Archive for: cherries
I love working with cherries to make cobblers and pies, but I find that I will often reach for frozen or jarred cherries for convenience, rather than choose to work with fresh cherries. I do work with fresh cherries some of the time, but pitting them is a very time consuming endeavor and you can get great quality frozen and jarred cherries all year long. That said, when cherries are coming in to season it is hard to beat a perfectly ripe, fresh cherry, so I arm myself with a cherry pitter and get to work to make them usable for baking. The Cherry-It Pitter from Progressive International recently caught my eye, because it offers a way to streamline the process of cherry pitting by allowing you to pit multiple cherries at once.
The pitter is easy to use. Once you position your cherries in the removable tray inside, you simply push down on the lid, where sharp sharp cutters come through and push the pits out of the cherries into cavity below the tray. The cherries don’t need to be positioned in a certain way, so the process makes for very quick loading and unloading. The tray that holds the cherries also has four smaller cavities, which can be used to remove the pits from olives (or very small cherries that aren’t quite stable in the large cavities). The tray that catches the pits also collects quite a bit of the juice from the pitting process, so you’ll have less cleanup and less risk of staining your clothes while you work.
For every person who would pick apple pie as their favorite, there is another person who would pick cherry as their top choice. They’re probably the two most popular pie flavors out there. I have seen many variations on apple pie over the years, but I find that I see cherry pie variations much less often. A classic cherry pie is a double crust pie, sometimes with a lattice crust over the top. If apple pie can get a variety of flavors and toppings to mix it up, so can cherry pie, and that is what inspired the creation of this Cherry Crumble Pie.
This pie has a filling made with sweet cherries and brown sugar, and is topped with a buttery brown sugar crumble topping. The brown sugar adds a certain richness to the cherries and brings out some of their darker berry notes. In the crumble, it also makes for a lovely deep brown color after the pie has baked. I added a splash of vanilla and a splash of amaretto to the filling, as well. The filling for the pie is thickened with cornstarch and there is just enough in with the juicy cherries to ensure that the filling holds together and slices cleanly when the pie is ready to be served.
I used a homemade pie crust for this recipe, but you could easily use a premade (frozen) crust if you prefer not to make your own crust. The filling and the topping pack in a lot of flavor so, while a buttery homemade crust is definitely a nice finish, you can get away with using a shortcut here and still get a lot of flavor in your pie. You can also opt for either fresh cherries or frozen cherries for this filling. I like fresh, sweet cherries for a pie like this one, though tart cherries can make the filling really pop. If you use frozen cherries, don’t defrost them before adding them to the filling, just toss them with the rest of the filling ingredients and add them to your crust.
When it comes to indulgence, it’s hard to beat a molten-center chocolate cake. Also known as a chocolate lava cake, these individually sized desserts typically have a liquid chocolate center that oozes out of the warm cake like hot fudge when you dig into one with a fork.
These Chocolate Cherry Lava Cakes were inspired by those cherry cordial chocolates that used to be so common in chocolate assortments. I used to love those for the burst of cherry that you would get when you bit into one and the experience is similar here – although I have to say that these are much more delicious than most of those cherry candies were!
Some molten-center chocolate cakes call for underbaking your cake batter to create a soft center. In my version of Molten Center Chocolate Cakes, I make a small ball of chocolate ganache and place it in the center of the unbaked cake. As the cake bakes, that ganache center liquifies and you end up with a completely baked cake with a soft, fudgy center. For this cherry variation, I added a splash of Kirsch (cherry brandy) to the cake batter and added some cherry preserves to the centers of the cake on top of those balls of ganache. The result is a warm cake with a slight cherry aroma and a burst of chocolate and cherry inside. Choose good quality preserves (I used Bonne Maman) that have chunks of fruit in them for the best results.
The finished cakes have a light cherry scent and a burst of chocolate and cherry inside. The Kirsch contributes to the cherry aroma, but you can easily omit it from the recipe without making any other changes if you prefer not to use it (or don’t have it). You can also make variations on this using different types of preserves, so long as you choose a fruit that goes well with chocolate!
If you do a lot of baking with fresh cherries, a cherry pitter is a good investment. They are easy to use and allow you to pop pits out of whole cherries with very little effort. But cherry pitters aren’t necessarily must-have items if you plan to pit cherries only very occasionally and don’t want to spend the money – or give up the cupboard space – on another kitchen gadget. Fortunately, there are a couple of very easy ways to get those pits out of cherries without using any special equipment.
If you don’t need to keep your cherries whole, you can simply slice them in half with a small knife and pop the pit out with your finger. This method is not messy and goes pretty quickly when you have a sharp knife. Most of the time, I find that I don’t need my cherries to be whole. They work very well in ice creams, breads and pies when halved.
If you want your cherries whole, all you need is a bobby pin to get those pits out. Bend a [very clean] bobby pin to enlarge the curved end slightly, then poke that curved end into the cherry and use it to scoop out the pit. You can keep the same bobby pin in an envelope so it is ready to go the next time you need to pit cherries.
Fresh cherries make me think of cobblers and pies, not necessarily of cakes and cupcakes. When I do bake cakes with cherries, I usually default to frozen or jarred cherries because they are so convenient. This time, I got myself out of the rut and used fresh cherries in a batch of Fresh Cherry Cupcakes.
At first glance, you might think that putting fresh fruit into a cupcake takes them towards the muffin end of the spectrum. That is not the case with these little cakes. They are moist, soft and tender with a very fine crumb that is unmistakably cake, not the coarser crumb of a muffin. I’ll admit to eating an unfrosted cake for breakfast, but these are best when served for dessert with a little bit of vanilla-infused frosting to round out all the flavors in the cake. The cake itself also has vanilla extract in it, as well as a hint of almond extract that I added because almond complements the flavor of cherries so well.
I used sweet cherries in this recipe, but tart cherries (or a blend of two types) would me a great mix, as well. You can use frozen or jarred cherries, too, and still get good results. Using chopped, frozen cherries might add a minute or so to your baking time, but they can be mixed right in. Jarred cherries should be drained before use so they don’t add too much additional liquid to the batter. If you happen to have fresh, use them. It’s a great alternative to a regular cobbler and you can’t beat the appeal of having fresh cherries perched atop the cupcakes before serving.