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Say yes to cherries

Jeremy Keith/Wikimedia Commons

If you can resist eating all of the fresh cherries you get this season, consider stirring up some cherry magic in the kitchen.


The availability of sweet, fresh cherries is just another reason to appreciate the summer months. I find it hard to know when to stop eating cherries, so I rarely have a chance to actually prepare meals with them. But it does happen once in a while.

Cherry pies are usually made with the variety of cherries called Montmorency, sometimes called tart or sour cherries. Today we will concentrate on the type we find at fruit stands, farmers markets and grocery stores. Or if you are lucky, you have your own cherry trees.

Cherry crumb bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter melted, cooled to room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a square, 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides and bottom of lined pan. Set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together cherries, cornstarch and lemon juice.

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together melted (and cooled) butter and sugar. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs. Reserve 3/4 cup of mixture.

4. Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Spread cherry filling over the crust. Sprinkle remaining 3/4-cup crumb mixture over cherries. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over crumbs.

5. Bake bars in preheated oven for 23 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Cherry almond quick bread

1 cup cherries, coarsely chopped

1/2-cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

1/2-teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

For icing:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4-cup milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 5-by-9-inch pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

2. For quick bread: In a bowl, cream together butter, sugar, eggs and extracts.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Carefully add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir in yogurt until completely mixed in. Fold in cherries. Pour batter into prepared bread pan.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with loose crumbs. Remove to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

5. For the icing: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar, milk and almond extract. Pour over bread. Let stand before cutting.

Rustic cherry tarts

(Will need to allow for time to chill the dough.)

For crust:

1 1/2-cups flour

3/4-teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2-cup shortening

1/4-cup ice cold water

For filling:

4 cups pitted sweet cherries

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2-teaspoons cornstarch

1 egg, beaten

1. For crust: In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until pea-sized crumbs form.

2. Sprinkle the cold water over mixture, lightly stirring with a fork until dough forms into a ball. Chill the dough for at least an hour. This makes it much easier to handle.

3. Preheat oven to 400. Mix the cherries with the sugar and cornstarch.

4. Divide the dough into fourths. Roll out each fourth into an 8-inch round circle. Trim the edges a bit with a knife, if necessary.

5. Spoon a cup of the cherries into the middle of each circle, leaving about an inch and a half of crust around the edges.

6. Gently fold the edge of the crust over the cherries, pleating as you go. Brush the crust with beaten egg. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cherries are tender.

Cherry cheesecake

For cheesecake:

Butter, for coating the pan

2 pounds full-fat cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons flour

1/8-teaspoon salt

1/2-cup sour cream

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

For crust:

12 whole graham cracker rectangles (6 ounces)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

Cherry topping: recipe follows

1. Arrange a rack in the lower-middle position of the oven and heat to 350. Use your fingers to coat a small pat of butter all over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch spring-form pan.

2. Cut 2 large pieces of foil and place them on your work surface on top of each other in a cross. Set the spring-form pan in the middle and fold the edges of the foil up and around the sides of the pan. The foil gives you extra protection against water getting into the pan during the water bath step.

3. For crust: Crush the graham crackers in a food processor (or in a bag using a rolling pin) until they form fine crumbs — you should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and mix this into the graham cracker crumbs. The mixture should look like wet sand and hold together in a clump when you press it in your fist. If not, add extra tablespoons of butter (one a time) until the mixture holds together. Transfer it into the spring-form pan and use the bottom of a glass to press it evenly into the bottom.

4. Place the crust in the oven (be careful not to tear the foil). Bake until the crust is fragrant and just starting to brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the crust cool on a cooling rack while you prepare the filling.

5. For filling: Place the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric handheld mixer and large bowl.) Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy, like thick frosting, and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Scrape down the beater and the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

6. Add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until combined and creamy. Scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl with a spatula.

7. With the mixer on medium-low, beat in the eggs and the yolk one at a time. Wait until the previous egg is just barely mixed into the batter before adding the next one. At first, the mixture will look clumpy and broken, but it will come together as the eggs are worked in.

8. Scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl with a spatula. Stir the whole batter a few times by hand, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, to make certain everything is incorporated. The finished batter should be thick, creamy, and silky. Don’t worry if you see a few specks of unmixed cream cheese here and there; they will melt into the batter during baking and won’t affect the finished cheesecake.

9. Check to make sure the crust and the sides of the pan are cool. If they are cool enough to comfortably touch, you can continue. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and spread it into an even layer. Transfer the pan to a roasting pan or other baking dish big enough to hold it. Bring a few cups of water to a boil and pour the water into the roasting pan, being careful not to splash any water onto the cheesecake. Fill the pan to about an inch, or just below the lowest edge of foil.

10. Bake the cheesecake for 50 to 60 minutes. Cakes baked in a 10-inch pan will usually cook in 50 to 55 minutes; cakes in a 9-inch pan will cook in 55 to 60 minutes. The cheesecake is done when the outer two to three inches look slightly puffed and set, but the inner circle still jiggles (like set gelatin) when you gently shake the pan. Some spots of toasted golden color are fine, but if you see any cracks starting to form, move on to the next step right away.

11. Leave the cheesecake in the oven. Turn off the oven and crack the door open or prop it open with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake cool slowly for 1 hour.

12. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and from the water bath, unwrap the foil, and transfer it to a cooling rack. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the sides (which can cause cracks as it cools). Let the cheesecake cool completely on the rack.

13. Chill the cheesecake, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days in the refrigerator. This step is crucial for letting the cheesecake set and achieving perfect cheesecake texture; don’t rush it. Take the cheesecake out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to serve. Unmold the cake and top the cheesecake just before serving. You can serve the cake right from the bottom of the springform pan, or use a large off-set spatula to gently unstick the crust from the pan and transfer it to a serving platter.

Cherry cheesecake topping

(This is also a good topping for ice cream or yogurt.)

4 cups pitted fresh cherries

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Allow to cool off and serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Will keep about a week in the refrigerator.

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