Cherries are my comfort fruit. These little sweet stone fruits are a sign to me that there are good things coming—summer is on the way.
Cherries always remind me of my Auntie Gunda. She was my Norwegian grandfather’s sister and was one of the most wonderful people you could ever meet. She was a great cook and had a special talent for always knowing when unexpected guests were about to arrive. Her home was always spotless and she would always be dressed up as if she were waiting for guests.
She would regularly have a selection of homemade treats such as Norwegian cookies and pastries or coffee cake. My favorite of these was her cherry coffee ring, which she made with fresh cherries every spring—as soon as they were ripe and sweet enough. The flaky pastry that encased the sweet cherry filling, topped with an almond glaze, was the perfect snack for a 10-year-old boy on a spring day.
“Be sure to take some with you,” Auntie would say in a voice which was a combination of Yoda and Julia Child. I always knew there would be more upon my return.
¾ cup milk, warmed
¼ cup warm water
1 package of instant yeast
¼ cup butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For cherry filling:
12 ounces pitted and halved fresh Oregon cherries
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
For cinnamon filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ cup butter
For almond glaze:
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon corn syrup
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons half and half
Place warm water and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and stir to dissolve yeast. Let rest 1 minute. Add 1 cup of flour, then additional dough ingredients. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes or until dough is smooth and soft and all ingredients are incorporated. Remove dough from mixing bowl and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled.
While dough is rising, prepare cherry and almond fillings: For the cherry filling, combine pitted cherries, lemon juice, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small saucepan, folding with a flexible spatula until well combined. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Remove from stove and set aside.
For the cinnamon filling, mix dry ingredients together, then cut in butter until crumbly.
Roll dough into a 15×9-inch rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon filling, then add the cherry filling. Carefully roll up jellyroll-style from the long edge. Seal the seam. Grease a large baking sheet and place the dough on the sheet. Join the ends of the dough to form a circle and pinch ends to seal the circle. With a sharp knife, cut slits at 1-inch intervals around the ring, leaving about 1 inch attached at the center. Gently take each slice and turn it to one side so that one of the cut sides is down. Continue around the circle, layering the slices atop one another. Cover and let rise until almost double. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cooled coffee cake.
Still need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out our Blackberry Crisp.