Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pizza for Any Night

I am rarely in the mood for pizza. Un-American, one might think. When I am in the mood for pizza, I usually go for a veggie type. One of my favorites is spinach pizza, though I have made many styles and combinations. All that aside, lately it seems I have gone off the deep end. Ever since I made the little English muffin pizzas for the Winefest event in late March, I had some of the mixture (pizza sauce, minced pepperoni and Parmesan, with just a bit of green pepper) in the refrigerator. The bottle was filled to the tippy-top, and my assumption is that because there was really no air space, it lasted far longer than it might have. So a couple of weeks ago I made some pizza using that mixture, plus a few more pepperoni strewn over top and then cheese. And then I made it again. And yesterday, while the pizza mixture was long gone, I was still in the mood, still had some pepperoni in the fridge and a fresh batch of grated cheeses. 
Hamburger Pizza with Green Pepper and Mushrooms

My husband loves pizza. Hardly a week goes by that he doesn't come home with a box and have it for snacking on. While he does not generally go for pepperoni pizza, it is okay to have some on it. His favorite is a meat-lovers type, of course. When we make pizza here at home, he usually chooses a combination of hamburger meat, green pepper and mushrooms. While I like this mixture on pizza, as I said, I usually make one with things I prefer. No crossover. 

Yesterday however, I had the hamburger out and mixed up a sauce, made the pizza dough and we had pizzas. This time I made them both the same. And they were delicious. For us, this is a nice pizza for any night. Nothing fancy. Nothing prim and proper. Nothing outlandish.

Last October I'd gotten in the mood to try a Buffalo Chicken Pizza, which, as something different, was really tasty. At that time I had created a recipe for pizza dough for one large pizza. Lately, I have been doubling that recipe and using it to make our separate styles of pizza. I will say, the weather has been exceedingly dry up here, and I have found this makes a huge difference in the flour to water ratio in my bread recipes. Even from October to now, it has been so dry that I had to add a half cup more water to the dough to get it to hydrate at all!  As a refresher, this is the recipe:

Pizza Dough
making pizza dough

for two large (15 - 16-inch) pizzas
(start at least 4+ hours before serving)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, 80 - 90 degrees
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 2 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cups water, if needed
the Sponge (above)

SPONGE: In a heavy duty mixer bowl, or in another large bowl, combine the flour and yeast and mix together. Add the lukewarm water and oil and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (80 degrees) for 1 1/2 hours, until bubbly. (When in a cooler climate, setting the bowl in the oven with just the oven light on creates a nice warm environment. Some oven lights are too hot and will begin to cook the dough. In this case, leave the oven door ajar so some of the heat escapes.) 

DOUGH: Once bubbly, if the sponge was made in a heavy duty mixer bowl, add in two cups of flour and the salt. Set the dough hook in place and begin kneading on low speed until combined, 2 - 3 minutes. If making by hand, add the flour and salt to the sponge and mix by hand. Once well mixed, determine if more flour is needed. If the climate is very dry, you may have to add water. Start with a little and add more as the kneading progresses Once the flour and salt are mostly incorporated, knead for 4 to 5 minutes more with the dough hook, or 5 to 7 minutes by hand, until the dough is smoothly elastic and not too sticky. In the mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but still puddle a little on the bottom. Grease a bowl and set the dough in, turning once to grease all sides, cover the bowl and set in a warm place to rise for another 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

The dough can be patted out and placed on a cornmeal coated piece of parchment (to later slide on to a pizza stone) or on a greased 15 inch pizza pan. If the dough wants to spring back too much, allow it to rest for 10 minutes and try again, stretching to desired diameter. Top with your choice of flavorings and bake at 400 degrees (375 on Convection Bake) for 20 to 25 minutes. 

Slices of Hamburger Pizza

Once the dough is started, you can begin prepping the ingredients for toppings. I like to make some garlic-steeped olive oil to brush on the bare dough once stretched on the pans: combine about 4 - 6 tablespoons olive oil and 4 - 6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced finely. Set this in a small saucepan over the lowest possible heat to steep for at least 15 minutes. It should absolutely not boil. You want a nice garlic flavor: not raw and not browned. Set aside to cool until needed. When ready to make the pizzas, use a pastry brush to brush this mixture over the dough, before any toppings. I mixed up a batch of "pizza sauce"; simple, but good and then began prepping the other ingredients to have everything handy.

These pizzas came out very good. I did not think to use the bottom oven rack for the first pizza, and the crust was more soggy than I liked. Remember to use the bottom rack for a crispier crust. The heating element in ovens is in the bottom, so the closer to the element the pan is, the more browning of the crust.

