Old Fashioned Cherry Pie Filling

I wrote a very thoughtful, well-written piece of prose about my love of bourbon, the merits of sharing pie with friends, and the marvelous weather NYC has been experiencing. And then the internet decided to bend me over the butcher block.  Thanks interwebs. I love you too. I just wish you didn’t love me back so much. I could complain about it some more, but I would much rather tell you what pulled me back into the kitchen and prompted me to turn my oven to 350 on a 90 degree day.

soaking cherries

It was cherries. But more than just cherries, it was bourbon my longing for what I consider to be a winter cocktail. While I favor bourbon above all other liquors, like so many wool sweaters, it gets cast aside in the warmer months in favor of lighter, more sparkling fare. I have since discovered that there are, indeed ways to enjoy bourbon in the summer time that won’t have me wiping sweat glistening rose-scented dew from my brow.

painstakingly latticed crust

So when my place of business had cherries sale for the tune of 2.99/lb and I came home with way more than enough for…Well, I didn’t know – but I would figure something out. And damn, did I ever figure something out. See, this pie isn’t name after some mythical good ol’ days of yore. No. It is so much more than that. It is named after a much loved cocktail. One with a muddled cherry and orange slice at the bottom. One that warms you up after a chilly walk – and Old Fashioned.

slice of delicious heaven

I soaked my cherries in bourbon for a shamefully long time. You don’t necessarily have to wait that long. And let’s just get this out of the way. Yes. I pitted over 2 lbs of cherries. Yes it’s a pain. But no, you don’t have to shell out for a unitasker. Therefore, you should partake of this pie. It was a big hit with roommates and co-workers alike. Especially those of the bourbon loving ilk…tha’t ilk, not elk. But I would love to see a bourbon-loving elk. Also, you will have leftover cherries. Set them aside for less bountiful seasons or if you’re anxious, put them in sangria.

Old Fashioned Cherry Pie Filling

  • 2 lbs cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • Bourbon
  • Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch

Place the pitted cherries and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Pour bourbon of your choice over the cherries until they are covered. Yes, it will be a lot of bourbon. Buy something on the cheap side. Cover and place in refrigerator for a shamefully long time. Full disclosure, mine soaked for 6 days. 6 days! It’s shameful. One or two days will do the same trick, though.

Remove cherries from the fridge (duh). In a medium sauce pan, using a scale, measure out 22 oz. of both cherries and liquid. Liquid should measure roughly 1/2-3/4 of a cup, the rest should be cherries. Add the orange juice, cornstarch, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 or 6 healthy dashed of bitters. If pressed, I would say maybe 1 tsp of bitters.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Let boil about 5 minutes or until thickened.

Pour into your favorite pie crust, and follow baking instructions. Or pour it over ice cream. Or eat it by the spoonful.

There is no pie crust recipe included because I don’t consider myself knowlegdable in the least about that art form.  Here’s some tips from someone who is.

Cereal Milk Ice Cream

So I haven’t posted in a while.  I was busy, broke, and many other things.  However, I was given a good bit of advice, “Be too stupid to give up.”  I mulled it over for a good long while and decided to ignore my bank account and lazier self and keep on the keepin’ on.

my discount won't buy me Trix

But it was too hot to bake, so I made ice cream instead.  Cereal milk ice cream.  I was always the kind of gal who let her milk get warm at the dinner table.  These days I blame it on the fact that the milk was skim, which I do still buy on occasion, but it usually goes bad because fat free milk is simply unacceptable for baking and drinking.

cooking custard

The skim milk sitting beneath my morning cereal, however, got slurped up faster than the cereal itself.  So when a friend told me about the flavor he had at Momofuko’s Milk Bar in the city, I knew I was hooked – AND I HADN’T EVEN TASTED IT YET!  I was hooked on just the idea.

easy, freezy, beautiful

See, my mom never really bought junk food when I was younger, and still doesn’t, and truth be told, neither do I, much to my boyfriend’s dismay.  However, she did indulge us in her purchase of sugary cereals.  My favorite cereal was always Honeycomb, but in a strange and unexpected twist, the best milk hid under a bright colorful mound of Trix – mildly fruity and sweet enough to classify as dessert any day.  I don’t get Trix at 20% off, though, so I settled for what I hoped would be the next best thing, and it was.

