Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Bowl Full of Cherries

I’m a bit of an impulse shopper, and I’m horrible at shopping on the cheap. I mean, I look for deals, and try to get bargains, but sometimes I see something that I just have to have, and no amount of budgeting can stop me. Take the first ball of creamy, delicious burrata I ever saw make an appearance at a neighborhood grocery store… was I going to pinch pennies and miss out an opportunity of that caliber!? I think not. Instead, I threw down in the most extravagant way, and paid the price of a full entrée at a decent restaurant, for one ball of cheese. Did I feel a little guilty afterward? Sure. But on top of that guilt, was I beaming with pride, just like when Carrie drops five hundo on a pair of Manolo's that she’ll wear twice? You know it!

Unlike Carrie, I don’t max out my credit card with designer shoes, labeled clothes, or entry into trendy clubs… I break the bank on produce, condiments, fancy salts, and kitchen gadgets. Even if I try to refrain, my attempts are futile. A few weeks ago, Amanda and I saw the most-adorably-awesome-cherry-pitter-ever at Ballard Market, and I HAD TO HAVE IT. However, trying to look like a fiscally responsible adult in front of my coupon-queen of a sister, I held back, and made it out of the store without so much as a second look at the cherry-pitter-of-my-dreams. After we left, I just couldn’t get that damn cherry pitter out of my mind. A few days later, I had the biggest craving for cherries, and spent far too much on a bag of them at the grocery store. With a giant bag full of cherries that needed pitting, I guess I had no choice but to go back and buy the Cherry Chomper.

Did I spend way more than I should have on a cherry pitter that looked like a child’s toy because I thought it was awesome, instead of just getting a simple and cheap but effective run-of-the-mill pitter? Definitely. But do I care? No way! I was the envy of all the kids in the neighborhood last week! I sat on the balcony, in full view of the jealous 6 year old next door, selfishly cherry-chomping until the sun went down. As the bowl full of cherry pits quickly grew, the pit of guilt in my stomach disappeared. If you don’t think pitting pounds and pounds of cherries is a blast, that’s because you don’t have the Cherry Chomper!

After having my fun on the balcony, I was left with a stomach ache from too much sampling (also to make the neighborhood kids jealous), and a huge bowl full of pitted cherries. So I made Cherry Chocolate Chip Muffins!

A new muffin method entirely, I nixed batter and used the shortbread-like dough from this cake, and filled with freshly pitted cherries and mini bittersweet chocolate chips. Some of the muffins went to Evan’s parents, some went to my office, and a few were devoured on the spot.

I’d say I got my money’s worth. If you were lucky enough to get one of the muffins, plump with juicy cherries, studded with chocolate, and infused with a hint of almond flavor, you'd probably say so too.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Muffins
I'll probably tweak a little as I make these more. Might try putting the chocolate chips in the dough during mixing. Makes 12-16 cupcake sized muffins (use your best judgement).

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan
½ cup almond flour/meal
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ tablespoon almond extract
½ pound-ish pitted, halved dark cherries (enough for about 3-4 whole cherries/muffin)
½-1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tablespoon turbinado/raw sugar

Whisk together almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a 1-inch thick disk, and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter 12-16 muffin/cupcake cups (or use paper muffin cups). Divide the dough into 24 equal balls, and pat a ball in each muffin tin (if it seems like there’s too much, do more than 12 muffins). Put a spoonful of cherries and a chocolate chips. Distribute remainder of dough on top of the fruit in 2-3 small pieces/muffin, then sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.
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