What foods conjure up your childhood memories?
I don't know whether to call them food memories or food associations…but when I am waxing nostalgic, food is invariably connected. Those foods in my memories are always delicious and perfect - although, I have my doubts about a few of them. Could the "Spam-bled eggs" of our 1970s era family camping trips really be all that I remember them to be? Or is it more about the time and the place and being together with those you love?
There are some dishes, however, that have transcended the decades and truly are all I remember them to be. One of those are Joanne English's Cherry Squares. I grew up two doors away from the English family, another big crazy family, just like mine. Their daughter, Kryn, was my age and we had tons fun together with the whole neighborhood crew. The Englishs are those kind of friends that you've known for so long they seem more like family. When I think about them, I think of parties, lots of laughs, abundant libations, bluefish (ugh!), lemon Blennd drinks, some kind of chocolate cake with chocolate chip cheesecake filling (need to have that recipe Mrs. E!) and cherry squares!
Cherry squares are a thin sheet pound cake that gets dollops of cherry pie filling placed on them before they are baked. As they bake the cherries nestle down into the cake in a most magical way. You cut them into squares and sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Since the cake is somewhat dense, you can pick them right up with your hands. They are great for parties!
I haven't made cherry squares for a while and decided I wanted to try making a homemade cherry filling using the fresh summer cherries that are everywhere right now. I also tweaked the measurements of the recipe so I could use my half-sheet pans. I think the original recipe was made in a smaller jelly roll pan. I also made a mascarpone whipped cream to serve with them, which really is gilding the lily, as they are pretty yummy all by themselves!
Cherry Squares Recipe:
Christina Verrelli - epicuricloud
Adapted from Joanne English's Recipe
Makes 24 Squares
Fresh Cherry Filling:
3 cups bing cherries, stemmed and pitted
½ cup dried cherries (sweetened - sour cherries)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
Stir together all filling ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to simmer, reduce heat, cover and maintain low simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and cover until ready to use. Can be made ahead and refrigerated.
*Can substitute with canned cherry pie filling.
Non-stick baking spray or additional butter for greasing pan
1 ½ cups butter, softened (salted)
1 ¾ cups sugar
6 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
Powdered sugar (for sprinkling before serving)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease half sheet pan (18" x 13" x 1"). Cream together butter and sugar until creamy and light. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each egg. Mix in flour. Spread batter in prepeared pan. With a sharp knife score the top of the batter into 24 squares. Place a dollop (about 2 tablespoons) cherry filling in the center of each scored square. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake is cooked through and toothpick tester comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool in pan. Cut into 24 squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream:
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Combine ingredients in medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until mixture forms soft peaks.