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Dip into cherry season with creamy sauces

| Sunday, June 6, 2004

Bing cherry season is the time to dip into the cherry baskets -- or to dip the cherries themselves into one of four easy dipping sauces. No pitting needed before serving.

Crimson and juicy, Bing cherries often are the most fun eaten out-of-hand. But let's be versatile. These sauces can be pure self-indulgence or a generous seasonal treat for family or guests. Serving cherries this way is conducive to leisurely dining and convivial conversation.

Circling a choice of dips around a big bowl of the fruit would make a colorful centerpiece not only for dessert but also for a bridal shower, afternoon tea, weekend brunch or outdoor barbecue.

It's best to eat cherries as soon as you can after buying them, but they will keep for as long as two days if refrigerated.

These dips are from the California Bing Cherry Promotion Group.

Ginger Orange Creme Fraiche

  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, honey, orange juice concentrate and ginger. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 cup.

Nutrition information per serving (2 tablespoons) : 75 calories, 6 grams fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, no protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, no dietary fiber, 5 milligrams sodium.

Cherry Chocolate Sauce

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (4 ounces) bar German's sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons kirsch (cherry brandy)

Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and simmer, stirring frequently, until melted. Stir in the kirsch. Pour into a small bowl and let cool.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Nutrition information per serving (2 tablespoons) : 120 calories, 10 grams fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram protein, 8 grams carbohydrate, no dietary fiber, 30 milligrams sodium.

White Chocolate Almond Sauce

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (4 ounces) bar white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur

Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the white chocolate and simmer, stirring frequently, until melted. Stir in the amaretto. Pour into a small bowl and let cool.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Nutrition information per serving (2 tablespoons): 130 calories, 10 grams fat, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram protein, no dietary fiber, 40 milligrams sodium.

Marsala Cream

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine

Beat the cream and confectioners' sugar in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Add the Marsala and beat until stiff peaks form.

Makes about 1 cup.

Nutrition information per serving (2 tablespoons) : 60 calories, 6 grams fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, no protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, no dietary fiber, 5 milligrams sodium.

This chocolate-cherry dessert, topped with mascarpone cheese, is from Sunset magazine.

Chocolate Waffles with Poached Cherries

  • 2 pounds fresh sweet cherries, rinsed and pitted
  • {3/4} cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • {1/3} cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • { 1/2} cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • { 1/4} cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • { 1/4} teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • Confectioners' sugar, to taste

In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium heat, stir the cherries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the orange juice, lemon juice and vanilla bean until the cherries are juicy and the sugar is dissolved, for 3 minutes. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer; stir occasionally until the cherries are soft, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. At this point, the sauce can be covered and chilled for as long as 2 days. Reheat before serving.

Meanwhile, in a bowl with a mixer on low speed, beat the mascarpone, cream, vanilla and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar until soft peaks form. Cover and chill for as long as 2 days; if needed, whisk to thicken before serving.

In another bowl, mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a bowl, beat the egg to blend with the milk and butter. Stir into the flour mixture until evenly moistened.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Turn a waffle iron to high heat and coat both sides lightly with vegetable cooking spray. When hot, add about 1 1/4 cups batter. Close the iron and cook until the waffle is well browned, for about 9 minutes. Remove the waffle and keep it warm on a baking sheet in the oven for as long as 15 minutes. Repeat to cook the remaining waffles.

Place a waffle on each of 6 dessert plates and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Top with cherries and juice (discarding the vanilla bean), then the mascarpone cream.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 632 calories, 33 grams fat, 110 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams protein, 78 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 376 milligrams sodium.

This recipe was developed by cookbook author and longtime instructor Anne Willan for her book "Good Food, No Fuss" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $27.50) and recently was highlighted in a story by Kim Upton for Tribune Media Services. The sauce is ready in minutes -- it can be made several hours in advance, covered and refrigerated. If it separates slightly, simply whisk to remix just before serving.

Cherries Chateaux

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Finely grated peel of 1 small orange or 1 lemon
  • 2 cups medium-dry white wine
  • 1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and orange peel, using an electric hand mixer at high speed, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until pale and very thick. Meanwhile, bring the wine just to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pan.

With the mixer on low speed, very slowly add the hot wine to the egg yolk mixture. Return the custard to the pan and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and lightly coats the back of the spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes. A clear trail should be left in the custard on the spoon when you draw your finger over it. Do not let it boil; if it gets too hot or cooks for too long, it might curdle.

Pour the custard into a cold bowl set over ice and allow it to cool, stirring occasionally. Serve at room temperature or chilled, poured over the cherries.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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