In late spring when the first cherries would appear at the Dallas farmers' market, my mom would sing her little cherry ditty: "Cherries are ripe..." Granted, it doesn't sound like much—it's only a 3-word phrase—and she did sing it much more often than as an annual welcome to the little stone fruit, but I can't look at cherries anymore without hearing her singsong voice.
Cherries are finally making an appearance at Bay Area farmers' markets, and starting to taste less like watery insipid blobs and more like juicy flavorful sweet little gems.
While I typically like to eat my cherries out of hand, I will eat any fruit baked, especially if it's surrounded by pastry, custard, or cake. So what happens when you merge all three and throw in some cherries? You get a heavenly, crispy-on-the-outside, custardy on the inside, pancakey Cherry Oven Pancake.
Modeled after the German apple oven pancake (also known as a Dutch baby), this incredibly easy, impressive dessert is as much science experiment as it is full-on delicious. Into the oven goes a thin batter, and out comes a big puffy surprise. Make sure you call your kids, your guests, or at least your dog in to see it as you pull it from the oven so they will be in awe of your culinary prowess.
Cherry Oven Pancake
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups cherries, pitted
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Powdered sugar, maple syrup, or lemon wedges for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Puree the eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Add the flour, and puree again until smooth.
2. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan and warm just until it starts to brown, then add the dark brown sugar, and stir with a wooden spoon until it starts to melt. Add the cherries and sauté until they start to release their juices, about 1 minute.
3. Turn off the heat and pour the batter into the pan. If you are using the almonds, sprinkle them evenly over the top of the batter. Quickly place the pan in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425F and bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with maple syrup or a squeeze of lemon.