Lately I’ve been on a cherry kick that started when I was driving to visit my parents for Father’s Day. On the way, I passed a cherry orchard with a large sign announcing cherry pie. Holy moly… a perfect desert for my dad! I got off the freeway and miraculously found my way to the orchard and pie shop without having to fire up the gps. After waiting in line for a few minutes, breathing in the aroma of pies baking, soon enough I had a cherry pie fresh from the oven and was on my way again. The pie was a welcome treat… full and ripe bing cherries bursting with summer flavor in a tender, flaky crust. It was the best cherry pie I’ve ever had and more importantly… dad felt just the same!
A few days later on my way home, I stopped at the pie shop and purchased another cherry pie and two pounds of these lovely ranier cherries.
I’m a summer gal through and through and luv the varieties of fruits that are available this time of year… especially the stone fruits — cherries, apricots, nectarines, plums, donut and white peaches.
Along with my new enthusiasm for cherries, when at my favorite market recently I came across olallieberries. Have you ever had them? Last summer while camping at Santa Cruz beach, our camp site neighbors brought us some berries that looked very similar to blackberries. We thought they were until they told us, “No, they are olallieberries!” Try saying that 3 times fast! They had gone berry picking at an orchard about 10 miles from the beach and after tasting one, two and then darn near eating the whole plateful, we decided to go the next day and pick our own olalliberries!
Much to our surprise, the berry patch was crowded with pickers, their pails overflowing with the ripe berries. At the end of each row a sign was posted, “No eating berries while picking” What??? To me that’s like telling a child to keep their hands out of the cookie jar! After my own pail was about half full, I couldn’t stand it anymore and “pick, pick, pick, anyone looking? oh yum! pick, pick, pick, look around for the berry police… delish!” I soon discovered berry picking is not the cleanest activity as the juice gets everywhere, but it is so very worth it! And to avoid being hunted down by the berry police, when we checked out we added another 1/4 lb to our total haul to cover the berries that didn’t quite make it to the pail.
I decided to put the cherries, raspberries, and olallieberries to good use and baked up a few dozen muffins — one batch with the ranier cherries and combo muffins with the raspberries and olallieberries. I used the same recipe for both varieties of muffins that I adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for blueberry muffins.
I luv cupcakes and prefer them to muffins and the light dough of this recipe results in a perfect cross between a cupcake and muffin. Festive cupcake papers lined the muffin tins and a large ice-cream scoop was used to fill each portion just 3/4 full. Perfect sized muffin-cakes!!!
A mesh tea infuser is an easy and inexpensive way to apply just the right amount of confectioner’s sugar on the muffins!
My mother crocheted this adorable “wash cloth” for me to use in my kitchen but I think it is far too cute for wiping up gunk off the counters. She always asks me if I’ve used it yet and my response is always the same… “No mom, I want to use it in a photograph first!” Now that I’ve photographed it, I’ve come to the conclusion it is still too cute for wiping gunk off the counters and it is now on a shelf in my prop room… a constant source of inspiration and reminder of where I get my creativity from (thank you my mother)!
berries in every bite… delish!
There are a few clever and inexpensive ways to remove cherry pits; paperclip, chopstick, straw or pastry tip, and after giving the pastry tip method a try (and making a huge mess!), I decided to pony up $14 and buy a cherry pitter. I’m happy to say, this cherry pitter is one of the best lil’ gadgets in my kitchen. In under 20 minutes, I’d pitted 2 lbs of cherries including removing the stems and cutting them in half. I’m not trying to push this particular tool by any means, but after the pit was removed, the cherries looked just as pretty as when they were whole! And better yet, it also removes pits from another one of my favorite foods — olives.
My mother makes holiday sugar cookies that are covered in a glaze that adds just the right amount of sweetness to every bite. I added 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice to her recipe and the tartness of the lemon “dazzle” glaze compliments the sweet of the cherries.
recipe: ranier cherry muffins yield: 20-24 muffins
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups superfine or baker’s suger
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
lemon zest (grated from one lemon)
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 lbs ranier cherries*, stems removed, pitted and cut in half
* or 3 pints of fresh berries (2-3 cups) – such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, olallieberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with paper cups
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt in to a large bowl and mix together
In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, melted (cooled) butter, lemon zest, and eggs
Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until until blended – do not over mix
Gently fold the cherries in to the batter and mix lightly until the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the batter
Using a standard (2 1/4) ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the paper cups filling about 3/4 full
Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes until golden brown
Remove from muffin tins and allow to cool on a wire rack
recipe for lemon “dazzle” glaze
2 cups confectioner’s sugar (sifted to remove lumps)
2 tablespoons hot milk
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
In a small bowl, add the milk and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the confectioner’s sugar and mix together until smooth
The glaze should have a spreadable consistency and not be too thin or it will run off the muffins. If glaze is too thick, add more lemon juice as needed.
Using a pastry brush, spread the glaze on the cooled muffins