When Michael Moorman opened the doors to his small 60-seat cafe, m.henry, eight years ago in Chicago, bakery wasn’t really on his mind. However, when the opportunity arose to take over the neighboring bakery, he jumped at it. The bakery supplies both the m.henry and new m.henrietta cafes with house-made brioche, scones, muffins, granola, pies and tarts as well as a variety of desserts for m.henrietta’s dinner menu. While not in the original plan, bakery has become important to m.henry’s success. “The bakery is the front door to our restaurant and everything else we have going on,” Moorman says.
“We’re one of the best breakfast/brunch places in the city,” he adds. “We do a huge weekend brunch–on Sunday, we can serve over 800 people between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. We have anywhere from 30 to 50 people waiting in our bakery at any given time.”
One of the best-selling items out of the bakery is the sour cherry and pecan granola. The bakery makes it by the bucket load, Moorman says, and by the end of the day on Sunday, it will be completely sold out. Part of its appeal is the use of sour cherries, which are plumper and less dry and chewy than cranberries. “We are a little higher end, and we try to have a little more perceived value to our dishes, which the cherries give us,” Moorman adds.
While blueberries have received a lot of attention as a superfruit high in antioxidants, cherries also are considered a superfruit and contain almost the same amount of antioxidants per serving as blueberries, according to the Cherry Marketing Institute. A growing body of scientific evidence links cherries’ red color, produced by the fruit’s powerful antioxidants–called anthocyanins–to heart-health benefits related to reducing inflammation, total cholesterol and belly fat. Recent studies also suggest cherries may have powerful pain relief benefits that help soothe the symptoms of arthritis and gout and may help promote muscle recovery after exercise.
For Moorman, cherries are an ideal fruit choice because they are versatile–he uses them in salads, in some baked products and in sauces. “We’re always trying to balance the sweet and the sour in our dishes, and sour cherries help us do that,” he says.
Cherries work as a main flavor, but are subtle enough to complement other flavors as an accent. They also add a nice color to the products that feature them. m.henry’s bakery uses cherries in its granola, a sweet potato sour cherry muffin (also produced in loaves) and a chocolate sour cherry muffin. In season, the bakery also produces a variety of cherry tarts and pies. The bakery uses several forms of cherries; the sweet potato sour cherry muffin calls for dried sour cherries while the chocolate sour cherry muffin uses fresh frozen cherries.
“In most cases, we’re using the sour cherries as an accent as the tartness plays off the sweetness in the chocolate or sweet potato,” Moorman says.
“It’s a nicer fruit than raisins, so it plays off well in color and flavor,” he adds. “Sour cherries kind of sell themselves–they are plump, they are succulent. Cherries sell themselves year-round for us. There’s nothing bad about sour cherries…except the pits.”