i think it qualifies as a breakfast-appropriate ice cream

Cereal Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 ½ cups whole milk, divided

1 cup heavy cream

1 ½ cups cereal of your choice

¼ cup sugar (or less, depending on your cereal)

3 egg yolks

Method

  • Combine 1 cup whole milk and 1 ½ cups cereal in a bowl.  Allow to set in the refrigerator for no more than 30 minutes.  Set a timer and don’t forget about it!
  • Drain the milk into a saucepan and discard the soggy cereal.  Add the ½ cup whole milk and sugar.  Heat gently and stir, allowing the sugar to dissolve.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until lighter yellow and frothy.  Temper the yolks by slowly pouring some of the cream into the bowl while whisking.  An extra set of hands, or a stand mixer helps a ton!  Once the yolks have been warmed gently, pour them into the milk and sugar mixture while whisking.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens.  It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Place 1 cup heavy cream in a bowl, place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.  Once the custard has thickened, strain it into the cream, and stir, checking for any stray custardy lumps.
  • Allow to refrigerate overnight, then churn according your ice cream maker’s instructions.

I’ve always found the hardest part of making ice cream is waiting for it to be ice cream consistency, which can take up to 8 hours!  Yuck!  Solve this dilemma by churning the custard first thing in the morning while you get ready for work.  When you get home, you’ll have delicious ice cream ready in time for dessert!

I topped mine with the fruity bunnies I used to flavor the milk, but considered mixing them in.  Next time my mom visits me, I’m definitely making Lucky Charm ice cream, and plan on mixing in the marshmallows.

Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Last weekend’s warm weather got me so excited to post this recipe, along with a sunny blog about how it feels like spring is just around the corner.

And then Snowpocalypse 3.0 happened.  Yeah, snow is pretty.  Yeah, I got a much needed day out of the office.  But I hate the cold.  And I hate the snow.  And this was all preceded by two days of walking around in a city-flavored slushy, while the heavens poured Slusho mix all over our heads.  Gross.

But I still made the yogurt, and ate every bit of it.  It’s yogurt, so it’s healthy, right?

The thing about frozen yogurt….Forget TCBY, and Häagen Dazs.  That stuff is just like ice cream, and if you’re eating frozen yogurt to replace ice cream, calorie-wise, it’s not gonna do the trick.  Check the carton.  Most store bought fro-yos have only 20-50 less calories than their non-dieting sisters.  It’s true.

And anyhow, frozen yogurt should not just be a heavy woman’s ice cream.  It’s a completely different tasting beast when done properly.  It should be tangy and not overly sweet, and invite a fruit (or granola!) accompaniment as though it were it’s long lost twin.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to try Pink Berry, you know what I’m talking about.  That stuff was a revelation.  A realization of all that stuff I just said. If you haven’t, making this frozen yogurt will be as close to a life-changing event as you’ll get in the kitchen.

Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

1 quart of Greek yogurt (roughly two cups) strained, or 1 quart of strained plain yogurt (NO FLAVORS – THIS IS IMPORTANT; however you may use whatever fat content you like.  I used low-fat because my store was out of non-fat at the time)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp pomegranate jelly

Method

  • Whisk ingredients together and allow to cool for at least one hour.  This is important.  Skip this step and you will not achieve creamy frozen heaven.
  • Start ice cream maker and pour mixture in.  Let machine run for about 20-30 minutes.  With ice creams it will stop itself and you will hear a clicking noise.  This did not happen with the yogurt.
  • Once mixed, eat immediately for soft-serve consistency, or chill in freezer for up to 3 hours for one more ice-cream.

teeny mint leaves for a pretty garnish

This will refill the yogurt container to a little under half, if you’re storing for later snackage, but I’d be really surprised if it lasted that long.

If you want to mix in fresh pomegranate seeds, wait until the very end of the cycle and then toss them in.  I think that would be delicious, but I’m broke and can’t afford these things.  I also think a little lemon zest would be delicious and pretty.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges, and an Anti-Valentine to Alton Brown

Folks, the equation is simple.

