Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Brown Butter Tart Cherry Crumb Bars

On Saturday we went Cherry picking in New Jersey, and it was lovely. For S and me, getting out of the city is a bit of a production. I'm lucky enough to own the same car I've been driving since high school, a 1998 Chevy Cavalier named Midas, but a spot in a garage in the city costs nearly as much as my rent, so we take the subway to the LIRR then walk to S's mother's house where Midas lives in the driveway every time we want to go on an adventure. And getting the car back through the city when we want to go to New Jersey can be an adventure of its own. But it was worth it. So, so worth it. 

Have you ever been cherry picking? If not, I highly recommend it. The trees provide some lovely shade while you pick and there were SO MANY cherries on every tree! We snacked on some as we went along, enjoying the burst of tart/sweet sun-warmed juice while we picked alongside a family who stood two or three women to a tree laughing and chatting in Russian while the men lounged in camp chairs in the shade of cherry trees. There is probably only one week of cherry season left in New England, so if you live around here, go now! 

Seriously, there were a ridiculous amount of cherries on these trees. 
When I lived in Olympia, WA there were cherry trees in the park across the street from my house, and we pretty regularly gathered the cherries that grew wild there. They were also tart cherries, which I had never experienced fresh, previous to moving there, and from the first tree ripened, summer warm sour cherry I tried, I was totally hooked. 

S enjoyed the cherry picking as well, "More than I thought I would," he added. 

Tart cherries are much juicier than normal cherries, their flesh consistency is close to that of a large blueberry, or a very soft plum. Some people find their sourness overwhelming, but I like it, it's very summer and fresh tasting. 

Most folks use tart cherries for baking or canning. I have many plans for these beautiful cherries though.

I picked some to take home, in between mouthfuls of fresh ones. 

About 11lbs worth to be exact. We brought them home in a cooler, and processed them immediately, even before we took the car back to Long Island. 

First I set aside enough fresh cherries for three crisps, pies, or other desserts this week. Then we set up a pitting station in our living room (the kitchen isn't air conditioned and it was HOT this weekend) and pitted the other approximately 9lbs worth of cherries- by hand. A bit over half of them went into the freezer on racks then were transferred to bags once frozen solid, and the rest, like those in the photo, we put into the dehydrator to make my favorite dried fruit snack ever- unsweetened dried tart cherries.

The next day I pitted a more manageable heaping 2 cups, and made these heavenly Brown Butter Tart Cherry Crumb Bars. 

You could certainly make this with store or farm market bought cherries, no need to go directly to the orchard, though they'll taste better if you do! 

These are incredible. The brown butter adds a layer of complexity the already heavenly combination of crispy, oat-y, sweet crust and soft, tart baked cherries. 

If you're not adverse to dessert in the morning, they're also great the next morning for breakfast, if they last that long! 

Brown Butter Tart Cherry Crumb Bars

1 1/4  C quick oats
1 1/4 C flour
1 3/4 Sticks butter - browned
1 tsp baking powder
1 C brown sug

2 1/2 C tart cherries- pitted
1/3 C brown sug
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Line a baking dish in parchment paper or aluminum foil, and lightly grease with butter or oil (I used coconut oil). 

Combine cherries, 3tbsp brown sugar, and 1 tbsp flour, place in strainer over a bowl, to let some juices drain and prevent wet bars. 

Brown the butter- cut into smaller pieces and place in small saucepan or frying pan, melt over low heat and cook until the butter begins to turn golden brown and smells  nutty. As soon as I notice my butter browning I turn off my heat and mix the butter constantly, and it turns pale brown and smells like lovely buttery hazelnuts.

If you're good at double tasking, you can mix up the dry  ingredients while your butter browns, if not, do it after browning the butter- butter burns very quickly. Combine the oats, four, baking powder, and 1 Cup brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add the browned butter and mix until a coarse meal forms. Pour approximately 1/2 the meal into the bottom of the baking dish, spread out and press into an even layer, about 1/3 inch thick. 
Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes. 

Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp flour and 1/3 C brown sugar to the cherries in the strainer and mix to evenly combine. Pour cherry mixture over crust in baking dish, sprinkle remaining oat/butter/flour mixture over top until lightly covered. 
Place in oven and bake 25-30 Minutes, until topping is crisp. 

Remove from oven, let cool for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on cooling rack. Let cool completely (so difficult!) before cutting, approximately 15 minutes. 

I imagine sweet cherries could be used if needed, but skip the straining step and cut down on the sugar in the filling.
Raspberries or Peaches could also probably be added or used in place of cherries if desired.

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