Tag Archives: sour cherries

Sour Cherry Upside Down Cake

28 Jun

We’re right on the cusp of greeting the arrival of sour cherries here in Portland.  This event is a monumental one in my book, because with the sour cherries comes a short but treasured period of sour cherry pies, sour cherry galettes, and, if the weather is cooperating, sour cherry and Meyer lemon whiskey sours.  The season for sour cherries is a cruelly short one, but I try to make the most of it.  In fact, I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Sometimes?  If I can summon the willpower?  I take to hoarding my ration of sour cherries.

It’s not as obsessive a plan as it may seem.  I, of course, share whatever I make when the initial sour cherry season comes around, but sometimes, if I am lucky, all my pie-making and galette-fashioning leaves me with not quite enough cherries to fill a new pastry, but certainly enough sour cherries to stick in the freezer and save for as long as I can.  Believe it or not, in between last sour cherry season and this year’s upcoming one, I was able to hold onto a good amount of cherries.  I’ve been making them into syrups, using them to fill the occasional tiny pastry, and last week, when I reached the end of my stash, I worked them into a new riff on that summertime favorite, pineapple upside down cake.  Only in this case I left out the pineapple all together and instead baked a cake atop a bed of sour cherries nestled in a bed of brown sugar and butter.

The result was fantastic, as I hoped it would be.  I used the last of the cherries, after all, so if the dessert was a flop, I would have been utterly crushed.  But it was not a flop.  It was a delight.  The sour cherries were the perfect foil for the rich brown sugar topping, and the cake underneath was sturdy enough to hold court against the cherry topping, but light enough to keep the dessert from feeling like a mid-day gut bomb.  Oh, don’t get me wrong—this is a sweet dessert indeed, but it’s a far cry from being a double-decker frosted offering (of which, of course, I am also quite fond).  It’s a perfect summer cake, and a worthy use of any sour cherries you might have on hand.  With a bit of luck, in a few short weeks I might just have some more cherries on my hands.

Last Year: Lemon Cream and Strawberry Trifle

Also last year, I put my ration of sour cherries to good use in a classic sour cherry pie.

Sour Cherry Upside Down Cake Recipe

Inspired by a pineapple upside down cake recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 pound pitted sour cherries

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoon pieces

½ cup light brown sugar

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 large egg white, room temperature

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position.

Place pitted cherries in a colander and toss lightly to allow excess juices to drain slightly.  Drizzle with almond extract, toss lightly to combine, and set side.

In a 9-inch round cake pan, place 4 tablespoons of butter.  Place pan in the oven until the butter has melted, but not browned (this should take about 2 to 3 minutes).  Sprinkle the brown sugar into the pan, then gently pat the mixture until it evenly covers the bottom of the pan.  Place the cherries in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture, evenly covering the bottom of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together on medium speed the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter, along with the granulated sugar, until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated.  Beat in the vanilla.

Beating on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk.  Add half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the rest of the milk.  Add the last of the flour mixture, and beat until just combined.  The batter should be very thick.

Spoon the batter over the cherries, then gently smooth the top.  Gently tap the pan on top of the counter to settle the batter amongst the cherries.  Bake the cake in the center of the oven until a cake tester emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 45 to 50 minutes, rotating pan after about 20 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Place a serving platter on top of the pan, then flip both cake pan and plate over, inverting the cake onto the platter.  Allow the pan to rest upside down on top of the platter for 1 minute, releasing both the cake and the cherry topping without assistance.  Gently remove the pan, then allow the cake to cool for 2 hours before eating.

Serves 8 to 10 people.

Sour Cherry Pie

28 Jul

Is it your birthday?  Would you like me to bake you a pie?  What kind of pie?  Is it autumn?  Well, let’s make it an apple pie.  Winter?  Then how about something festive–coconut cream or chocolate, perhaps  Spring?  Well, clearly I should make you a strawberry pie.  But if it’s summertime, I am afraid you will have no choice in the matter.  If it’s summertime, I am going to make you a sour cherry pie.  Not just any cherry, mind you.  Sour cherry.  The best pie cherry in the entire world.

