It's been exactly two years since I wrote about my favorite cherry custard tart recipe and I still stand by it. There isn't a soul on earth who has tasted it and hasn't promptly fallen in love. But with so many cherries in the Bay Area markets right now, it was time to think Beyond the Tart. Roasted cherries sounded intriguing, so I gave them a try over the weekend. I am pleased to report that I now can stand by two cherry recipes! Read on for the recipe.
This recipe is based on one from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook with some notable changes. First, I used demerara sugar, which added smoky caramel notes, and less of it (two tablespoons instead of three.) I also swapped their recommended sweet dessert wine (Banyuls Rimage, which I didn't have on hand) with some homemade cherry brandy. The cherries are roasted whole but can be pitted before serving, which is recommended if you are feeding those too young or too old to deal with the pits. (Don't pit them beforehand, or you'll release too many juices.)
The cherries come out of the oven plump and almost black, with rich, spicy notes from the sugar and brandy. Roasting intensifies the cherry flavor and concentrates the texture, making the cherries almost chewy. The sugar and juices produce a thick, absolutely delicious sauce.
I served these cherries over vanilla ice cream, going the simple route in order to get a good sense of their flavor and texture. You could also spoon them over a custard or flan, or pound or sponge cake, or yogurt, or a mild goat cheese.
24 large, plump and very ripe cherries
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Pinch sea salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper
1/4 cup cherry brandy (or Banyuls Rimage wine, if you have such things lying about)
Preheat oven to 450°. Place the whole cherries in a small roasting pan (I used a pie plate) and sprinkle on the sugar, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the cherries start to release their juices and the sugar melts and begins to caramelize. This will take about 10 minutes but watch the cherries very carefully, as the sugar may start to burn.
Remove from the oven, pour the brandy over and return for another 5 minutes and roast until the juices start to bubble up. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving. Can be cooled completely and reheated gently on the stove top. (If you're removing the pits, do this before reheating.)
(Image: Dana Velden)