Midsummer is cherry season, when cherries fill the markets and humans wage war with birds over picking rights. Sour cherries are what everyone wants for cooking; they seem too tart to eat out of hand, but their flavor becomes deep, complex and addictive in jams and pies. But sweet cherries are much easier to find; I bought some this week for $1.99 a pound. Those of you with sweet cherry trees know how hard it is to eat so many fresh cherries at once, so finding another way to use them is a blessing. Also, it’s a big eff-you to the birds you’ve been battling for weeks, so that’s nice.
Right now, while they’re so big, so sweet and so abundant, you should eat as many cherries as you want. Pig out. But don’t resist the urge to cook with sweet cherries, because it can be done. Here’s one good use: Easy little cherry pastries, scented with almond. They’re gorgeous, and the sweet cherries hold their own. The only hassle with this fruit is the pitting. The easiest way to prepare a small number of them for cooking is to break them apart with your fingers, pulling the pits out with a fingernail. That way, you’re pitting and halving at the same time. But homegrown cherries, especially slightly underripe ones, can be reluctant to give up their pits. If you’ve got your own tree or you’re processing a bunch of fruit, you should definitely invest in a pitter, but not just any pitter. Years ago, I bought a stainless steel model that never really worked. When pitting quarts of just-picked cherries, I would usually abandon it. The Oxo Good Grips pitter, which is probably less expensive than the one I had, is a vast improvement and costs about $12.
My mom, who has two big sweet cherry trees, upgraded this year to a more advanced model from Williams-Sonoma that she says makes good on its promise to pit 25 pounds in an hour. It costs about $30. If your neighbors have trees, you can pass it around. Meanwhile, save some cherries for these sweet little pies I call galettes (because it makes them sound fancier).
Mini Cherry-Almond Galettes
- ½ pound sweet cherries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- galette dough (below)
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- sugar, for sprinkling
- sliced almonds
Combine the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, almond extract, salt and cornstarch in a bowl and toss to combine. Crush a few cherries with the back of a spoon to help release more juice.
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Divide the chilled galette dough into four parts. Gently press one into a ball.
Roll it out on a floured surface, into a circle about 6 inches around and a little less than ¼-inch thick.
Using a bench knife or spatula, transfer the circle to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Repeat with the other three circles.
Put one-quarter of the cherry mixture in the center of a circle and fold the dough up over the edges of the filling, leaving the center exposed. Repeat with the other three circles.
Crack the egg into a small bowl, add about 1 tablespoon of water and mix it up with a fork. Use a pastry brush or your fingers to brush the egg wash over the pastry.
Sprinkle the edges with sugar and almonds.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Allow the galettes to cool slightly on a wire rack.
Serve with whipped cream, crème fraiche or ice cream.
Makes enough for four mini galettes
This is my basic pie crust recipe, which uses a combination of butter (tastes good) and lard or shortening (makes it flaky). Your favorite one-crust recipe will make about four galettes, too. If you want to skip the gluten, you can make the dough with almond flour.
Here I sprinkled the crust with some fancy big sugar sprinkles I had left over from holiday cookie baking, but I usually use regular sugar—or some of that rough demerara sugar that comes in the brown packets at the coffee place.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 or more tablespoons ice water
- ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Put the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and stir together well with a fork.
Using a pastry blender, your hands or two butter knives, work the butter and lard into the flour until it resembles coarse meal with some big, pea-sized chunks.
Sprinkle the water 1 tablespoon at a time over the flour, tossing with a fork in between each addition. Add just enough water so that the mixture comes together and can be gathered into two balls of equal size.
Press the ball into a disc about 1 inch thick. Wrap the disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling, at least ½ hour.