Sugar + Equal Amount of Water + Heat = Candy

Yup.  With no flavoring though, you might as well suck on a sugar cube.

The first time I made this recipe, I gave it as a gift, which was brave considering I had no idea what they would taste like, if they would ship well, or hell, even if they would pack and store well.  They didn’t, by the way.  Because the majority of sugar in AB’s recipe was honey, it still didn’t quite set at hard crack stage, and actually ended up chipping the tooth of a friend who tried to chew on it (whoops!  Her dad’s a dentist though, so it turned out to be OK).

Then, shortly after my mom requested the recipe, I came across this Instructable…And I was so angry with Mr. Brown.

You see, his instructions at the end said to spoon teaspoons of the liquid candy onto parchment paper.  They looked fine in his pictures; in my kitchen, not so much.  And on top of that it was counter to EVERYTHING I had ever learned from him – there might be a process, but if there’s an easy way with the same resulting taste go that route.

Oh, AB.  How could you let me down like this?

Needless to say, this new method not only is much easier in terms of portioning out the candy, but also in storing it.  I love simple solutions, but this one has made me call my favorite TV chef into question.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges

Ingredients

2 c. water

4 tea bags (doesn’t have to be Lemon Ginger, just pick a good flavor of good tea)

2 c. sugar – I used 1 c. turbinado and 1 c. honey

Zest of 1 lemon

Powdered sugar

Method

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a high sided sauce pan and steep the tea bags for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add sugar and turn the stove back on medium low heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally washing the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

    process shot! see I told you I was working on it

  • The mixture needs to read the hard crack stage without the sugar burning, which is between 300 & 310 degrees.  Grab a book, this is going to take forever, but keep a watchful eye on your stove.
  • Before the mixture reaches 310, prepare your candy mold!  Oh my, you don’t have one?  Me neither.  Here’s the handy trick I was talking about.  Get out a pie pan, or a cake pan, or a casserole pan…any shallow-ish pan with sides.  Put some powdered sugar in it, enough to make indentations in, about a half inch to an inch oughta do it.  Then, get out some sort of roundish bottomed thing (like a food coloring bottle, or a glass tube that your vanilla beans came in)…are you seeing where I’m going with this?instant candy mold
  • Go around the pan, making indentations in the sugar, making sure they’re about 1/4 inch apart.  I needed 2 pie pans for the amount of candy I made.
  • When the mixture reaches hard crack stage, remove from heat and add the lemon zest, stirring just to combine.
  • Pour mixture over the mold slowly and watch the magic happen.

    pour slowly to make sure this doesn't happen, but if it does just leave it and break it apart later

  • Allow mixture to cool and harden, about one hour.  Toss the candies with the powdered sugar in the pans, making sure each one is coated thoroughly.  Sift the excess sugar off the candies (or not), and store in a container of your choosing.

HOW EASY WAS THAT?  No parchment paper, no sticky teaspoon…  Alton Brown, why, oh why, did I have to see this on Instructables and not in your book with your recipe?  As I type this I’m finding it very hard not to use caps and unnecessary punctuation.  I am that upset about it.

That being said, I think this would also be good with lemon extract , cinnamon, or any number of flavor combinations.  Just be sure to add them at the end right before pouring into your nifty molds.  Here are some suggestions:

Lemon + Ginger – I would actually add some grated ginger to these next time, as the tea didn’t really carry the ginger flavor through all that well.

Cinnamon + Chai

Ginger + Peach

Black Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Orange

Black Tea + Orange

Mint + Raspberry (think fresh mint and raspberry extract…mmm)

The possibilities really are endless.

Oh and here’s a tip for the dish-doers in the bunch:  To clean, fill the pot with water and bring to boil.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Oh Fudge (Two Ways)

A word about Valentine’s day: I have always loved it, even when I have been single (it’s happened once or twice).  Here’s the big secret behind my enjoyment – I have a lot more love in my life to share with more than just a boyfriend, and I bet you do too.  I know we shouldn’t need an excuse to show loved ones how much we really love them, but let’s face it – sometimes we just do.  We can always do little things here and there (and I hope you do), but Valentine’s Day is really about extravagantly displaying exactly how much we love one another.  It’s an excuse to splurge, whether it’s on calories, or gifts, or time spent doing something.