Pizza Sauce 

for 2 large pizzas

1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano OR 1 - 2 tablespoons fresh, minced
2 tablespoons good Pesto, OR 
  -  4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
  -  1 tablespoon olive oil
  -  1 clove garlic, minced
a package of pepperoni slices, if desired

Combine ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Divide between the two pizzas when ready to bake.

Hamburger Pizza Toppings
Just baked and sliced

enough for two large pizzas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound hamburger meat
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves OR 2 teaspoons fresh leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves OR 2 teaspoons fresh oregano minced

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 green bell pepper, cubed
2 small (4-ounce) cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
16 ounces shredded cheese of choice (mozzarella or combination)
olive oil for pans

In a large heated skillet, add in the olive oil and the chopped onion and cook until the onion is softened and golden. (If you prefer raw onion, eliminate this step and use the onion raw on the pizza - my husband will not accept raw onion on the pizza!) Remove the onion to a place and set aside. Add more oil if needed and fry the hamburger until it is well browned, adding in the salt, thyme and oregano during cooking. Add the onion to the meat, stir, and set the meat aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To assemble the pizzas, stretch the dough to fit two (oiled) pizza pans as directed above. If the dough will not cooperate, allow it a 10 minute rest and stretch again. If needed, do this again, until the dough will fit the pan. Brush the steeped garlic and olive oil onto each pizza round. Divide the Pizza Sauce between the pizzas and spread out evenly. Sprinkle half the Parmesan over each of the pizzas. Strew on the meat mixture, dividing equally between pizzas. Strew on the green pepper bits and the mushrooms. If using pepperoni, set slices, as many as desired, over top of the meat. Top with half the cheese per pizza. Bake the pizzas one at a time on the bottom rack of the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bourbon and Buttermilk - Creating a New Pie

It is interesting to me how I come up with "new" recipes - if any recipe can be called new, really. It seems that every time I think up a concept, if I go out and "Google It", it already exists, and in many forms, to boot. This morning I was thinking about buckwheat, because yesterday I had made the recipe I posted at the beginning of the month for pancakes made with buckwheat and Kamut flour. They were so fluffy and light I made them again  for myself and was eating them this morning. I gave thought to buckwheat scones. I was thinking of what flavors would go well with buckwheat and I though of maple. Upon Googling, sure enough, there are buckwheat scones made with maple flavors. 

Bourbon Buttermilk Pie
I just thought up this new breakfast treat after breakfast this morning, and since scones are best fresh, I will wait on making them until I finish with the pancakes. Since I am the only one eating them, they will last at least 4 days. But instead, I had been thinking about my Chess Pie, which is one of my husband's and my favorite pies. It is so good, and so easy to make, I was imagining what to do to alter flavors just a little. I did see (online) some recipes for Bourbon and Buttermilk pies, some with one flavor, some with others. While they were similar to my Chess Pie, they differed in a few particulars. Since I have been making the Chess Pie for over 40 years, I figured, why mess with a good thing? I planned to stay as close to the amounts for my new recipe as possible.

Just Baked

With that in mind, I looked at that recipe and substituted the Bourbon and buttermilk, but then, what other flavors? I liked the orange extract flavor with Bourbon in the Pannettone Breads I made at Christmas time. I decided to use orange extract in this pie. Of course, when making a pie, one needs the pie pastry also. For me, the "soggy crust" at the bottom of the pie is a highlight, so I do not pre-bake the pie shell. If you are one of those who cannot stand the soggy crust, then I suggest pre-baking, as I described in my post of April 6th, except, once removing the beans or pie weights, do not continue to bake the shell. Just allow it to cool before adding the pie filling. The shell will be subjected to baking for nearly another hour, once filled.

Before and after baking
Chess Pie, if you are unfamiliar with this term, is basically a custard pie. It has just a teensy bit of flour and cornmeal to thicken, but aside from that, it is eggs, milk and sugar.  Butter gives it exquisite flavor. All these things would stay the same, except substituting buttermilk for the plain milk. The bourbon was just an added 2 or 3 tablespoons of liquid. With the amount of egg in the recipe, this would be no problem. I opted to use vanilla bean rather than extract. While 1 teaspoon more, or less, of liquid would be no big deal, I felt that the crisp flavor of true vanilla bean would be better. In retrospect, perhaps at another time, it might be good to use brown sugar instead of white, granulated sugar, for a more caramel-y flavor. 

