Life is a Pan Full of Cherries

I've had cherries on the brain.  Most likely due to the fact I stare at 15 pounds of them every time I open my freezer.  Those are tart ones, and frozen, therefore not nearly as appealing as the beautiful, shiny fresh ones I see at the grocers.  Sweet and plump, they called to me even though I have pounds of their tart brother already at home.  But, I thought to myself, this is a necessary purchase because I just came upon the most amazing sounding recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  She has me hooked on anything that requires brown butter.  I'm convinced any recipe can be made better if you just brown the butter.

Brown Butter Cherry Bars
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

-7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
-1/3 c. sugar
-1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 c. plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp. cinnamon
-pinch of salt

-1/2 c. sugar
-2 large eggs
-pinch of salt
-1/4 c. flour
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 c. unsalted butter
-1 pound sweet cherries (before pitting)
-1 tsp. almond extract
-3 Tbsp. raw sugar

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 8x8 or 9x9 pan with parchment paper, leaving paper hanging over pan edges to easily remove bars when done.  Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray.
-Using a rubber spatula, mix melted butter, sugar,  and vanilla in a small bowl or the bowl you melted the butter in.  Add flour, cinnamon, and salt and stir until incorporated.
-Transfer dough to prepared pan and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes.  Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan.  Keep oven on.

-Clean, pit, and place in bowl.  Toss with teaspoon of almond extract.

-Cook butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until butter becomes brown and gives off a nutty aroma.  Stir often and watch carefully so as not to burn.  Pour butter into measuring glass and let cool slightly.
-Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Add flour and vanilla.  Whisk till smooth.  Gradually whisk in browned butter into sugar-egg mixture.  Whisk until well blended.
-Arrange pitted cherries in bottom of cooled crust.  Carefully pour filling evenly over the fruit.  Sprinkle raw sugar over the top.  Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden, or until toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Once cooled, use parchment paper to help you remove bars from pan.  Cut into 16 squares using a very sharp knife so as not to damage the cherries.  Enjoy alone, or with a dollop of whipped cream.

I thought these bars were a simple treat where the integrity of this summer fruit truly shines.  The cherries stay full and plump.  And I thought they wavered on having a sweet-tart flavor after baking.  People seemed to really enjoy these bars even after a couple days they were originally baked.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!

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