By Nancy Pollard
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine: the Cook’s Resource, in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.
MY MOTHER-IN-LAW of fruitcake fame also made a divine sour cherry pie with a flaky Crisco crust, barely golden and with a dreamy not-too-runny filling. I tried it a couple of times, failed, and put sour cherries out of my mind, although they stayed firmly riveted in my husband’s thoughts. Competing against the childhood food memories of your spouse is a losing game, I have learned. The only sour cherry recipe I repeated was an almost all-day affair making Canard à la Montmorency, which I learned from my French cooking mentor, Mary Bond. That, however, is a project and another post for cooler weather.
It was a long time before I tried creating sour cherry desserts again. But this cake and ice cream combo changed all that. Both recipes reside in one of Domenica Marchetti’s first cookbooks, Big Night In, now sadly AOOP.*
These two magnificent recipes are her own invention, and they do not hail from Abruzzo, the province of her mother and the inspiration for some of the dishes you see on her website and cookbooks. Domenica told me she was motivated by the abundance of sour cherries grown in Michigan, where she lived when she was a beginning journalist. You can use the ones called Griottes, Montmorency, Morello or Amarena with excellent results. I always add a a bit of French sour cherry essence that we used to carry in the shop and is now available from Simply Gourmand. This cake and ice cream are so good that I pit and freeze a couple of flats of sour cherries from a local farm stand every year (freeze flat on a tray and then pack them in bags) just to reproduce this cheery concoction in the dreary JanFebs.
Mechanical Details of Sour Cherries
I use a cherry pitter from Westmark in Germany. It has no plastic parts (which always get destroyed in my kitchen) and is made of aluminum with powder coating so it can be thrown mercilessly in your dishwasher. Domenica uses a paper clip and shows you how in this Instagram video.
I make a lot of frozen desserts and was gifted by the other ice cream lover in the house (he did extensive research) with a Musso ice cream maker. It’s been in almost constant use but has never broken down for over 15 years. You just pour your cooled sorbet, granita, or ice cream mixture in the bowl, turn on the timer and beater buttons and that’s it. Most mixtures take less than 30 minutes to get to the stage where they are ready to be stored in your freezer. When you are finished, wipe out the bowl with a damp cloth, wash the beater, and you’re done. It has a stainless-steel housing, bowl and blade. Even though it is an investment, its sturdiness make it soar above two previous ones with plastic parts, which broke down in less than five years.
A shortcut to cooking the combined yolk mixture and milk/cream mixture is that once you have combined the two, if your instant-read thermometer reads between 175 and 180F, you are at the perfect temperature for the custard base and do not need to heat again. Put the container you are going to use to keep the ice cream in the freezer while the ice cream is churning. This will keep the mixture from melting as you scoop it out from the ice cream maker. Make Domenica’s chocolate sauce too, as it provides the perfect balance to the sour cherry ice cream. I prefer glucose to corn syrup, as it has less water and is less sweet than the corn syrup—or substitute a cane syrup. When you eat this gelato with its sauce, you’ll comprehend that much-bandied-about term umami.
For the cake, I prefer using a metal mold (it must be a mold with a tube in the center as this is a large, dense cake). Non-stick molds will not give you the same golden crisp crust. Grease it with butter and sprinkle flour or almond powder throughout the interior, and your cake will release beautifully. The cake can be covered and left at room temperature for three days, but if there is any left after that, wrap it in cling film or foil and refrigerate. I have even frozen slices for emergency sour cherry attacks. I always test cakes with an instant-read thermometer and not a toothpick. This one really needs to be about 205 to 210F on my Thermapen.
*Alas Out Of Print
Sour Cherry Mascarpone Pound Cake
- Butter and flour for greasing the pan
- 2 cups sour cherries (280gr), pitted and halved
- 3½ cups (790gr) white granulated sugar (I use India Tree Caster Sugar)
- 3 cups (375gr) unbleached white all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1½ cups (340gr) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 6 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon French vanilla essence
- 8 ounces (227gr) mascarpone (sour cream can be substituted)
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 325F (160C).
- You will need a cake pan with a central tube (angel-food cake pan, bundt pan, or tube pan) that will hold 10 to 12 cups (2-1/3 to 2-3/4L).
