It’s been a bit of a tough year for California cherries. We’ve had a warm winter and that shortened the season tremendously. This means the fruit didn’t have a chance to enjoy the necessary winter dormant period they need to flourish. I’ve seen reports that estimate growers produced far less than half the amount they grew last year, so that means an earlier lean supply and higher prices.
In consolation, the cherries I’ve bought have been really delicious. Tremendously juicy eaten out of hand, I also made a lot of compote in my desire to extend their presence. One of the beneficiaries of my compote is this Cherry Almond Buckle. A buckle is a simple cake made with fruit and a streusel topping, like a crumb coffee cake with fruit. I added some ground toasted almonds and almond extract for flavor and a slight texture. The cherries and streusel definitely bring a sense of pure luxury to it. The cake makes a nice dessert served with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It also serves well for a fun brunch along with a good strong cup of your favorite coffee.
Much appreciation to all the farmers and let's all keep our fingers crossed for a more productive 2015 California cherry season.
- I prepared the cherries ahead to let the flavors have a chance to harmonize. They will keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator for about a week.
- When using a cherry pitter tool, be extra careful to account for all the cherry pits. Even though it does a great job of piercing the fruit, sometimes the pits stay lodged in the center, so check and be sure you can account for all of them!
- Drain off the syrup before placing small pockets of the cherries in the cake batter (I placed a cluster of 3 at a time). The cherries should still be moist but you don’t want the cake batter to get soupy. Use the drained syrup and any extra cherries to flavor oatmeal or yogurt.
- To toast almonds, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.
Cherry Almond Buckle
Makes 9 servings
1 lb fresh cherries
3 tablespoons (39 grams) sugar, to taste
2 tablespoons (1 oz) water
zest of 1/2 small orange
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons (5 grams) cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup (1 3/4 oz) flour
1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) toasted almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz)) sugar
2 large eggs @ room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream
For the cherries, stem and pit them and place in a saucepan. Add the sugar, water, orange zest and cinnamon and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit begins to soften and the juices are flowing. Taste and adjust for sugar. Combine the cornstarch with 1 1/2 teaspoons of water until there are no lumps and add to the cherries. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 3 – 4 minutes until the juices have thickened a bit. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice and vanilla. Cool completely. Place in an airtight container and chill until ready to use.
For streusel, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2” pieces, add to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Use your fingers to flatten the butter until you have a moist clumpy mixture with some small pieces of butter still in tact. Chill until ready to use.
When ready to make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving a short overhang on two sides.
Place the flour, toasted almonds, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the almonds are finely ground. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Add vanilla and almond extracts and combine.
Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with half the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down bowl halfway through. Just before it looks completely mixed, pull it off the mixer and finish combining by hand with a rubber spatula to avoid over mixing.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Draining off the juices, place teaspoons of cherries every couple of inches over the surface, pushing the fruit down into the cake batter. Set aside and reserve any remaining compote for another use. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top.
Bake until a tester inserted into the cake come out clean, about 35 - 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Gently lift the cake out using the parchment overhang. Cool completely. Gently remove the parchment and place on a platter to serve.