until well blended and smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan; smooth and spread evenly all the way into the corners of the pan. Evenly distribute the cherries across the surface of the cake batter. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the cake and cherries.
Bake the Sour Cherry Crumble Coffee Cake in the preheated oven for 50 – 55 minutes or until the cake has risen and set and begins to pull away from the sides; the top will be golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack before cutting.