During the summer, my incessant snacking habits migrate from potato chips and other crunchy things to fresh fruit, especially lychees and cherries. While lychees can be rather sticky and messy to eat (which is bad for my computer keyboard), cherries are relatively tidy. I also love them in these simple desserts.
Cherry almond strudel (pictured)
The quantities for this recipe are enough for three strudels. If you don’t want three all at once, you can refrigerate the almond and cherry fillings, then make and bake as needed. Don’t fill the filo too far in advance before baking it or the pastry will be soggy.
Using a cherry pitter for both these recipes makes life much easier.
175 grams unsalted butter, divided
900 grams firm, ripe, sweet black cherries, stems and pits removed
50 grams granulated sugar, or to taste
About 30ml fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of one lemon
½ tsp almond extract
9 sheets filo pastry (I use the Pampas brand)
40 grams almond flakes, divided
15 grams dry breadcrumbs
For the almond cream:
110 grams sliced almonds
110 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
60 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 large egg, at room temperature,
1 tsp dark rum
¼ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
Icing sugar, for sprinkling
Cut the cherries in half. Melt 25 grams of butter in a skillet and add the cherries and sugar. Sauté over a medium- high flame until the cherries start to wilt and give off their juices. Pour the ingredients into a colander set over a bowl and strain off as much liquid as possible.
Pour the liquid back into the skillet and add the lemon juice. Simmer the liquid over a medium-high flame until it reduces to a syrupy glaze. Add this to the cherries and mix in the lemon zest and almond extract. Cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put 20 grams of almonds in a pan and bake them until pale golden, then cool to room temperature. Grind the almonds with the breadcrumbs in a food processor, then transfer to a bowl. Turn the oven to 200 degrees.
For the cream filling, finely grind the almonds with the sugar and salt in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse to combine, then pulse in the egg, rum, lemon zest and almond and vanilla extracts. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Melt 150 grams of butter in a skillet and cool it to lukewarm. Lay the filo pastry on a work surface and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Take one sheet of filo and put it on the work surface, then use a pastry brush to brush it lightly but evenly with butter. Lay a second sheet of filo over the first one, and brush it lightly but evenly with butter. Lay a third sheet of filo over the second, but don’t brush it with butter. Scatter one-third of the almond and breadcrumb mix over the surface.
Spread a third of the almond cream filling along one of the short sides of the filo, about 3cm from the edge. Put one-third of the cherries over the almond filling. Fold the edge of the filo stack up and over the cherries and roll tightly until you are near the other edge. Brush the opposite edge lightly with butter, then finish rolling the pastry. Put the strudel seam-side down on a parchmentlined baking tray. Brush the strudel with butter, then sprinkle with one-third of the flaked almonds. Bake at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Leave for about 10 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with icing sugar, then serve.
Chocolate brandied cherry ice cream
You need to make the brandied cherries at least a week in advance, so they have time to macerate. I make a large quantity of them, then use the cherries throughout the year. The brandy that’s leftover in the jar can be sweetened to taste with sugar, then drunk as a cordial.
Firm, ripe, sweet black cherries, stems and pits removed
For the ice cream:
150ml whole milk
200 grams bittersweet chocolate (I use Valrhona or Lindt, with a cacao content of about 70 per cent), chopped into small pieces
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
70 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
30ml brandy (from making the brandied cherries)
150 grams drained brandied cherries, roughly chopped
Put the pitted cherries in a sterilised canning jar (wash it well, rinse with hot water, then fill with boiling water and leave for a few minutes before draining). Add enough brandy so the cherries are submerged. Cover with the lid and store for at least a week at room temperature.
Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan and, when it simmers, remove it from the flame and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and salt. Add a ladleful of the hot milk/cream/chocolate mixture and whisk immediately, then repeat this step twice. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and set it over a low flame. Stir constantly in a back-and-forth motion with a wooden spoon, making sure to cover the entire bottom of the pan so the mixture doesn’t stick. It’s ready when the mixture coats the spoon and leaves a track when you draw your finger through it. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean container, then leave at room temperature until cool. Whisk in the brandy, then refrigerate until chilled. Process the mixture in an ice-cream machine. When it’s ready stir in the brandied cherries.
Pack into a container then freeze for at least four hours.