Until last year, I had never eaten a cherry. We never ate them growing up, and I guess my friends must have, but they didn’t trade them from their lunches, and somehow, I missed the cherry boat. My husband, however, dreams of cherries all the live-long year. He starts getting excited that they, “Might be at the market soon,” in like, February. Which made it difficult to wait until JULY of this year to get our hands on some. Was it our long winter that kept us from seeing any fruit besides apples at the farmers market until about last week? Now that we don’t have to wait for strawberries and blueberries and cherries anymore, we are going overboard in the fruit department with our grocery haul every week. I even made a vow to create as many fruit-centric desserts as possible between now and the end of summer.
Cue Deb, who seems to always have the answer to, “What do I do with this heap of (insert type of fruit here) that is so ripe it won’t last past this evening?” When the fruit is cherries, the answer is Cherry Brown Butter Bars. I put these together (a day in advance) for a dinner with my in-laws one recent evening.
A note on these: They do take a little bit of patience, especially if you, like me, do not own a cherry pitter, nor a bottle with which to hack one. Deb seems a woman of endless patience, and so when she tells me to pit cherries, or to line my 8 x 8 pan with parchment to make lifting and slicing easier, then though I may not be as precise in my measurements (why measure and cut when you can just fold back?), I will at least attend to the task with my personal best. In reality, I am certain that Deb, with that adorable almost 5 year old in tow, cannot have endless patience, because I’ve never met anyone with endless patience, but the thing here is that I’m willing to go the extra mile for her. Her recipes always turn out that well. Also she liked my Instagram.
To make 16 bars, you will need:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (about 12 ounces once you pit them)
Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. Congratulations! You’ve just faked a square tart pan.
Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl, or if you’re Deb, in the bottom of the small saucepan you used to melt the butter. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.
Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.
Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.
Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (though, of course, this took less time in my hyperactive oven so please watch your baking times carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.
Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.