I wait all year for cherry season! When the first cherries hit our local farmers’market, every chef in town is at the market early, buying up the first of the season. I have gone cherry picking quite a few times out in the Leona Valley where most of our local cherries come from. Once you pick cherries yourself (usually in very hot weather), you have a new found respect for your local farmer, since cherry picking is one hard job!
One year we picked sour cherries, which are pretty rare in our area. Sour cherries are very delicate, and once picked, they need to be used fast, or frozen right away. I am so obsessed with sour cherries that I once bought enough at the New York Green Market to fill a suitcase and took them home with me! Sour cherries are the only type that makes a proper cherry pie, so when available I get whatever I can. If you are lucky enough to live in Michigan, Utah, New York or Washington, you can get local sour cherries in season.
Fortunately we get plenty of red Bing cherries in California, and they can be used in so many delicious ways. Cherries make great preserves and chutneys, and can be preserved in syrup to last all year long. If you live in an area where you can pick or buy a lot of cherries, you can also freeze them to use later in the year. I love to add fresh or frozen Bing cherries to lemonade, cocktails, cheesecakes and ice cream. They are also great in salads and with cheeses like ricotta and soft goat cheese. You can add cherries to coffee cakes or chocolate cakes, muffins, and these scones that are lower in fat than a traditional scone. I have been doing a lot of baking with almond milk, but feel free to use buttermilk or a non-dairy milk you like in this recipe.
1 &1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup almond milk mixed with 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup pitted cherries (pit cherries, then measure)
4 tablespoon finely chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, oil and lemon zest. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula, stirring with as few strokes as possible. Lightly fold in the chopped cherries.
Scoop the batter on to parchment lined baking sheets, making 12 scones total. Sprinkle each scone with 1 teaspoon chopped almonds and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.