The results? The Bourbon is noticeable. The orange extract is not. I cannot detect anything that points to buttermilk instead of regular milk. The texture is identical to Chess Pie; smooth and creamy. All in all, while the pie is excellent, I guess more changes are needed to make it truly something other than Chess Pie. Still. If you've never had a Chess Pie, but like the idea of Bourbon in a pie, you might want to try this one out!

While I used a 9-inch pie plate for this pie, the filling was just a little bit too much. It would be best to use a 10-inch pie plate if possible, or make two smaller 8-inch pies. This is what I did:  
Bourbon Buttermilk Pie

Bourbon Buttermilk Pie

makes one 10-inch pie

1 10-inch pie shell

2 - 3 tablespoons Bourbon or Whiskey
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped into the Bourbon
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons / 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Fit the pie crust to the plate and crimp the edges high. Place the empty shell in the fridge until needed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the Bourbon, vanilla seeds and orange extract and set aside. The vanilla may have to be coaxed to separate. Mine wanted to stay in clumps.

Bourbon, vanilla & extract            |                  creaming butter & sugar              |                        eggs added             
In a mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with the flour, cornmeal and salt. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. Add the Bourbon mixture to the buttermilk and add this to the creamed mixture and beat to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. As this is a custard type pie, the center will still be a bit jiggly when the pie is done. It will set completely as it cools. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Curried Lamb Dish for Dinner

Heidi and me opening gifts
I have mentioned quite a few times lately that a friend, Heidi, and I had celebrated our birthdays together. When asked what she would like for our dinner, she said Indian Curry. Since I am a total lover of Indian spices and flavors, an Indian Curry sounded perfect for our birthday dinner. Most times, I use a recipe from somewhere and then embellish to my husband's and my taste. Most often, the changes and embellishments leave little of the original recipe. However, since I had already had at least one and up to 3 guests at a time for the previous three weeks, I was seriously cooked out by the time it came to our birthday dinner. I looked desultorily through some of my Indian cookbooks but could not find a single recipe (which attests to my tired and scattered state of mind) that seemed to fit. The only specific was that it was to have lamb in it for the meat. 

More often than not, when cooking Indian food for guests I really go crazy, making all the side dishes I love so much like Palak Paneer or a Dhal recipe using little red lentils. I make Paneer from scratch, along with whatever is the main dish. I made Gulab Jamun once. I just love those little things for dessert. I have oodles of recipes I have made successfully and deliciously. Besides being hurried, and because I had absolutely no plan for a dish for this meal, nothing sounded good. Maybe I need more cookbooks! Probably not, though I will likely get more. I was updating cookbooks on my Amazon Marketplace and found a couple of books that sound like they could be good. (Indian cookbooks I am interested in here). But seriously, it was not the cookbooks that were lacking. It was just that I had no free time in peace and quiet to peruse and select at my leisure, pure and simple. I am a planner. When something special is required, I take plenty of time ahead and look carefully through my books for inspiration.

Curried Lamb with Peas over Saffron Rice
So it was that I came to the time to prepare the meal (my kids who were visiting had just left that morning, so I was still missing them acutely), with my guest Heidi having just arrived, and still with absolutely no plan for my Indian Curry. I was beginning to panic. Finally I just decided to wing it; something that is very rare for me. I knew I wanted to use coconut milk, because my husband and I really love curries with that flavor. I most often include green peppers and peas in my curries, purely because they are some of the very few vegetables my husband will eat. 
Basmati rice

This time though, I also had Heidi's tastes to consider. She is willing to try things, but to date, her tastes are quite different than mine. She likes more simple foods, and nothing too exotic. I had her taste plantains. She was completely unimpressed and left them on her plate barely tasted. Black beans, the same. She will eat, but sparingly, if she doesn't care for it. She surprised me on two counts this trip, because she tasted my Serbian Grandmother's Beets and Horseradish with ham for breakfast, and while serving herself sparingly at first, she went back for a little more, then a little more, and yet again. Yea, Heidi!

I had already butchered a leg of lamb in preparation for the meal. I just had to find something to do with it. I started pulling out spices that sounded good to me (ALL Indian spices sound good to me!), resulting in quite a list. I got out the coconut milk. I opted to set the meat to "marinate" briefly with a few things while prepping others. The only accompaniment to the curried dish was saffron rice. I could not believe Heidi was unaware of saffron! She loved the flavor of the rice and the smell of the saffron, so I have hopes for her on that score! My saffron rice is simple, but we love it. I buy large bags of Basmati Rice (from India, it says on the bag) when making this rice, and we love the flavor. It is a side dish for many meals - not only Indian.

