Cherry and Almond Crisp

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By the time I was halfway through my pile of cherries, the tips of my fingers were already stained a deep shade of red.

Cherries are in season (at $1.99 a pound!) and they are sweet, plump, and what I want for breakfast or dessert. I played around with making cherry and bourbon paletas, but I’ll have to get back to you on that. Turns out almond milk is not what you want to use in that situation. Too icy when I wanted creamy.

Instead, this week’s cherries were off to the oven. Megan posted her whole-grain skillet crisp on Wednesday, and by Sunday morning we had a skillet full of bubbling cherries on our table. The 20-minute cooling time was a terrible wait.

I made a few substitutions. Though I usually refer to this guide for easy ways to make buttermilk, I decided to just use some fancy heavy cream instead. Flour replaced cornstarch since we’d used up our last box on a few rounds of crispy tofu.

Danny said this crisp is where my granola meets those date bars. He’s not wrong. The crispy topping is full of oats and cinnamon, so I see what he means. We ate a couple slices of the crisp quickly that morning with cups of coffee from Santo Domingo (thanks mom!) You should definitely serve this crisp with coffee. Maybe a little whipped cream, too. The whole thing crumbles when served, but the fruit seems to set somewhat by the next day.

On Monday, the crisp mostly gone, my fingernails were still stained at the edges. Pitting cherries, they say, is a labor of love. At this time of year it’s worth it. We served the rest of the crisp that night in a bowl with vanilla ice cream.

A few days later, I picked up my paring knife and started splitting cherries for the second crisp in a week. You should know, the second round was just as good as the first. And it won’t be the last.

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cherry and almond crisp

Whether you call this a crisp or a crumble, it is essentially a granola-like topping over fruit. The topping recipe can be used for other fruits, especially stone fruits and berries. To make your own almond meal, grind 3/4 cup sliced almonds in the food processor to get the 1/2 cup you need in this recipe. 

for the filling:
1 3/4 pounds (about 6 cups) fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
3 tablespoons brown sugar (any will work, but I’d lean toward brown or turbinado)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour or 2 teaspoons cornstarch

for the topping:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more to grease the skillet
1/4 cup heavy cream or buttermilk
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Heat oven to 375°F.

To make the topping, combine the whole wheat flour, sugar, almond meal, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter. Pulse several times, about 20 to 30 seconds, until the mixture resembles cornmeal. You can also do this by hand (with a pastry cutter if you have it) and cut in the butter.

Slowly add the heavy cream and continue pulsing (or mixing) until the liquid is absorbed. The dough should be clumpy.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Mix in the oats and almonds.

To prepare the filling, toss together the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Generously butter the bottom and sides of the cast iron skillet. Spread the cherries out evenly in the skillet.

Spoon the topping over the fruit, spreading it out evenly. If the cherries show through the edges, that’s fine. It’s kind of pretty actually.

Place skillet in the center of the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the cherry juices are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Rotate the skillet halfway through the baking time.

Remove skillet from the oven and let the crisp cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve the crisp warm or room temperature, and it will keep beautifully at room temperature for up to 1 more day. Just keep the top covered in plastic wrap.

Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from A Sweet Spoonful via Attune Foods.

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