The sweet side of the bowl Cherries: Desserts that are a tasty alternative to pie -- just be sure to buy enough to have some to nibble.

July 31, 1996|By William Rice | William Rice,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Once upon a time I was bewildered by the paucity of cherry desserts to be found in the vast panorama of American cookbooks. Gradually, however, I began to understand that when it came to fresh, sweet cherries, in my home and others where they are eaten out of hand like peanuts, very few survive long enough to be cooked.

A particular favorite of mine for eating is the golden, red-tinged Queen Anne and its close relative, the Rainier. Darker-colored sweet cherries that are sold fresh include the Bing and Lambert varieties.

Most cherries are canned, however, to appear again in countless pies prepared across the nation. Also, an increasing number are dried to be used on cereal, salads and in stuffings as well as in desserts.

Tart or sour cherries are, as they say, another story.

But my focus here is on sweet cherries exclusively. I've assembled a pair of nonpie recipes for them plus one for a homemade cherry liqueur.

The pastry in the clafoutis recipe, adapted from "The Best Midwest Restaurant Cooking," by Margaret E. Guthrie, is delicate and tricky to handle. If desired, substitute a favorite tart dough.

Cherry clafoutis

Makes 8 servings

1 pound sweet cherries, washed and pitted

1/2 cup kirsch (cherry brandy)

1 tablespoon sugar

FOR THE PASTRY:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

FILLING:

3 large eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons cake flour

1 1/2 tablespoons kirsch

3/4 cup whipping cream

Place cherries in a medium bowl. Add kirsch and sugar and stir. Leave at room temperature about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

To prepare the pastry, mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the pieces of butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg yolk, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix with a fork, pulling the flour mixture into the center, until the dough gathers into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fit the dough into a 10-inch tart pan, 1 inch deep, with removable bottom. Refrigerate 5 minutes.

To prepare the filling, mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla, flour and kirsch, then whisk in the cream. Drain the cherries. Remove the dough-lined tart pan from the refrigerator and place it on a sheet pan. Arrange the cherries evenly over the surface of the dough. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the cherries.

Put pan in oven and bake until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge of pan comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack and cool to tepid. Remove bottom and cut it into wedges. Serve warm.

This has been adapted from Richard Sax's and Sandra Gluck's "From the Farmers' Market."

Cherry batter pudding

Makes 6 servings

1 cup pitted fresh cherries

3 tablespoons kirsch (cherry brandy), optional

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 pinch salt

3 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

confectioners' sugar

sour cream

Soak the cherries in the brandy for at least 15 minutes, if using.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift the flour, sugar and salt into zTC mixing bowl. Add eggs and whisk until smooth. Add milk and vanilla, whisking until well-blended. Stir in cherries and brandy.

Heat the butter in a heavy 12-inch straight-sided oven-proof skillet or a 9-by-13-inch straight-sided metal baking pan in the oven until the butter is sizzling but not brown, about 3 minutes. Pour in the batter, distributing the cherries evenly, and bake until the pudding is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and serve hot from the pan. Pass sour cream at the table.

This recipe for a cherry liqueur has been adapted from "Festive Favorites," by the California Culinary Academy.

Cherry ratafia

Makes about 1 quart

1 1/4 pounds fresh cherries

1 cup sugar

1 stick cinnamon

4 cloves, optional

1/4 teaspoon ground mace or ginger, optional

1 pint brandy or vodka

Wash and pit cherries and place in a bowl and crush slightly. Transfer cherries and any juice to a bottling jar. Add cherry pits, sugar, cinnamon and optional ginger and cloves and stir. Add brandy or vodka.

Close jar tightly and marinate fruit at room temperature at least 1 month. Strain through cheesecloth, discard solids and serve in small portions as an after-dinner liqueur.

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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