Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC
When I saw cherries in the market this week, on sale no less, I couldn’t resist. I adore cherries! And to pay homage, here is a dainty pastry, made of nothing but a bit of date-sweetened, vanilla-scented dough, a smear of jam, and whole cherries. Light as a feather and bursting with cherry goodness. Fruit filled and whole grain with no added fats, cherry nests are healthy enough for a child’s lunchbox and elegant enough for company. Enjoy for breakfast, snacks, and dessert.
Makes about 16 three-inch nests
Prep time 2 hours for the dough to rise plus 45 minutes
Bake time 45 minutes
¼ cup date paste from ½ cup pitted dates, any variety
½ cup unsweetened soy milk, warmed to body temperature
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ teaspoon vanilla powder or scaped beans from 1 vanilla pod
About 1¾ cups white whole wheat flour for the dough plus ¼ cup more for dusting
¼ cup apple glaze from ½ carton frozen apple juice concentrate
2 pounds sweet red cherries, pitted
4 tablespoons fruit-sweetened strawberry fruit spread or jam
To make date paste, barely cover the pitted dates with water in a small bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Alternatively, heat the dates and water in a small pot for 5 minutes. Cool. Transfer the dates and only as much of its soaking water as required to purée into a smooth, soft, paste, using a high-speed blender.
Warm the soy milk before adding to a mixing bowl. Whisk in the yeast, vanilla powder or bean, and date paste. Wait 10 minutes for the yeast to activate. Add only as much of the white whole wheat flour as needed to create a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add it slowly, mixing it in first with a wooden spoon and as the dough forms, using your hand.
Knead the dough in the bowl for about 8 minutes or until smooth, and soft. Lightly dust the dough with flour, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise for 2 hours. The dough will expand in size but not double.
To make the apple glaze empty half a carton of frozen apple juice concentrate into a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, and reduce the liquid by about half. The reduction is ready when it lightly coats the back of a spoon. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools. If it becomes to thick to easily apply with a bristle pastry brush, stir in a spoonful of water. You can freeze any extra glaze for future projects.
Use a cherry or olive pitter to remove the cherry pits.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack on the middle oven shelf.
After the dough has risen, divide it into 8 equal pieces, removing one and keeping the remainder well covered. Sprinkle a little white whole wheat flour on a board. Roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick. Use a 3-inch cutter or lid to cut out 2 disks. These will be the foundations for the nests. Gather the dough scraps. Divide it into two equal pieces and shape each into a cylinder. Now using your hands, roll the first on the board into a long uniform snake until it is ¼-inch thick and approximately 18 inches long. Fold in half and pinch the two ends together. Now holding the folded rope by each end, twist one clockwise and the other counterclockwise, creating a braided rope about 9 inches long. Finally, pinch the ends together once more to form a rope circle. Repeat with the second cylinder.
Apply a thick coat of the strawberry spread on each of the two disks. Place a rope circle atop each disk, stretching it if needed to hug the disk’s perimeter. Press down lightly so it adheres to the disk. This is your pastry nest.
Fill each nest with 5 cherries. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap. Repeat this process with the remaining 7 pieces of dough until all 16 cherry nests are filled.
Use a 1-inch pastry brush to apple a coat of apple glaze to the pastry and the fruit. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and reapply the apple glaze. Return it to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat one more time, applying a third coat of glaze and bake for a final 15 minutes. The cherry nests are ready when the pastry is golden, and the cherries are slightly wrinkled and juicy.
Remove from the oven, apply a final coat of glaze if the fruit or pastry looks opaque. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
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