Sweet (Flathead) Cherry Blondies, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Flathead cherries are in season! When I lived in Montana in my twenties, I spent one summer at the top of a ladder near Flathead Lake, handpicking cherries. It was hard, tedious work; I wasn’t that good at it. But the beauty of the Flathead Valley and spending time cherry picking with my friends made it all worthwhile.
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. west of the Mississippi; it’s also the largest lake in the state of Montana and one of the cleanest and most pristine in the world. The lake is a product of the activity of ice-age glaciers, and is fed by the Swan and Flathead Rivers. The watershed contains a diverse community of plants and animals, including over 300 species of aquatic insects, 22 species of fish, the grizzly bear, bald eagle, bull trout, lynx, peregrine falcon, and grey wolf. The snowy Northwest mountain winters are perfect for the hibernation and growth of Flathead Cherries.
To our good fortune, Liz’s sister in Wyoming picked a batch of Flathead Cherries a few weeks ago and sent them along with her Mom to Minnesota. (Rumor has it she toted them on board in her carry-on.) We ate some of them one by one off the stem. But Liz was in the mood to bake. So she searched for a good recipe and landed on these Sweet Cherry Blondies from Northwest Cherries. We substituted the Flathead Cherries. The Blondies were to die for.
We ate the Blondies hot out of the oven while watching the Beijing Summer Olympics. They reminded me of a cross between a thick chocolate brownie and Mom’s Rocks. Hmmmm, good. Liz took them to work on Friday and, let’s just say, we’ve decided to make them a new family recipe.
Right now, Liz is baking Grama Hodne’s (Ex) Ginger Snaps. And we’re heading over to our friends for a fire under the August Full Moon. What better way to spend a perfect summer evening.
There are volumes of other recipes at the Northwest Cherries site, as well as tips on freezing, canning, and drying cherries, and information on growing seasons. And the same can be found at Flathead Lake Cherry Growers. Or if you are really adventurous, check out the 25th Annual Bear Hug Mountain Festival, September 12th – 14th on Flathead Lake near Rollins, Montana. In the meantime, enjoy the Blondies!
Sweet (Flathead) Cherry Blondies
1-1/3 cups flour
1-1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pitted and halved Northwest fresh sweet cherries (we used Flathead cherries)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Yield: 16 servings.
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, oil, eggs and vanilla; mix on low speed of electric mixer until blended. Mix 1 minute on medium speed. Batter will be thick.
Spread half of batter in oiled and floured 9-inch baking pan. Toss cherries in small amount of flour. Scatter cherries over batter; spread remaining batter over cherries.
Sprinkle pecans over top. Bake at 325ºF 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on rack and cut into 16 pieces.
Chocolate Chip Variation:
Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter with pecans.
-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, August 16th, 2008