Blossom Inspired - Cherries & Chocolate, Anyone?

This is my favorite time of year, when cherry blossoms adorn tree limbs for a finite but infinitely beautiful time. It goes back to my growing up in Newark, N.J. When the blossoms arrived around my father's and my birthday (April 14th & 21st, respectively), he would take the family for a drive through Branch Brook Park in the north ward of the city.

Conceived by a 'father' of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (he designed Central Park in New York), Branch Brook park was the first county park in the United States opened for public use.  The parks' 360 acres contain over 4,000 cherry blossom trees.

My dad died a few weeks before blossom season when I was twelve years old (on St. Paddy's day). I remember stating that I never wanted to go to the park again during the spring time (twelve year olds are so absolutist). However, it did not last; the appreciation of the beauty of the trees that he fostered within me never left and now I welcome the memories of that time with my father.

Which brings me to why I'm writing. Today, March 25th, is the opening of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in  Washington, D.C.; celebrating the 100th year of the gift of 3,000 trees from Tokyo. This year the blooms are awesome. It's a little dreary in the DMV* today, but a walk along the tidal basin admiring these beautiful trees is a sure pick-me-up.
So before I go out for my walk, I figured I'd find some cherry blossom inspired recipes on the web. Cherry Blossom flowers are edible. If you know of a tree that has been maintained organically, you might want to pocket a few blooms for a candied flower treat. About.com has a step-by-step tutorial on making candied flowers.


Candied Flowers

By Elizabeth LaBau

Ingredients:
1-2 cups of edible organic flowers
1 egg white, at room temperature
1 tsp water
1/2 cup superfine sugar
Small paintbrush
Wire drying rack
Preparation:

1. Add the water to the egg white and whisk it gently with a fork or small whisk just until a few bubbles appear.

2. Working with one flower at a time, dip the paintbrush in the beaten egg white and gently paint all the petals on the front of the flower. Turn the flower over and paint the back of the petals as well. It's important that all the surfaces be covered so that the flowers are properly preserved.

3. Hold the flower over the bowl of superfine sugar and sprinkle the top with a thin, even layer of sugar. Turn the flower over and sprinkle the bottom with sugar as well.

4. If there are large clumps of sugar anywhere, dust it off gently so that only a thin, even layer of sugar remains on the flower.

5. Place the flower on a wire drying rack to dry completely. Smooth the petals out and arrange it how you would like—once it is dry it can no longer be moved, so take the time now to get it to look its best. Repeat the process of brushing the flowers with egg white, covering them with sugar, and arranging them on the drying rack until all of the flowers have been candied.

6. Allow the flowers to sit at room temperature until they are completely dry. Depending on the humidity in your house, this can take anywhere from 4-24 hours or longer. When they are finished the petals will be stiff.

7. Carefully store your candied flowers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. They are very delicate, so pack them between layers of waxed paper and be very gentle when handling them. They will absorb moisture from the air, so it is best not to store them in the refrigerator, and avoid placing them on wet desserts until the last possible moment.


Cherry Blossom Fudge

Rated three and a half stars on Allrecipes.com, this recipe posted by CONFITUR is quick enough to throw together before you leave in the morning for a sweet treat for tea time.

Prep Time: 10 Min
 Cook Time: 5 Min
 Ready In: 2 Hrs 15 Min
Yield: 1 - 8x8 inch dish 
Ingredients
 3/4 cup evaporated milk
 1 cup white sugar
 1 pinch salt
 1 (3 ounce) package cherry flavored gelatin
 1 cup butter
 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 3/4 cup maraschino cherries, halved

Directions
 Butter an 8x8 inch dish.
 In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and stir in gelatin. Boil 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, chocolate chips, vanilla and cherries. Pour into prepared pan. Chill 2 hours before serving.
Amount Per Serving  Calories: 400 | Total Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 45mg


Thirsty or perhaps can't get enough cherries and chocolate? Food and Wine has a Cherry Blossom cocktail contributed by Jamie Boudreau of Seattle's Vessel that should fit the bill. If you are in the D.C. area, check out this list from the Washingtonian of purveyors of blossom inspired drinks.

Cherry Blossom

Ingredients

 Ice
 1 1/4 ounces rye
 3/4 ounce cherry eau-de-vie (also known as kirsch or kirschwasser)
 1/4 ounce crème de cacao
 Dash of Angostura bitters
 2 griottine cherries, skewered on a pick (see Note)

 Fill a pint glass with ice. Add the rye, cherry eau-de-vie, crème de cacao and bitters and stir well. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the cherries.

Notes: Griottine cherries are sour cherries soaked in kirsch or syrup. They are available in the international section in supermarkets or online at zingermans.com.


So today I'm going to take pictures of blossoms in D.C. and throw back a few good ones for my dad. He'd be pleased. 
dw


*DMV - short for the DC/MD/VA area

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