Washington State may well remember 2017 for the abundance of its sweet cherries from the Yakima Valley. The record crop came in late but the fruit has continued for nearly two months, with unusually low prices and delicious, plump fruit. For those of us who nearly turn into myna birds during cherry season, it has been cause for celebration.
Flo Braker is a fabulous baker and her book Baking for All Occasions is filled with wonderful creations. One of our all time favorites, which is a hit with everyone who tries it, is her Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelee. Decorate the top with halved cherries and blueberries and it makes a perfect dessert for the Fourth of July, but don’t be limited to these fruits; use any stone fruits you’d like!
Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert that originated in Limousin. The name comes from clafotis, which means “to fill up,” in Occitan, an old French language with regional dialects throughout parts of Southern France. Traditionally the dessert was made with dark cherries, pits included, with a custard batter similar to pancake batter or a thin flan. Leaving the pits in the cherries creates a stronger cherry flavor, but can cause tooth damage to the unwitting diner. The same recipe using different fruits and vegetables are technically flognardes. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s as easy to make as a fruit-filled, baked pancake that you can serve anytime, whether for a special breakfast or as dessert.
Given that cherry season is so fleeting, take advantage of the beautiful cherries coming from the Pacific Northwest or, use apples, berries, rhubarb or plums. In fact, now that Limousin is known for their specialty apples, they are the more commonly used fruit.
Baked Ricotta Custard with Cherries in Port Wine with Star Anise
Away from the Kitchen by Dawn Blume Hawkes;
Recipe by Chef Gail Gand
The natural sweetness of the port is enough for this light dish, and the frozen sour cherries are perfect when fresh fruit is not available.
Courtesy of Alice Medrich, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts
In this book, Alice offers “Fresh Cherries 3 Ways.” I’m providing you with the recipe for one plus her caveat, “Cheating with Frozen Cherries.” For the other two specialties, you’ll need to read the book. (Believe me, it’s worth it.)
Alice says, “These get better and better as they sit in the fridge, drawing flavor from the (Rain’s Choice) vanilla bean.”
The picture for this recipe was made with frozen cherries (it’s February here) so they aren’t as spectacular looking as fresh cherries. That said, they were delicious. Instead of using vodka, rum or brandy, I used raspberry wine to give the cherries a fruity boost. You could also use cherry brandy. I served them over Honey Almond ice cream and they were spot on! (VQ)
Serves 4 as a compote, 6 to 8 as an accompaniment to Vanilla Ice Cream or Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream