The cherries are here! Let’s bake something.
We wait all year, and it all starts to happen at once.
Fruit treasures in Vermont are fleeting, precious jewels! We watch the rhubarb plants grow, and then the strawberries appear. While they are still coming strong, the cherries make their appearance and fruit desserts are just a moment away! Here come the blueberries and raspberries, then blackberries, peaches, melons, pears, and plums.
I’ve made a million cherry desserts, but I thought I would make something a little more simple once I found the local sweet and slightly tart cherries at the local farm stand. Beautiful they are this year. I was feeling a little bit lazy in the baking mood since it was really hot and humid, so I decided on a quick and easy batch of cherry squares. I also made a large batch of brandied cherries that I’ll give away as gifts at Christmastime, and those took no cooking at all.
The ginger was sitting on the counter and asked to be included in the squares, so I invited her as well. She gets along nicely with the lemon, and they both enhance the fruit.
Warning, these have no keeping quality, they disappear quickly if you turn your back!
Cherry & Ginger Squares
Makes 16 squares
- 1 cup unbleached white flour or gluten free
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
- ½ cup butter, or vegan butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup quick cherry jam, recipe below
- 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, finely grated
- Zest of a lemon
- Coarse sugar, optional
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and butter and line an 8”X8” baking pan, overlapping two opposite sides with parchment wings by a few inches. Butter this as well.
With a wire whisk, mix together the flour, soda, cinnamon, salt, and sugar. Add the oats, butter, and vanilla bean paste, and mix this all together until evenly distributed.
Press two thirds of the mixture into the bottom of the pan, as evenly as you can. Add the grated ginger and lemon zest to the cherry preserves, and mix well. Spoon the jam in dollops over the top of this, and spread evenly almost to the sides. Crumble the remaining oat mixture on top, making little clumps, and pressing lightly, as though you were making an apple crisp. You’ll think there is not enough, but there is. You can sprinkle with a little coarse sugar if you like.
Bake for 20 minutes and turn the pan. Check again after 15 minutes, but it will probably need five minutes more, it all depends on your oven. You want the top to brown, but not too far!
Let cool to room temperature, this is the only hard part. Remove from the pan with your little handles, and cut into squares.
Small Batch Cherry Preserves
- 2 lbs. cherries, pitted and halved
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 plump vanilla bean, split
Combine cherries, sugar, zest, and juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and stir occasionally for about a half hour or so.
Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds into the jam, and toss the vanilla bean in as well. Stir, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Remove bean before using. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools.
Store in the refrigerator.
How to tell if your jam has cooked enough. Every batch of fruit will have varying levels of pectin, so it is hard to say exactly how long it will take to thicken or ‘gel’. Before starting your jam, place a glass saucer in the freezer. When you think the jam might be ready, take out the plate and put a little dab of the jam on it. The jam will instantly cool so you can judge its thickness at that point.
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