The past few weeks I have been enjoying trying out new desserts with the first of the summer stone fruits.
The cherries have been wonderful and I ended up buying yet another huge flat of them last week with which I have been devising seemingly endless recipes. Most of my recipes begin with one obsession plotted out over several days. Knowing that we would finally have a pretty warm Fourth of July celebration last week, I settled on an icy cherry dessert with a little cream.
Granita is one of those dishes that I never remember when planning dessert. When concocting a frozen dessert I usually reach for my ice cream machine, but granita is so simple, refreshing, and delicious that I decided to try out a newfangled cherry version this July.
Last winter I fell hard for a clementine granita parfait by pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick, of the phenomenal Sofra cafe and Oleana in Boston. Remembering this parfait, but wanting to evoke all aspects of the cherry I decided to make an almond cream with a cherry granita base. I will talk more about this in my next post, but one of the unsung flavors of virtually all stonefruit is the almond-redolent seed inside of the pit. In fact, imitation almond extract is usually made from these smell-alike and look-alike stonefruit seeds. If you go to the trouble of cracking the hard shell and extracting the seeds inside, smell them. The strength of the odor of an apricot seed, for example, is impressive.
As for the granita proper, you can omit the lime juice, but cherries are so sweet that I really love the tang that the lime juice provides to counterbalance it. The caramel candy is a cinch to make, even on the hottest of days since it only requires a couple of minutes over the stove and then you are done.
One last cherry recipe before they are gone baby gone. Enjoy!
Cherry Granita with Almond Cream and Caramel Crunch
3 cups pitted cherries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 pint organic (not ultra-pasteurized) heavy whipping cream
2 drops almond extract
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Caramel Crunch Candy
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Granita. Make a simple syrup out of the water and sugar for the granita. Simply bring them to a boil and then let cool. In a food processor like a Cuisenart, blend the cherries and simple syrup together until they are very smooth. If you like a lot of lime flavor, zest the limes and add that before juicing them. Add the lime juice from the limes. Put in a large container in the freezer and stir with a fork every hour for about three hours. May store in the fridge until ready to serve. If done ahead of time, let unfreeze a little bit (15 minutes or so) until it becomes slushy before serving.
Caramel Candy Crunch. Spray parchment paper with cooking spray. In a pan, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over medium-high heat without stirring or jostling until it begins to darken to an amber color. Stay attentive because it goes from clear to black and burnt in a matter of a minute. Once it has this nice dark amber, quickly and safely pour the syrup onto the prepared, sprayed parchment paper, tilting it to spread it thinly. Thick pieces of candy just do not taste as good in this dessert. Let cool for at least 3o minutes and then store or break into large pieces to serve immediately.
Almond Cream. Whip the cream until soft (not stiff) peaks form and then add the powdered sugar and almond extract. May store in the fridge until ready to serve.
To assemble the dessert, place the whipped cream on the bottom, followed by the granita. If you have those really long champagne cocktail glasses, you can repeat another layer of cream and then granita and finally top the whole thing with one or two pieces of the broken caramel crunch and serve.