MAPLE BRIE with BOURBON CHERRIES & ALMONDS
First cultivated in Mesopotamia in 8 B.C., cherries enjoy a world class reputation. The beloved fruit of the Turkish people, the word cherry comes from the Turkish town Cerasus. Roman soldiers marched with cherry rations and as they travelled to conquer the world spit the seeds that would grow in many European countries. The Black Forest in Germany where the morello cherry grows is used to distill a national brandy known as kirsch. Americans have adopted this member of the rose family and today the United States grows 75% of the world's cherries (in Michigan alone there are four million cherry trees). With a short growing season, this juicy stone fruit appears in North America in late April, peaks in mid July, and begins to disappear from supermarket shelves altogether in late August.
Once everyone has had their fill of fresh cherries and the sibling rivalry game of who can spit the pits the farthest (the world record is 93 feet), and everyone has LEARNED HOW TO KNOT A CHERRY STEM WITH YOUR TONGUE, it seems this fleshy fruit makes a true companion in recipes.
Just when the sun begins to blister New England and most of our cooking has moved out-of-doors, cherries are at their irresistible peak. It is time to make a huge garden salad, pour glasses of pinot noir, and bake a wheel of decadent creamy brie on the grill. A small cast iron plate such as the STAUB 6" CAST IRON GRATIN ROUND BAKING DISH holds a standard supermarket 9" wheel of brie and makes grill to table serving a gorgeous affair and clean up a breeze. A wee soak in bourbon, a handful of toasted almonds, a serious drizzle of maple syrup (BARREL-AGED BOURBON & RYE MAPLE SYRUP even better!), and just a few minutes on the grill or in the oven makes this an irresistible tipsy treat.
Nota bene: The brie cooks faster when left at room temperature for an hour before placing in the oven or on the grill. Any variety of cherry is delicious, but a combination of dark jewel toned cherries and their rose & apricot cousins is even more visually enticing.
9.5 ounce wheel of double cream brie
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
1 cup fresh cherries, pits removed
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
Maldon sea salt flakes
1 baguette, sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Up to one hour before needed, cut the pitted cherries in half. Combine the cherries with the bourbon, almond extract, and hot water. Reserve.
3. Brush one side of each bread slice with the olive oil and toast in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the bread is lightly toasted and golden brown on top.
4. Place the wheel of brie into a snug fitting oven safe dish such as a STAUB 6" GRATIN and put the almonds around the outer edge of the brie.
5. Pile the cherries in the center of the brie and drizzle the maple syrup evenly over and around the brie, cherries, and almonds.
6. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes until the brie is oozing but not melting (alternatively, use a cast iron dish and place directly on the grill).
7. Remove the brie from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and a pinch of the sea salt flakes.
8. Serve immediately with the toasted baguette slices.