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Cherry Almond Loaf

(post, Cara Montgomery)

This Cherry Almond Loaf is a tribute to those two bright stars of vegetarian cooking, Deborah Madison and Anne Sommerville, who both have written recipes in their cookbooks combining these sublime flavors. 

This summer, my local affiliate for NPR announced one morning, that there were so many cherries on trees in Washington State, the glut was too much to pick. In short , cherries were cheap. At my  local Whole Foods, large bags of bright and succulent reds were ridiculously priced. An Apricot and Cherry Crisp from earlier in the summer begged for a repeat, but apricots seemed scarce- (in Florida, in summer- what did I expect?)- and the ones that did arrive did not sing. They are not a stone fruit that holds up well to travel.

How well I remember, some 40 years ago, staying with a friend near San Francisco, whose neighbor didn't want her smothered tree of fruiting apricots. We made a jam that went from the tree to the pot, and I have never again tasted anything like it, although Froghollow Farms Apricot Conserve comes close( This is a kitchen staple I would never be without and one of the secrets to the "Worth It's Weight in Gold" Fruitcake, my consummate secret recipe.

Enough about apricots. Without them, it was cherries, cherries and cherries or nothing!

I use a lot of almond paste in baking. Including this in the Cherry Loaf seemed a good idea and supermarket almond paste has always been pretty acceptable. However, a wonderful new summer cookbook "Rustic Deserts" by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, mentioned a source for really fresh almond paste. In fact, their web site illustrates on it's home page a cherry tree in blossom- you had me at hello!  They grow their own almonds and manufacture their own almond paste. 
 Then the confusion started. What kind of of almond paste did I want? A glance at their web site shows a range of choices. When faced with this situation in , say, an electronic store ("What kind of radio do you want"?) I usually simply walk out. With Mandolin, I'm going to opt for Premium, before sampling more esoteric choices.

Back to the Cherry Loaf. Its a simple tasty loaf that would probably make equally good muffins. I topped mine with a little confectioner sugar icing of sugar , milk and a few drops of almond extract, to make it more of a cake ,then polished off the slices with tea. Here's the recipe:

Cherry Almond Loaf Cake

1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2 1/2- 3 cups of washed and pitted cherries
1/4 lb  stick unsalted butter, or vegetarian butter substitute
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 bar almond paste, roughly grated
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup unbleached four
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup whole organic milk
1/2 cup Sonnyfield whole milk plain yogurt

Wash and pit cherries, grate almond paste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and lightly four a loaf pan. Toast almonds very carefully, they burn in a heartbeat.

Cream sugar and butter,add the almond paste and mix until well blended, then add eggs one at a time and add extract. Mix milk and yogurt together and add alternately with flour mixture- flour salt and baking powder - until lightly  blended . Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees. When cool, unmold from pan and ice with confectioner sugar icing if desired- 2 cups of sifted confectioners sugar with a few tablespoons milk and 1/4 tsp almond extract.