A month long stay in Itay had me return to a transition in seasons with respect to the local fruits and vegetables; fresh cherries seemed to dominate the stands of the local farmer’s market. I simply had to feature them in a dessert for a pizza gathering I was planning.
Shying away from crostata or torta, as the pizza would provide us with an overload of carbs I recalled one of Gina De Palma’s recipes which would be perfect. Cherries with Grappa & Mascarpone is a simple, elegant dessert which can be prepared ahead of time in individual serving glasses.
The original recipe calls for Balaton cherries, a dark burgundy colored cherry with a sweet yet tart flavor grown in Michigan. Bing cherries make an excellent substitute and are readily available in Northern California.
The basic recipe could not be more straightforward, however I adjusted it a bit to my personal taste and convenience. Cherries pair nicely with the flavor of almonds so I decided to take a bit of creative license and added just a drop of almond extract to the cream, giving it a gentle almond scent. A few lightly toasted sliced almonds on the top gave some texture to the delicate cream.
After an evening of entertaining, who wants to fuss? This is a dessert which can be quickly prepared a few hours beforehand for a crowd. The cherries marinated in grappa in combination with the mascarpone cream and almond essence are the ultimate dessert combination.
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- 1½ pints of large flavorful cherries washed, pitted and halved
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- ½ cup Grappa
- 1 cup mascarpone
- ¾ heavy cream
- 1 plump vanilla bean
- ⅛ tsp. pure almond extract
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- 6 fresh mint sprigs
- Two to five hours before serving, add the ¼ cup of granulated sugar and Grappa to the pitted & halved cherries, stirring gently. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Give the cherries a good stir midway during the marinating process.
- Two to three hours before dinner continue to prepare the dessert. Slice the vanilla bean in half and with the back of a pairing knife scrape out the tiny seeds. Place the mascarpone, 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, vanilla seeds, and the almond extract into the work bowl of a standing mixer. Slowly cream the mascarpone until soft, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Begin to slowly drizzle the heavy cream into the soft mascarpone with the mixer on low speed. Once a uniform cream has formed, place the finished cream into the refrigerator for 30 minutes (resist the temptation to eat this right from the bowl).
- Arrange 6 prosecco (or champagne) flutes on the counter along with the cherries, cream, toasted almonds and mint.
- Equally spoon the cherries into each of the flutes along with the resulting liquid. Top the cherries with the almond mascarpone cream, again dividing the cream equally. Sprinkle each of the flutes with the toasted almonds and a garnish of fresh mint. Refrigerate until ready to serve.