Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recipe: Summer Time Cherries

Cherries are such a special treat.  Such a beautiful little package...a perfect bite of summer time!  We picked up some cherries last weekend and we ate 1/2 of them right off the bat and I was left with the 2nd batch to figure out something clever to do with them...I found just the thing!

I've always been intrigued by the notion of cherries that have been marinated in alcohol...ok, I am intrigued by anything that has to do with alcohol BUT that is another post.  Drunken Cherries...sounds kind of cute and fun...and better yet, after I tried making them...they taste amazing!!  (AND! the longer they sit and marinate, the better they taste...go figure! : )  I recently found a recipe for Drunken Cherries with whipped Mascarpone and Lemon-Almond Biscotti by Mindy Fox...she just came out with a new cookbook A Bird in the Oven and Then Some.  This seemed like a desert I would love to serve to friends at an end of summer dinner party.  While the kids enjoy ice cream sandwiches, I serve this to the grown-ups...a little elegant, a little simple and very, very delicious!!

This is how Mindy Fox prepared the cherries:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup brandy and 1/4 sugar, until sugar is mostly dissolved.  Add 6 wide strips of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Add 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper--whisk to blend and pour over 3/4 pound cherries (pitted or not...) Refrigerate, covered at least 24 hours and up to 3 days, stirring occasionally.

Then!! this is what I did...I made her Lemon-Almond biscotti...I am so crazy about biscotti...give me one and a strong cup of coffee with milk (Caffelatte) and I am instantly transported to my time in Florence (this was my ideal breakfast and the one I had most often before class.)  I have made all sorts of biscotti and although I am, by no means,  an expert...I have tried and made lots and lots of them...

This particular recipe threw me a bit...I was not sure how the lemon and the almond would go together,  and I was wondering about the texture with the extra egg white but I was willing to give this a try.

And boy, was I glad I did...why I have not combined lemon and almond before, is beyond me...the flavors balance each other beautifully...the bright acidity of the lemon almost cuts thru and helps pave the way for the wonderful flavor of almonds and almond extract--a little vanilla never hurts either!

I highly recommend these and very much like the flavor far the the texture--I am not exactly sure how it worked but: this biscotti is almost creamy.  I mean still think of them like biscotti... but its not the more "dry" texture that I like and am used to, but a little bit more softer...don't get me wrong, it still has a crunch but the crumb is just a little bit more together than usual and in all honestly, I really liked it.

This is how to make them..

1/2 cup toasted silvered almonds
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, unsalted and melted
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, plus 1 egg white
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine salt

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, butter, lemon zest and juice and extracts.  Stir in almonds, egg and egg white.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; stir flour mixture into egg mixture just until combined.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using moistened hands (because dough will be sticky!), halve dough and place on two rimmed baking sheets.  Form into two 1 1/2 inch by 16 inch logs (remoisten hands as necessary).  Bake until pale golden, about 25 minutes, rotating sheets, halfway thru.  With a large metal spatula, carefully loosen logs from sheet, then cool on racks for 15 minutes.

With a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/3-inch slices on the diagonal and arrange, cut side down on clean baking sheets.  Bake until biscotti are pale golden, about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets 1/2 way thru baking time.  Transfer biscotti to wire rack and let cool completely.  (Can be stored in airtight container for up to one month.)

Now its time to put it all together...but first the mascarpone cream!  

Whisk 4 ounces (1/2 cup) mascarpone cheese until loose and shiny in a small bowl, about 2 minutes.  In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and 2 teaspoons sugar on high until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in vanilla.  Fold mascarpone into whipped cream until well combined.  

Divide cherries and liquid among 4 plates and serve with mascarpone cream and biscotti on the side.

The sweet tang of cherries goes perfectly with the sweet tang of the mascarpone and its wonderful to mop it all up with the cookies...Really a sweet and elegant desert that will impress any dinner guest!

And a perfect way to eat and serve those wonderful, summer time cherries!

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