One of my favorite things about our new place is how close it is to the weekend farmer's market in our neighborhood. I have to be careful and only bring a little bit of cash with me; otherwise, I end up spending $40 on artisinal chutney and fresh produce. I couldn't resist picking up a basket of fresh, first-pick cherries, though. Unlike the cherries you often find at the grocery store, these were burst-in-your-mouth juicy and sweet. If you're going to go through the trouble of working around the pit in a cherry, it should taste like this!
After I finished snacking, I decided to put the cherries to good use in (what else?) a dessert. I love making shortcakes -- the dough comes together fairly quickly and it's pretty foolproof. In my opinion, the more butter, the better, so don't be afraid to use it liberally in this dough.
I added just a little bit of sugar and a touch of rose water to my cherries, which gave them a nice floral hint without being perfume-y. An important note about rose water: check the label before you buy! A good rose water will only have water and roses listed in the ingredients, but many common brands also contain a small percentage of alcohol -- not good if you're using it without heat, as in this recipe. I prefer to just always go with the real thing It's more expensive, but totally worth it.
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
1 pint fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. rose water
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
5 tbsp. cold butter
3/4 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Combine cherries, sugar, and rose water in a medium bowl. Let this sit while you prep the rest so that the cherries start to break down and get juicy!
Note: If you don't have a cherry pitter, you can use the pointy end of a pastry tip to remove the pits. Just poke it into the stem end of the cherry and push until the pit pops out the other side! Messy, but simple.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Give it a quick stir together.
Cut the butter into small cubes. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and work everything together with your hands. Work quickly so that the butter doesn't melt too much. The mixture should be sand-like without big clumps of butter.
Stir in the milk until a shaggy dough comes together. Don't overwork it. Dump out your dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it a handful of times, just so that all of the ingredients are well-distributed. The dough will be just slightly sticky. Add just a tiny bit more flour if it's too sticky.
Roll the dough out to about 3/4 inch thickness and cut out round cakes with a drinking glass or cookie cutter. Continue to re-roll the dough and shape it all into cakes. You can get 6-10 shortcakes out of this recipe, depending on the size you choose. I like to go for about 2-inch circles, which makes 6. Transfer to an ungreased metal baking sheet. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Begin whipping the cream either by hand or with an electric mixer. When it has slightly thickened, sprinkle the sugar over the top of the cream and continue whipping. Whip until stiff.
While the shortcakes are still warm, slice them in half. Top the bottom half with a big dollop of whipped cream, followed by a generous spoonful of cherries. If you're like me, you'll probably add even more whipped cream before you smoosh on the top half of the shortcake.