I‘m sitting on the front porch, watching two large wasps leisurely nibble their way around my lilac tree. The flowers are not in bloom, but the wasps are intent on alighting from leaf to leaf and snacking on something invisible to me, but clearly very appetizing to them. My little dog is curled up at my feet, and with a glass of Pinot Noir at my side, I am in full gratitude for this summer afternoon.
There is so much to love about summer, but probably at the top of the list are the myriad of fruits in season. Watermelon, white and yellow peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, in all their bright colors, beckon us to take part in their sensual pleasure. There is nothing quite as delightful as snapping off the stem, and biting down on a ripe cherry, feeling the sweet flesh between the teeth and letting the blood red juice slip around the tongue. This is the big question… it is better to enjoy these gifts raw or capture the flavors and textures in a grand dessert? What do you think?
If you choose dessert, here is a wonderful vehicle for Bing cherries. Recipes for Cherry Delight or Dolce di Ciliege abound, but I love the version I found in Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, originally published in Italy in 1891. In his recipe, whole cherries are laid on top of a cloud of egg whites and sugar. The cherries sink down just a bit and are held gently like newborn babies as they cook in the cake batter. It is all very magical, and the flavors and textures are a real treat for the palate.
Notes to the Cook: Pitting the cherries
This recipe calls for whole cherries. If you have one of those nifty cherry pitting tools, use it to remove the pits from the cherries. If not, you are in luck.
All you need is one chopstick and a steady hand. Remove the stem from the cherry, and using the wider end of the chopstick, push the end of the chopstick through the cherry going in the stem end and push the pit out the other end. A picture is worth a thousand words:
Cherry Delight - Dolce di Ciliege
Serve in the morning with coffee or tea, or enjoy after dinner with a dollop of vanilla gelato.
- 200 grams or 7 ounces whole cherries, remove stems and pits
- 100 grams powdered sugar – 1 cup
- 50 grams bread crumbs – 1/2 cup
- 40 grams almonds, blanched and peeled – 1/3 cup
- 4 medium eggs
- zest of 1/4 lemon
- Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the pits from the cherries. See directions above.
- To blanch and peel the almonds: bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Drop in the almonds and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Pour off the hot water and add cold water and a few ice cubes to the pot. After another minute, remove the almonds from water and set out on a paper towel. Using your fingers, remove the skins which should slip off easily. Dry the almonds before chopping. (There is nothing quite as delightful as the fragrance of freshly chopped, blanched almonds. It is almost as if by removing the skins, the true essence of the almond comes through.)
- Chop the almonds very fine. You can pulse them in a food processor or cut chop them by hand. Artusi says to “Mince finely until each piece is half the size of a grain of rice.” Set aside.
- Using an electric beater, beat eggs and sugar for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy.
- Add the bread crumbs and lemon zest and beat a bit more.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks, about 2-3 minutes. Gently fold egg whites into egg/sugar mixture until completely mixed.
- Sprinkle half of the chopped almonds on the bottom of the buttered baking dish and then spoon the batter into the pan. Spread evenly and then sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds on top.
- Very carefully arrange the cherries on top of the batter. The chopped almonds serve to help the cherries from sinking completely. As you lay the cherries on the batter, they will sink a bit, but that is okay.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes until the top of the cake is just springy to the touch and is light brown. The cherries suspended in the gentle sponge are so tasty. Enjoy! Buon appetito!