That being said, each of the recipes I will be posting this week is a labor of love.  They are somewhat time consuming and some require lots of attention.  But while I was waiting for sugar to boil this weekend, I sat by my stove (closer than is probably safe) with a book, and glanced up every sentence or so to check the temperature.  And you know what?  I finished a 400 page book.  True story.  So get in the kitchen, make some fudge, and read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand since Christmas.

just for you

Fudge Two Ways – Candied Ginger and Candied Bacon

I don’t want to go and reinforce gender stereotyping but one of these ways is decidedly more masculine than the other, I’ll let you decide which.

ALTON BROWN’S FUDGE RECIPE

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped, candied ginger or bacon

Directions

  • Grease an 8 by 8-inch pan with butter.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, chocolate, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter, half-and-half, and corn syrup.
  • Over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved and chocolate is melted. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and attach a candy thermometer to the pot.
  • Cook until the thermometer reads 234 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter. Do not stir.
  • Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes or until it drops to 130 degrees F. Add vanilla and one cup of other ingredient of your choosing, if desired, and mix until well-blended – AB says mix until the shiny texture becomes matte.  I did this and ended up crystallizing the fudge in the pan and having to melt it back down with a little more half and half.
  • Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Let sit in cool dry area until firm. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Candied Ginger

Ingredients

Nonstick spray

1 pound fresh ginger root

5 cups water

Approximately 1 pound granulated sugar

Method

  • Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment.
  • Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandoline. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
  • Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
  • Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar.
  • Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.
  • Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top ginger snaps, sprinkled over ice cream or to sweeten coffee.

spicy, sweet, chewy

The Ginger Fudge

Crystallized ginger is very strong flavor-wise, especially when it’s homemade and super fresh.  The spiciness and flavor of the ginger didn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked and if I make this again, I will probably increase the candied ginger to 1 1/2 cups.  So if you’re borderline on ginger, this might be a good starting point.

Candied Salted Bacon – via TheKitchn

Yields:8-12 pieces (depending on package size)

1 package center cut bacon

3/4 cup light brown sugar
Kosher

salt to taste

Method

  • Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with parchment paper or silpat in preparation.
  • Place bacon on cookie sheet, making sure not to overlap any edges.
  • Lightly sprinkle each piece of bacon with brown sugar (1-1 1/2 tablespoons/each) and place cookie sheet in cold oven.
  • Set temperature to 350* and bake 20-25 minutes, keeping an extra careful eye on them starting at the 18 minute mark.
  • Remove from oven and place cookie sheet on wire rack. Sprinkle salt over bacon pieces. Enjoy!

salty, smoky, sweet

See the carmel colored pools around the bacon?  Well, it’s carmel.  And I’m not saying it’s delicious and you should eat all of it…but if you stuck your finger in there after it had cooled a bit and licked it up a few times, I would be in no position to judge you.  Just sayin.

The Bacon Fudge

If you’ve ever been eating a nice pancake breakfast, only to get syrup on your bacon and then not be totally ecstatic about not having to put extra syrup on your plate specifically for this reason – this fudge probably isn’t for you, but I strongly suggest branching out.  Try some syrup on your bacon or sausage and then decide whether or not you want to make the bacon fudge.  I have been putting syrup on my bacon and sausage links since before I can remember.

recipients will have to guess which is which

Hazelnut Espresso Toffee

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy.  Great artists steal.”  And it’s true.  Every great artist got his best idea from someone else.  This is along the same vein as every note already being sung.

for some lucky recipients

I stole this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  It’s a blog I check obsessively.  Deb’s recipes never done me wrong, and I never hesitate to use her recipe for a crowd, even (especially!) if it’s the first time I’ve ever made it.  It makes my boyfriend nervous, but I know it will always come out great.

