Anyone walking into my kitchen yesterday would have been forgiven for screaming and running for the door, calling the police as they did so.
It certainly looked as though I had been committing bloody murder... (that'll teach Rob for leaving the toilet seat up again!)
But the reason for the dramatic red spattering was in fact these beautiful cherries. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have discovered several wild cherry trees in the locality. But it turns out that there are rich pickings even closer than this - we even have a cherry tree in our GARDEN! And so apparently do many of our neighbours. Now, our tree is producing quite small, scarlet cherries. They have a nice sharp flavour, but still sweet enough to eat unadorned. However, they are a real pain to pit as they simply pop straight through the hole in the pitter! But... over the road, in Abbi's garden, is a tree which is producing these wonderful dark red, large, juicy cherries. So yesterday saw me once again balancing precariously on a garden chair with a punnet in one hand, and cherry juice dripping down my arm. I hasten to add that I had asked her permission to pick them, and as she wasn't intending to pick them she was very happy that I should use them.
Cherry-pitting has to be one of the most tedious kitchen jobs there is. As well as being extremely messy, it's also slow and boring. And it makes your hand ache. What I really need is one of these nifty gadgets, as demonstrated on Amy Karol's lovely blog... Still, making do with the far less amusing but still pretty effective cherry-pitter from the local hardware shop, I battled through the freshly picked kilogram of cherries.
And you know what? It was worth every tedious minute. The cherry season is so short, it's worth making the most of every opportunity to use them, especially when they are available for free!
I had decided that I wanted to bake something with them, so went for the now famous Plum Torte recipe from the New York Times, but substituting half of the flour for ground almonds and leaving out the cinnamon. Instead of plums I tumbled several handfuls of pitted cherries, along with a generous scattering of sliced almonds. I had intended to use crushed amaretti biscuits to make a crispy topping as seen on this divine looking Cherry Amaretto Cake baked by the always-inspirational Mannix... but I couldn't seem to find the amaretti I thought were stashed in the cupboard. That will have to wait until next time.
I was however very pleased with the resulting cake. Like it's Plum cousin, this is perfect eaten warmed as a dessert, but I wouldn't refuse a cold slice to accompany my afternoon cup of tea. In fact, I didn't refuse one, and utterly delicious it was too.
Having recently got the cupcake bug, I was keen to try some kind of cherry cupcake too. I had tried - with great success - filling cupcakes using the cone method... last time I used stewed rhubarb, but this time it was cherries, made into a light compote with just a touch of sugar. I strained the juice before filling the cupcakes so that the cakes didn't become too soggy.
I 'invented' the topping - beating together cream cheese and icing sugar, and then stirring in 100g of melted white chocolate. This meant that the icing hardened slightly on cooling, and didn't slide off the cake.
I thought it was only fair to thank the neighbours from whom I had picked the cherries, so packaged up a couple of cute punnets of cupcakes for them... All I can say is that my neighbours are lucky I delivered them before I tasted one of these. They're so gorgeous I would have struggled to give them away had I eaten one first!