- Lightly butter and flour the interior of the pan (I sometimes use almond powder instead of flour).
- In a small bowl, mix the cherries with ½ cup (115gr) caster sugar and allow it to steep while preparing the cake batter.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and the salt.
- Put 1½ cups butter (340gr) in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat briefly to soften.
- Add the remaining 3 cups (675gr) of sugar, a scoop at a time, and beat at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Beat in the vanilla and lower the beater speed to add the flour and mascarpone in alternating increments, starting and ending with the flour.
- Gently mix the batter to make sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
- Drain the cherries, reserving the syrup that collects in the bowl, and fold them into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the pan, and shake the pan to even it out.
- Bake at least 75 minutes in the preheated ovehe top should be a deep golden color and the interior temperature should be 210F or 99C.
- While the cake is baking, put the reserved cherry syrup in a small saucepan and boil at a high temperature for a few minutes until it is thickened.
- Strain and reserve this reduced syrup to brush onto the unmolded cake while still warm.
- When the cake is done, place the pan on a cake rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding. You may have to loosen the sides and tube of the pan with a thin knife or spatula.
- Brush the tops and sides of the unmolded cake with the syrup while warm.
- Transfer to a cake plate and sieve some confectioners’ sugar on top before serving.
Sour Cherry Gelato With Bittersweet Chocolate Cherry Sauce
- 1½ cups (356ml) whole milk
- 1½ cups (356ml) heavy cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean split (I use ½ teaspoon vanilla essence from Grasse)
- 6 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup superfine sugar (170gr) (I use India Tree Caster Sugar)
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 4½ cups (690gr) pitted sour cherries, halved
- ½ cup (114gr) granulated sugar
- For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons (15gr) pure cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Brute)
- 1/3 cup (79ml) heavy cream
- 1 cup (237ml) light corn syrup (I prefer to use glucose)
- 8 ounces (227gr) best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use Valrhona Oriado)
- 3 tablespoons (60gr) salted butter
- 1 tablespoon Kirsch
- Place the milk and cream in a heavy saucepan and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the mixture. Add the vanilla pod as well. (I add the Vanilla Essence from Grasse after the mixture is finished cooking.)
- Bring the milk and cream just to a boil—do not let it boil over—then remove from the heat.
- In a mixer bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the superfine sugar and salt until the mixture is thick and light-colored like a mayonnaise.
- Whisk a small amount of the hot cream/milk mixture into the eggs to set the temperature and then slowly add the rest of the hot cream/milk. The resting temperature of the final mixture should be 175-180F.
- If you are returning the mixture to the heat, stir constantly with a wood spoon until that temperature is reached, or the mixture is thick enough to lightly coat the back of your spoon.
- Discard the vanilla pod if used, or add the vanilla essence and then cover with cling wrap and chill thoroughly.
- Place 3 cups of the cherries and the remaining ½ cup sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.
- Bring the cherries to a simmer over medium heat and cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted and the cherries are soft.
- Pass the cherries through a food mill fitted with the finest disk and then strain this purée through a mesh strainer and discard the solids.
- You should have 1½ cups of liquid, which you will bring to a simmer in a small saucepan.
- Reduce this to 1 cup, then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Stir this cherry syrup into the cold gelato mixture, and freeze according to your ice cream machine instructions.
- Then fold inthe 1½ cups reserved cherries and transfer to a tightly lidded container and freeze until hard.
- For the chocolate sauce
- In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the cocoa and heavy cream until smooth.
- Place your pan over medium heat and stir in the corn syrup (or glucose or cane syrup), chocolate and butter.
- Gently stir with a whisk until the chocolate has melted.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce heat to medium low and allow the sauce to simmer gently until a sauce consistency is achieved.
- Remove the sauce from heat and cool for 5 minutes before adding Kirsch.
- Serve the cherry gelato with the chocolate sauce poured over the top.
- I keep powdered glucose and make a syrup (70gr glucose powder to 30gr water and boil together until clear).
- You can use cane syrup as a substitute for the corn syrup or glucose.
- Both the gelato and sauce can be made a week ahead before serving. You can reheat the sauce in a heavy saucepan or in a double boiler before serving.