To showcase cherries in their prime, I try to make at least 1 cherry dessert each summer. Cherry pie is typically my default and it was actually a Baking Challenge recipe 1 year ago! (As I was pulling up that cherry pie recipe to link for you, I clicked on the Facebook live tutorial. Fun to re-watch. I was 29 weeks pregnant and now my sweet Noelle is 9 months old and she’s crawling and saying things that sound like real words and life is moving too fast!! Ahhh!!)
But this year I had a hard time deciding on a cherry dessert, so I asked you in my latest recipe testing post and on Instagram which you prefer: (1) streusel-topped crisp or (2) biscuit-topped cobbler. The results were pretty even, but the majority swayed toward crisp. There’s a lot of love out there for cobbler, but nothing can live up to heaps of oatmeal streusel. Biscuits will never be streusel.
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PAST CHERRY DESSERTS
BEHIND THE RECIPE
Cherry crisp is really simple, but delivers impressive flavor and texture. Here’s why cherry crisp is so easy:
- No need to mess with pie dough: no rolling anything out, waiting for it to chill, or stressing over a pie dough cracking!
- You only need 2 bowls: 1 for fruit, 1 for topping. Mix both components separately then layer into a dish and bake.
- No need to wait for the dessert to cool down before eating. Serve, eat, enjoy warm. Most definitely with vanilla ice cream.
- Quick. Done and on the table in an hour.
What may take you the most time is pitting those cherries. Pitting cherries is the pits. You’ll save a lot of time and headache using a cherry pitter. I only pull mine out once or twice a year and whenever I clean out my gizmos and gadgets drawer (the official name), I ask myself if I really need this thing? And then I remember spending about 12 hours pitting cherries a few years ago for 1 pie and realized that cherry pitters, while only used a handful of times, is LITERALLY THE BEST INVENTION. And guess what? If you want to avoid all that, use frozen cherries instead. See my recipe note about substituting. 🙂
Use your favorite cherry variety. I chose a mix of rainier cherries and dark sweet cherries. You can use all rainier or all dark sweet– or if you opt for sour cherries, add a little extra sugar. See my recipe note below.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOUR CHERRY DESSERTS HAVE BEEN MISSING
Now I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but I know that cherries and bourbon are a dynamite flavor pairing. I tossed a little into the filling and as I tasted my first spoonful, I knew exactly what all of my cherry desserts have been missing. Bourbon. You don’t need much– just a splash. But those couple tablespoons will catapult your cherry crisp from “great” to “I’m eating this entire cherry crisp and I’m not sharing.”
When I first tested this recipe, I tried reducing the bourbon down before using in the filling, but I found that step was unnecessary. When I tried the recipe with a simple pour of bourbon straight from the bottle, it was awesome. And obviously easier since it saves a step.
The bourbon doesn’t overpower the cherries. You won’t feel tipsy after eating a serving, though I’m sure you won’t feel like roses if you down the entire dessert. You can tell something unique is baked in, but the bourbon certainly doesn’t take over the dessert.
Not much else goes into the filling. Sugar to sweeten, cornstarch to thicken, a splash of vanilla for flavor. The focus remains on the cherries and bourbon. And sweet oatmeal streusel!
Since the bourbon is being used in a recipe and you only need a couple Tablespoons, no need to purchase the really fancy stuff. Any middle of the road bourbon is great. I used Jim Beam.
Nothing but basics come together to make the streusel topping so not only does it taste dreamy, it’s both easy and convenient. You need brown sugar, oats, butter, cinnamon, and flour. I added sliced almonds for some added crunch, but you can skip them for a nut-free dessert. I went back and forth about adding cinnamon, but quickly came to my senses because oatmeal desserts are nothing without cinnamon and cinnamon makes everything taste like grandma’s baking sooooo cinnamon is a non-negotiable.
The streusel topping is what I use for blueberry crumble pie. The trick with this crumble topping— so that it doesn’t melt and lose a lot of texture– is to use very cold butter. Mix brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together then cut in cubed and cold butter. I add the oats last because I don’t want them to break down when I cut the butter in. Whole oats = more of the texture we crave.
And if you want an upgraded bourbon cherry crisp, use the brown butter streusel topping from my blueberry peach crisp. It’s insanely good. And if you want a bourbon cherry cobbler, halve the topping recipe that I use for fresh peach cobbler. Also insanely good.
PS: I got my 9-inch scalloped pie dish from Target! Any size close to a 9-inch baking dish works for this recipe. Happy cherry pitting!
Bourbon Cherry Crisp
- 5 cups halved pitted cherries*
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons (21g) cornstarch
- 2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) bourbon*
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 6 Tablespoons (50g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, very cold and cubed
- 2/3 cup (50g) old-fashioned whole rolled oats
- optional: handful of slivered/chopped/sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (or similar size) round or square baking dish.
- Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl, then spread into the baking dish.
- Make the topping: Whisk the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture is crumbly. See photo above for a visual. Fold in the oats and almonds. Sprinkle over filling.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving warm. You can also serve room temperature or cold.
- Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip: Baked crisp freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm in a 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes or until heated through. I do not suggest preparing the crisp and storing it, unbaked, in the refrigerator because the topping will get soggy. You can prepare and assemble the crisp through step 3 and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then continue with step 4.
- You need about 1.5 lbs of cherries. You can use any variety-- I use a combination of dark sweet and rainier. If using sour cherries, increase sugar to 3/4 depending how sweet you like it. You can use frozen cherries. Thaw and blot them with a paper towel before using.
- I'm not much of a bourbon connoisseur. Since the bourbon is being used in a recipe and you only need a couple Tablespoons, no need to purchase the fancy stuff. I used Jim Beam. I tested the recipe with 2 Tablespoons and 3 Tablespoons. Anywhere around either amount is great. If you'd rather skip the alcohol, use 2 Tablespoons of orange juice or 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice instead.
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Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.