Brioche Cups with Cherries and Hazelnuts

Brioche Cups with Cherries and Hazelnuts
  • Difficulty:

    3
  • Prep Time:

    25m
  • Total Time:

    1h
  • Servings:

    12

Description

This fruit-forward treat is so tasty, it will be a challenge not to eat the entire batch in a single sitting. Fortunately, it makes perfect-sized individual portions to help you pace yourself. Cherry season might just be the highest of summer's culinary highlights, so it only makes sense to take full advantage of peak season cherries them while they last. This simple but striking dessert looks difficult, but it really only requires a modest degree of skill. Think of it as a bread pudding, taken to the next level.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups half and half
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
  • Butter or pan spray
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 5 cups brioche or other rich bread, cut into 1" cubes (approximately ½ loaf)
  • 1 cup fresh Rainier cherries, pitted and halved
  • ½ cup local Pacific Northwest hazelnuts, lightly crushed
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ tsp. kirschwasser

Directions

  1. Heat the cream, vanilla bean and nutmeg over a burner set to medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until it steams and is fragrant from the vanilla. Remove from the heat and retrieve and rinse the vanilla bean pod. If you opt for vanilla extract, heat the cream for a similar length of time – until it simmers, but doesn't boil – then add the extract after you take it from the burner.
  2. Heat the oven to 350° F, and grease the cups of a standard large (not jumbo) muffin pan with butter or pan spray.
  3. Whisk ⅓ cup sugar in a mixing bowl with the eggs and salt until well combined and slightly frothy. Pour the hot cream into the egg mixture in a very thin stream, whisking constantly until it's all incorporated.
  4. Fill a mixing bowl with the brioche cubes, then add half the cherries and crushed hazelnuts. Pour the cream and egg mixture over the cubes and stir it in until the bread absorbs the custard and the cherries and nuts are evenly distributed.
  5. Divide the mixture between the cups of the cupcake pan. It should fill them generously.
  6. Bake until the brioche cups are set but still slightly jiggly in the middle, 20- 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them rest, still in their pan, for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the remaining ⅔ cup sugar and the well-rinsed vanilla bean pod. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until the sugar is dissolved, then add the other half of the cherries. Simmer for another minute, then remove from the heat. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cherries and stir in the kirschwasser.
  8. Turn the brioche cups out of their pan when they've cooled enough to handle. Serve them warm rather than hot, with cherries and syrup spooned attractively over and around each portion and the remaining nuts scattered over the tops as a garnish. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers, wrapped individually in plastic wrap.

Tips

Challah or any other rich bread makes a perfectly acceptable substitute if you don't have brioche.

Kirschwasser, or kirsch, is a clear cherry brandy distilled in Germany. It's pricey but well worth it. If you don't have any on hand, you can substitute any other cherry brandy, although the flavor won't be as fine and you might need to use more.

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