The other day I noticed a steller’s jay darting in and out of the lumbering cherry tree in our backyard. It’s well over 30 feet tall and it was probably planted when our house was built, which means it’s about 70 years old. I noticed the branches jangling, the light reflecting off the leaves made them shimmer as they moved back and forth, flipping into the sun and away from it again. There was a kerfuffle going on in there, so I stepped up under the canopy of the tree and looked up to see what was going on. Standing there with my head craned towards the sky, I saw what had created the party within the animal kingdom of my backyard. The branches were bejeweled with bright red cherries, and the birds were pulling at them quite fiercely to get them off the tree.
Since our tree is so old and tall, all the fruit-bearing branches are out of reach. In years past, I’ve dragged the ladder out from the garage to reach them, but this year the cherries were still out of reach even with the ladder. So, I made a few investments. Namely, in an extendable fruit picking basket and an extendable branch trimmer. Both of these combined gave me the tools I needed to pluck some ripe cherries off the branches. A few wobbly snips later and I had one in my hand. I tore it open to check for pests before popping it in my mouth, and low and behold it had some wiggly worm friends waving hello to me as soon as I exposed the flesh. I tore open the next one, and it was the same thing. They all had worms in them (no wonder the birds loved them so much).
In the end, I went to Fred Meyer’s and bought some delicious local cherries (worm-free, I might add) off their friendly shelves. My cherry requirement needed to be filled, and if not from my tree than from some other enthusiastic pacific northwesterner’s. I wanted to put them to use in something cozy and comforting, so I made these pull apart muffins and lined the layers with juicy halved cherries, sugar and cinnamon. I love the versatility of pull apart muffins—first of all, you can stuff them with any manner of delicious things. Second, if you just want half or a quarter, it’s as easy as a gentle tug.
While the cherry season is in full swing, you can find on of my other favorite cherry recipes here, plus some photos of Ralph as a puppy! And Fred Meyer has some awesome recipe ideas here too. If you find yourself with some downtime on a weekend or evening, though, I can’t recommend making these cherry pull apart muffins highly enough. With the long and yellow days of summer, there’s not reason not to bake well into the evening hours and fill your whole home with the smell of brioche before bed. It’s what sweet dreams are made of.
Pull Apart Muffins with Cherries
- 2 2/3 cups bread flour
- 1/4 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs whisked
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 8 ounces cherries pitted and halved
- Begin by making the pre-ferment. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the flour with the yeast and warm milk until just combined. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 30 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the pre-ferment and eggs at medium low speed until combined. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, allowing the flour to be absorbed into the dough after each addition. Turn the mixer off, cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
- Switch out the paddle attachment for a dough hook and turn the mixer on to medium low speed. Add the butter in three increments, allowing the butter to become absorbed into the dough before each following addition.Once combined, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, knead in a bit more flour. Once the dough is smooth and supple, form into rough cylinder shape after kneading, cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a muffin tin.
- Place the cylinder of dough on a clean working surface and roll it out until it is about 13 inches long. Use a knife to cut a tiny an indent in the center, so you have two equal sections. Repeat this with the center of each section, and again and again, until you have about 32 to 34 indents cut into the dough. Cut the dough into circular slices using the indents as a guide.
In a small shallow bowl, mix together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon until combined. Take 4 or 5 slices of the dough and dredge them gently in the sugar mixture to get some of it on each slice. Stack 4 to 5 slices on top of each other and then cut the stack in half down the center. Place each half in its own muffin cup, cut side down. Insert 2 to 3 cut cherry halves between the layers of each muffin.
When the muffin tin is filled, place the pan in the oven and bake until the muffins turn gold, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.