This is an old, old recipe from my kids' Great Grandma, passed down and modified to slightly more modern measurements and instructions. "Put in a buttered coffee cake pan?" What size is that? And was a "cup" really a measuring cup, or just the closest coffee cup you could find? I've tested this a few times to be sure that it will work with our modern ingredients and measures, but I think the flavor ends up as comforting and fresh as the original.
This is adaptable to so many summer fruits. While the original called for "1 can sour cherries, drained," fresh or frozen fruit will be even better. As noted below, strawberries, raspberries, probably even blueberries (haven't tried those yet), peaches, nectarines, or some combinations of these can all be used. The amount of sugar might vary too--for very sweet fruits, perhaps only half a cup of sugar needs to be mixed with the fruit in step 1.
I have reduced the levels of fat in the recipe, but, if you want the richer version from the old recipe card, see the variation below.
Whatever options you choose, this is a recipe that will be a nice variation from pies and crisps.
1/3 c butter (if unsalted butter is used, add about 1/4 t to this mixture)
1/4 c sugar
1 1/4 c flour
1 egg yolk
1. Use a pastry blender* to mix the butter into the sugar and flour. Then stir in the egg yolk just until the mixture is evenly blended.
2. Using your fingers, press the dough into a well-buttered 9 X 13 pan, working it up along the sides about half an inch or so.
* If you don't have a pastry blender, use two table knives, holding one in each hand, to cut through the butter, pushing the blades against each other.
1 pound (about 2 1/2 c) frozen cherries, slightly thawed--I used a mix of sweet and sour cherries from Costco; drain and reserve juices
1/2 c sugar (if using all sour cherries, use 3/4 c)
1/4 c flour
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/4 c sugar
drained juices from fruit
1 c milk
1/3 c dry milk powder
1/2 t almond extract (optional)
1. Mix the thawed and drained cherries with the 1/2 c sugar and flour. Spread the cherry mixture over the prepared crust.
2. Bake at 425 degrees (400 degrees if a glass or thin aluminum pan) for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine all the custard ingredients, beating until smooth.
4. Remove the cherries and crust from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
5. Pour the custard over the top, and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the custard is set. (You can test it by inserting a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, the custard is done.)
This can also be baked in two 8 inch pie pans, dividing all amounts evenly. The final baking step may be reduced by 5 or so minutes.
Variation, using fresh fruit
Reduce the flour added to the fruit to only 2 tablespoons. No need to drain the fruit before spreading over the crust and baking. When using fresh cherries, they should be chopped as well as pitted, as they tend to take longer to bake than some fruits.
Variation, using original recipe amounts
Use 1/2 cup butter in the crust.
Omit the almond extract.
Omit the dry milk powder and use half and half or evaporated milk instead of the milk. Actually, the really original recipe used "top milk" here. Farm wives who had their own, un-homogenized, milk, would take the cream from the top of each bottle for baking. Sometimes they might want to save some of that cream for butter or for whipping, so they would use part cream, part milk for their "top milk" recipes.
Other Fruit Possibilities
This recipe works well with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or a mixture of any of these. Chopped or thinly sliced peaches or apricots may also be substituted.