Fresh cherries brighten dessert

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July 18, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

If life is just a bowl of cherries, then the best time of year has to be early summer, when dark red Bings, yellow Royal Anns and other sweet cherries ripen. A little later come Montmorency, Morello and other sour varieties -- too mouth-puckering to eat fresh but unparalleled for pies, preserves and other cooked cherry dishes.

Success tips: Fresh cherries are most abundant late May through June; most of the sour (pie) cherry crop, harvested from mid-June to mid-August, is frozen or canned.

The best indicator of ripeness in sweet cherries is good red color (except in yellow varieties). Cherries should be bright, glossy and plump, with fresh-looking stems attached. Avoid fruit with soft or brownish areas.

Fresh cherries are fragile and highly perishable. Refrigerate them unwashed in a partially closed plastic bag and use within two or three days. Wash them gently just before using.

To pit cherries, use the tip of a small paring knife, the loop of a paper clip or hairpin, or a cherry pitter. The simplest models work like a hole puncher; automatic models are more expensive but convenient for pitting large amounts of fruit.

Clafouti, a cross between cake and fruit pudding, originated in France's Limousin region (also the home of Limoges china). Other versions of this baked dessert are similar to flans or tarts. Sweet or sour cherries are traditional for clafouti, although plums, apricots or blueberries can be substituted. Serve it with ice cream, an American touch, for a dessert reminiscent of sour cherry pie or cobbler.

Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease a shallow, 10-inch-diameter baking or gratin dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss cherries with 1/4 cup sugar and place in buttered baking dish. Dot cherries with remaining butter.

In a 3-quart bowl, whisk remaining sugar, flour, egg yolks, milk, salt and vanilla. If desired, prepare the batter up to this point early in the day and refrigerate it until 1 hour before needed. After removing batter from refrigerator, let it stand about 20 minutes to warm to room temperature before proceeding with next step.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar to form soft peaks. Fold into batter mixture and pour over cherries in prepared dish. Bake until light golden brown (about 35 minutes). Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Tart Red-Cherry Clafouti

Serves 6

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound sour cherries, pitted, or 1 can (20 ounces) canned, drained

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

6 eggs, separated

1 1/3 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

confectioners' sugar, for garnish

vanilla ice cream (optional)

Pub Date: 07/18/99

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