Saffron Rice

serves 4 - 6

1 cup Basmati rice
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
1 teaspoon salt
pinch saffron
2 cups water

Place rice, butter and salt into a medium saucepan with tight fitting lid. Rub the saffron between fingers to break up into very tiny bits. Add water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on. Remove from heat and leave lid on until ready to serve. 

As for my curry recipe, it came out well, following no recipe at all, but only adding in things I really love. If ground fenugreek is not available, soak a teaspoon of whole fenugreek seeds in hot water to cover for about 15 minutes, then add the seeds and water to the main dish while it cooks. Many Indian dishes are well spiced with chile of some kind. I have red chile powder (not the kind used in Chile con Carne - just plain ground chilies) and added 1/2 teaspoon. The heat was not very noticeable. If desired hotter, use cayenne or add in some hot chiles of choice to cook with the dish. Here is what I did:

Curried Lamb with Peas

Serves 4 to 6
Curried Lamb with Peas
2 pounds lean lamb stew meat
1 teaspoon rosewater or water
1 pinch saffron
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
1 tablespoon Tandoor Spice


2-inches true cinnamon, broken
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, seeds only
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon ghee or oil of choice
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, cut into cubes
1 can coconut milk, stirred
1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
cilantro leaves for garnish

In a small bowl, soften the saffron threads in the rose water or water. Set the meat into a mixing bowl, add in the saffron mixture with the ginger, garlic, salt, fenugreek powder and Tandoor Spice. Allow the meat to marinate while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Heat a dry skillet to medium high and add in the whole Masala spices. Stir them quickly, moving constantly, to bring out their fragrance and oils. Pour onto a plate to cool, then grind them in a spice grinder and set aside.

In a large skillet or pot, over medium heat, melt the ghee. Add in the meat and stir quickly to sear slightly. Add in the onion and cook, stirring frequently until the onion has softened. Add in the ground Masala and stir to combine, then add in the green pepper and about 1/2 to 3/4 of the can of coconut milk. Bring the mixture to boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the meat has become tender. If at any point the pan becomes too dry, add in a little more of the coconut milk, as needed. Stir in the almond meal, which will thicken the mixture slightly. About 5 minutes before serving, add the frozen peas and allow them to that and the curry to come back to full heat. Add the Garam Masala and check for salt. Serve over Saffron Rice. Garnish with cilantro leaves. 

As it turned out, I am glad to report that both Rich and Heidi loved the curry. They each served them selves seconds or more and were so taken with the flavors and style of the curry. We loved it too, so obviously winging it once in a while is also a good thing!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.   

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Maraschino Cherry Cake Revision a Success

I know, cake/frosting/filling recipes two days in a row! There are lots of birthdays in April around here between friends and my family!
Maraschino Cherry Cake, revised, Moist and perfect!

In yesterday's blog I mentioned wanting to see if I could make the Maraschino Cherry Cake I made last August for my husband into something actually moist enough to be edible. I tried one of the tips I found online (using a vanilla pudding mix) in a white cake recipe, but I was less than pleased. While the cake may or may not have been more moist, the flavor was all wrong. Okay, so scratch that particular tip. But the real reason I looked for tips on making a cake more moist was for that Maraschino Cherry Cake. The original cake I made was tasty. Nothing wrong with flavors. It was just way-the-heck too dry. Still, when a friend of ours, Tetiana, stopped over and I offered her a piece, with the caveat that it was far too dry. I had not realized at the time that she also was a cherry fiend along the lines of my husband. For her (she said) the cake was perfect and she loved it!

Some of the other tips on making a moister cake were things like adding more sugar than the cake called for, adding more butter, adding some oil to the recipe, folding in either yogurt or sour cream at the end, and other things such as substituting brown sugar and using more egg yolks. These last two were not ones I would use in my Maraschino Cherry Cake, because I was basically using a white cake recipe and adding in Maraschino cherries and some of the syrup. I took the recipe I had originally created (see that recipe here) and looked through the ingredients to see where I could use some of these suggestions. 

Tetiana's Maraschino Cherry Cake
The changes I made were minimal. Instead of milk I used an equal amount of heavy cream. I added an extra 4 tablespoons of butter and an extra half-cup of sugar, lowered the baking powder amount by a teaspoon and the salt by 1/4 teaspoon. And lastly, 3/4 cup of sour cream was folded in at the end with the cherries. Looking at these changes, I was worried about the extra butter and sugar making it too thin a batter, so I added one more egg white for binding power. I had forgotten I had some Washington cherry flavor I had gotten at the King Arthur Flour website. While it is not Maraschino cherry flavor, I figured it would still bring more cherry flavor to the cake, so I added a little dash of that too.

