I like cherries. I like them a lot. They are, so far as I can tell, the smallest of the stone fruit — miniscule cousins to the plum, peach, apricot, and all those most cherished sweet drupes of summer. They are the harbingers and the advance guard of the season’s coming in earnest, which — as any of you who are regular Twice Cooked readers already know — might actually count as a strike against them in my humble book. But their flavor is so intense, and so explosive when encapsulated in so compact a package, that it is difficult to think of them as other than bearers of the concentrated essence of all that is good in this too-hot season of the year.
There are some classic, really fine cherry desserts out there. Clafoutis may be the most deserving of attention, with its delightful texture — somewhere between a custard and a cake — and whole cherries, unpitted, baked right in. The denizens of Limousin, the region in central France from which the dessert derives, say that the inclusion of the pits enriches the final product, perfuming the whole thing with a scent that is not unlike almonds. And they say (I would assume) that folks concerned about swallowing a pit or cracking a tooth should really be more careful.
The urge to collect attractive natural things has always been part of my psyche. Pine cones, interesting seeds and leaves, and unusual rocks often make their way into my pockets. Even though I live in Manhattan, I am constantly finding things to collect — especially edible things.
I have had great luck in the city with mushrooms and berries. Greens (mustard, mint, herbs, etc.) tend to grow in places where dogs pee, and there is always a question of what pesticides may have been sprayed. Roots (burdock, carrot) are often not large enough to be worth digging and can be contaminated with pesticides or other soil pollution, too. Digging also can draw attention to an activity that is technically illegal in New York City.
For the sake of full disclosure, you need to know that this recipe for sour cherry upside down cake is recycled with only a little modification from last year’s model: a peach cake in the same style. In the previous edition, I claimed that the point of the recipe was to rehabilitate the upside down cake genre, which has been saddled with all manner of unfortunate business like canned pineapple rings, cheapy maraschino cherries, and an aesthetic that screams at the top of its little pastry lungs: I’ve just come from the 1950s, and I’m here to help!
In that post, I said that this cake calls for two key modifications that make it a delight, rather than a chore, to eat: 1) I use real fruit and only real fruit in this recipe, eschewing the canned stuff in favor of whatever is local and in season; and 2) I’ve turned this into a yogurt-based cake, which leads to a texture that is moist but not soggy, and that adds just the tiny bit of creamy tang you need to complement the acidity of the fruit.
Sometimes I cook because I’m excited about a new idea. Sometimes, it’s because I’m hungry, or because I want something specific, or because I want to impress my friends, or because I’m guilted into it by Sarah, who tells me: Really? You want to order in again? Didn’t we just get a bunch of vegetables […]