This is not the first time I have written about my dedication to sour cherries.  It is, however, the first time I have admitted publicly that when I make my best friend a sour cherry pie for her birthday every July, the joy I get from working with the cherries is as great as the joy my best friend gets from eating the cherries.

Sound implausible?  Think about it for a minute.  You know how birdwatchers get all giddy and flushed when they witness a rarely-seen bird?  Or how antique aficionados can be rendered breathless when faced with a mint condition Arts and Crafts Roycroft chair?  That’s how I feel about sour cherries.  Sour cherries, so fleeting in their availability, are, to me, akin to rare birds.  Their brief and glorious appearance occurs but once a year and is so short-lived that as soon as you hesitate to appreciate them, they are long gone.

Though I am aware of how over the top this comparison may seem, I am also aware of the fact that, as someone who spends an inordinately large amount of time in the kitchen, my senses and perceptions of time, seasons, and memory tend to lean towards the food-based.  And that means that when July rolls around, I can look forward to hot weather, evenings in the garden, my best friend’s birthday, and sour cherry pie.

Sour Cherry Pie

Filling ingredients and baking method adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

As noted in the photos above, I like to pit sour cherries using an unfurled paper clip. My sister-in-law taught me that trick, and I’ve found no better way to remove pits from sour cherries (which are a very soft and juicy type of cherry).  The paper clip removal is very simple: you hold a cherry in one hand, and with the other hand you just insert one u-shaped end of an open paper clip into the stem hole of a cherry, flip the paper clip up, and the pit pops right out (it only looks like I accomplish the action one-handed in the picture above because I needed my other, non-paper-clip-holding hand to hold the camera).  The cherry is never smashed, and the flesh remains intact.  If you have a cherry pitter, by all means, feel free to use it.  If you don’t, however, I really recommend the paper clip method.

Pie crust for 1 double crust pie.

This is my favorite pie crust recipe.  Since the recipe makes only enough dough for a single crust pie, all the ingredients will need to be doubled.  When the dough has been mixed together, divide it in half, form each half into disks, wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.)

6 cups pitted sour cherries (fresh, not canned)

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon almond extract

pinch salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of pie dough into a 12-inch circle.  Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie plate, allowing the edges of the dough to hang over the sides of the pie plate.  Place in refrigerator while you prepare the other half of the dough.

One a lightly floured surface, roll the other disk of dough into a rectangle roughly 12 by 10 inches long.  Cut the rectangle lengthwise into 8 strips that are 12 inches long.  Place strips of dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the pie filling.

In a large bowl, combine cherries and sugar.  Gently toss together, then set aside for 20 minutes to allow the cherries to release some of their juices.

Adjust an oven rack to its lowest level, then preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with a piece of aluminum foil, then place the foil-lined baking sheet on the adjusted rack while the oven preheats.

Reserve ¼ cup of juice from the bowl of cherries, then drain cherries thoroughly through a colander.  Return the cherries to the same bowl, then add the reserved juice, tapioca, cinnamon, almond extract, and salt.  Toss together until combined.

Pour the cherries into the dough-lined pie plate and weave the long strips of dough over the top in a lattice pattern.  (There is a good tutorial on how to do this here, but keep in mind that you will, obviously, be using fewer strips of dough.)  Trim the edges of the lattice even with the overhang of the lower crust, then fold up the edges and crimp into place using your fingers.  Brush the top crust of the pie with the beaten egg white.

Place the pie on the heated, foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the top crust has started to turn golden, about 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate the baking sheet, and continue cooking the pie until the juices are bubbling and the crust has turned uniformly dark golden brown, about 25 to 35 minutes longer.

Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours, until the filling has set.

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