The outcome was absolutely spectacular. I made a smaller cake (two 7-inch layers instead the regular 8 or 9-inch) for Tetiana and then made one tiny 6-inch layer so my husband and I could taste and critique the cake. I divided the 7-inch layers in half, making 4 thin layers. I cut the little 6-inch layer in half also, making it a 2-layer bitty cake for us to try.The cake itself was moist as can be with fantastic cherry flavor and color. The crumb was delicate and fine. It was all I could hope for in a cake.

Maraschino Cherry Cake, revised
Tiny 6-inch Maraschino Cherry Cake

makes one (2-layer) 8 or 9-inch round cake

6 large egg whites
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup Maraschino cherry syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Washington Cherry Flavor, optional
2 sticks / 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups cake flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (10-oz) jar Maraschino cherries, drained
3/4 cup / 6-ounces sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection Bake). Spray two round cake pans with nonstick spray. Cut parchment rounds to fit the bottom of the pans and set them in place, then spray the parchment. Set the pans aside.

Drain the jar of cherries (keeping the syrup for flavor) and cut the cherries in half or quarters. Set them aside to drain well while making the cake batter.

Whisk the egg whites together in a bowl until just foamy and well broken down. Add in the cream, cherry syrup and extract(s) and whisk well. Measure out 1/2 cup of this mixture and set aside. 

In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in the soft butter (not melted) with the 1/2 cup of liquid mixture. Begin beating slowly, increasing speed as the mixture begins to coalesce. Add in the remaining liquid mixture and beat slowly to combine, then increase speed to medium for about 1 minute to combine and aerate.  On low speed, add in the drained cherries and the sour cream. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake the cake layers for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a crumb or two. Do not overbake! The batter is very light and fluffy soft, so watch carefully.

Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely before filling and frosting. 

MAKE AHEAD: If not using the cakes right away they may be frozen. The 8 or 9-inch cake pan with the cake in it can be placed inside a gallon zip-top bag and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Thaw before filling or frosting. To make the 4 layer cake, slice each layer in half horizontally to make 4 thinner layers.

In yesterday's blog I gave the recipe for the Blackberry Mascarpone Filling  I made for the birthday cake I made for friend Heidi and myself. (I just realized I forgot to even add the Mascarpone as an ingredient! That is now rectified.) I wanted to do a similar thing with the Maraschino cherry cake's filling, so I used the same recipe, using a cherry jam (again, not Maraschino cherry flavor, and I had to pass it through a sieve to make it smooth enough). To make the cherry flavor more intense, I boiled down 6 tablespoons cherry preserves with about 1/4 cup of the Maraschino syrup to make a total of about the same 1/4 cup of cherry as there was blackberry jam in that recipe. It worked very well and the cherry flavor was beautiful.

Cherry Mascarpone Filling

makes enough to fill a 4 layer cake with plenty left over

1 jar (10 ounce) maraschino cherries, drained, syrup reserved
6 tablespoons cherry preserves (not jelly)
1/4 cup reserved Maraschino syrup
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cherry flavor, optional

1 carton (8-ounces) Mascarpone cheese

Drain the Maraschino cherries well and cut them in half. Set them on paper toweling to drain while making the filling.

Pass the cherry preserves through a sieve. Measure the amount after sieving. In a small saucepan, combine the measured preserves and the Maraschino cherry syrup and bring to boil. Keep at a steady low boil for about 10 minutes, reducing the mixture to about 1/4 cup. Allow to cool while beating the butter.
Left: the cherry mixture cooked down to thick syrup       |               Right, the finished Cherry Mascarpone Filling

Make sure the butter is soft. If room temperature still has the butter too hard, hold it in warm hands or use the microwave in short 2 - 5 second bursts to soften, but not melt. One or two short microwave bursts should be enough. Place the softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed or higher and beat it for 8 minutes, until very, very light and creamy-pale, stopping to scrape sides of the bowl once or twice during the 8 minutes. Add in the cooled cherry mixture and beat to combine. Add in the confectioners' sugar all at once and mix on very lowest setting until it is moistened. Add the flavorings to combine, then increase the speed to medium or medium high and beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 or 6 minutes more. Add the softened Mascarpone cheese and beat just to combine. 

To fill the cake, spread a good layer of this filling onto a cake layer, setting some of the drained cherry halves onto the filling. Top with another cake layer and repeat, then once more, pressing gently on each cake layer as it is added. If any filling oozes out, use the tip of a butter knife or table knife to scrape away any excess. Refrigerate the cake before frosting to set up the filling so the layers do not slide around.. 

Use this filling between the layers of the Maraschino Cherry Cake for those Maraschino cherry lovers in your life!  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.