Last summer my husband Allan and I stayed at a beautifully restored villa near Cortona, Italy in the Tuscan countryside. It was called Villa di Piazzano and the buildings and surrounding views were exactly how I envisioned Tuscany after reading Frances Mayes’s memoir ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. We stayed in the Luna Piena room (‘Full Moon’) and one night we slept with the window open so we could feel the cool evening breeze and enjoy the silence of the countryside (we live in the city so it was a welcome break!). In the morning, the smell of baking from the kitchen below us woke me up. When we went down to breakfast, there was a table full of local sheep’s cheeses, Tuscan fennel salami, juices and fantastic baked goods such as sweet breads and pastries. I developed this Cherry Almond Bread so we could enjoy a similar type of breakfast on occasion. The recipe calls for sweet cherries instead of sour ones – the sweet ones are usually a very dark reddish-burgundy.
The view from the Luna Piena room at Villa di Piazzano, Cortona, Italy
Cherry Almond Bread
A note about pitting cherries: There are various methods you can use to pit cherries including buying a cherry/olive pitter. Some people swear by using a chopstick to poke the pit through the cherry while others use the tip of a knife to dislodge it. Because this recipe does not call for a lot of cherries, I simply cut around the middle of the cherry from top to bottom (cutting through the diametre until you hit the pit) and gently pull apart the two halves, using the tip of the knife to remove the pit. This will minimize the mess and give you two nice halves.
- 1-1/2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup neutral oil (such as safflower or canola)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 full cup (rounded) pitted, halved sweet cherries (see note at top for pitting advice)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Grease a standard size loaf pan and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the cherry halves and 2 Tablespoons of flour. Toss to coat the cherries and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, the salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to combine.
- Add the eggs, oil, sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts to dry ingredients. Stir until just combined (the mixture will be quite thick).
- Gently fold cherries into batter, stirring carefully to mix. Spoon into greased loaf pan. Top with slivered almonds and sugar.
- Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool, remove from pan and cut into slices.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!