The cherry on top
In brownies, upside-down fruit cake or preserved - three ways to take advantage of cherry season.
For me, what sets cherries apart more than anything is their beauty. Their color, a deep maroon; their shape, perfectly round; their thin skin, gleaming and inviting, and their stems, slender and delicate, joining two of them next to each other. Not for nothing does the sight of cherries inspire romantic thoughts: It is the most coupled fruit in nature.
Cherries are sweet but with a surprise bittersweet aftertaste. The flavor has hints of blossoms and exotic spices. The cherry pit has a bitter almond flavor and is responsible for the slight bitterness at the end. The cherry's flesh is meaty, and, together with its convenient size, provides a healthy snack that is guilt-free.
Cooking cherries in sugar and spices yields a wondrous jar in which the fruit, which remains stable even after being cooked, is suspended in sweet thick syrup. The natural ability of cooked cherries to absorb flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla, almond, anise, Port wine, Amaretto, and creme de cassis makes for a superior ingredient that upgrades a wide array of dishes.
Preserved cherries will enrich pound cakes, chocolate cakes, cheesecakes and tarts. Cooked cherries make wonderful toppings for ice cream, goat milk yogurt and malabi. They also work beautifully with fresh lettuce salads, quinoa and rice salads, in salad dressings and over hot goat's cheese.
Preserved cherries will stay fresh all year, but you have to hurry up and make them because cherry season is brief. Another way to go is to freeze them for when the season's over. They should be washed, dried, and pitted before freezing. First you freeze the cherries in a pan in a single layer, then keep them frozen in layers in an airtight container.
There are two main types of cherries: sweet and sour. Sweet cherries come in two colors: a powerfully flavored red-maroon, and a more subtle-tasting yellow with a small orange stain. Sour cherries are pale red, and are mostly sold for commercial purposes and hard to obtain. They are used in alcoholic beverages (vishniac, kirsch, cherry liqueur ), baking, and preserves. Sour cherries are also suitable for meat dishes and stews.
Shopping for cherry pitters: Westmark (made in Germany, NIS 57 ). Highly recommended. Quick and simple pitting that doesn't tire your hand.
Chef'n (made in China, NIS 40 ). Highly recommended. Pitting is easy and even enjoyable.
Endurance (made in China, NIS 36 ). Recommended. Lightweight, small, and easy to use, but takes some getting used to.
Swing a Way (made in China, NIS 50 ). Big, heavy, and uncomfortable to hold.
Snocciolatore (made in Italy, NIS 40 ). Heavy, has a problematic spring and an uncomfortable grip.
Available at specialty stores: 4Chef, Kitchen Works, Grubstein, Spices, and Laga'at Ba'ochel
The soft and melt-in-your-mouth consistency is reminiscent of a rich chocolate mousse. You can use preserved amarena cherries after draining them.
Ingredients ((16 servings:
4 heaping tablespoons preserved cherries
250 grams bittersweet chocolate (at least 60 percent cocoa solids)
100 grams butter
150 grams (3/4 cups) powdered sugar
55 grams sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder and cocoa for dusting
Strain the cherries and set aside.
Melt chocolate and butter in a Bain Marie. Stir well. Cool to room temperature. In an electric mixer with a flat beater attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and slightly puffy. Fold in flour, cocoa and chocolate at the end.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a square baking pan (20 x 20 cm) with baking paper. Pour the batter into the pan and spread the cherries on top. Stick the pan in the oven, lower the temperature immediately to 150 degrees Celsius, and bake for 25 minutes. Cool for several hours before cutting. Store in a container in the fridge.
Take the brownies out of the fridge, sprinkle cocoa powder on top, and eat after 5-10 minutes.