This recipe was special because I was making sure it was Kosher for my boss, who is Jewish.  Luckily I was already out of sugar and the like, and I have special dishes just for baking that I don’t let anyone else use.  So it’s not like I had to go completely out of my way to make it extra-special just for her.  But I would have, because I’m awesome like that.

Did you guys know this symbol stands for Kosher?

Yep, it's true.

Check it out.  I bet you eat a lot more Kosher items than you thought.

Smitten Kitchen’s Coffee Toffee x2 is BFN’s Hazelnut Espresso Toffee….because I wanted it to sound impressive.

4 sticks or 16 ounces (!!!!)

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

3 teaspoons molasses (can swap corn syrup or honey)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt)

3 teaspoons instant espresso powder (I used Café Bustelo, which I’m not sure is instant or not, didn’t make a difference in the outcome)

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
(I actually probably ended up using about 3 cups, it’s slightly more like a candy bar)

1 cup chopped hazelnuts – or other nut of your choice, but hazelnuts are delicious.  (toasted, skinned, cooled,and chopped – yes, it’s a pain in the butt.  Do you have a friend or relative who needs an outlet for their anger?  Put them to work with a rolling pin or tenderizer.)

Line 2 small baking sheets (mine are 9×13, to fit in my teeny oven) with parchment paper or a silicon mat and set aside.

In medium heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, melt butter, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, salt and espresso together over together. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk (an electric one would be really helpful – I tossed my hand blender because it was a hand-me-down from the early 80s – my hand cramped up doing this manually) until the temperature approaches 250F, at which point you should stir constantly until it reaches 300F-310F or what is known as the Hard Crack Stage.

Pour immediately into the prepared baking sheet — you can spread it more evenly with an offset or silicon spatula, but don’t worry if you have neither. Dump the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and let them sit for a minute.  When they look shiny, spread the chocolate over the toffee. Sprinkle the whole thing with the smushed hazelnuts.  Then just wait.  If you want it to harden faster, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and cram it into your tiny freezer, but do it fast before the other stuff starts falling out.

Nutty...hazelnutty.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container. If your kitchen runs warm, or has a gigantic leaky radiator in it, you might prefer to keep it in the fridge so the chocolate doesn’t get soft.

Notice how gorgeous the photos are?  This is mutually beneficial relationship.

I will give a jar of toffee to whoever can name the movie that the caption from the 2nd photo is from.

Something to Nibble

OK I lied.  Hazelnut espresso toffee is not going to be my first post.  I just can’t wait.  I’m that excited.  Until I get my toffee making supplies in order, I thought I would share a recipe that I made in October that produced plenty to go around.  It was a big hit with the neighbors.

The recipe is out of a book called Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by two dudes who own Baked in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn.  Even if you’re baking-challenged you can enjoy this book.  It’s beautiful.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Cushions (the cookies)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • This was the first time I made this recipe, but if I did it again, I’d put a little something extra in the filling – maple syrup (not too much it needs to be firm), crystallized ginger pieces, nuts.  Anything with a warm flavor to complement the pumpkin.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.  You really don’t want to whisk this by hand.  The key is to whisk for about 2-5 minutes longer than you probably think you should.  Everything needs to be well combined and fluffy.
  3. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 15 minutes. This is an extremely cakey cookie….not really a cookie at all.  Think Oreo Cakesters, but BETTER.

    mmm.....cake-cookie

  4. Make the filling: Sift confectioner’ sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. I made my filling a day before the cookies.  To do this just cover and refrigerate. Let it stand at room temperature while you make the cookies, or while the cookies or cooling.  If you don’t it will be too firm and gloop out of your exploding pastry bag, or ziploc with a whole cut in the corner.
  5. Transfer filling to a disposable pastry bag (aka freezer bag) and snip the end. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. I know it’s hard to wait for the cookies to cool completely, but trust me, the filling is surprisingly not better all warm and runny…unless it’s on a toaster pastry of some sort.  The recipe suggests transfering to a prepared baking sheet and covering with plastic wrap to refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.  I definitely did not wait 30 minutes after the 30 it took for the cookies to cool, and they were gone in 1 day.

mmmmm filling

Eventually I will make something quasi-healthy.

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