Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tartin' it up with Cherries!

Cherry season is upon us and I decided to take advantage of the sale on bing cherries at work.  So I bought eight pounds. Maybe a bit excessive, but I can make all kinds of cherry goodies and if I can't get to it right away, the cherries can join their friends the blueberries in the freezer!

For my first cherry project I went with this cherry almond tart, which utilizes the same tart dough I used in my summer fruit crostata.  I still had a chunk in the freezer (it helps to plan ahead and make extra!) so it was a snap to defrost it in the refrigerator over night and roll it out when I was ready to bake.  I couldn't ask for a better dough to pair with the sweet almond filling and juicy cherries.  But if you're looking to streamline the process, try using puff pastry from the frozen section at the grocery store.

I've never made this exact recipe before, and like pretty much all of the cooking and baking I do, I experiment a lot and make changes to recipes to suit my own tastes.  When I was a pastry chef on a train, I used to make a pear tart using almond paste, which is one of my most favorite ingredients.  But since it's Summer, I liked the idea of using cherries with the almond filling, so I went for it.  I know a lot of people at home are not comfortable with "winging it" but I really encourage you to do this.  It will build your cooking skills and your confidence and makes for great experience because you always learn something.  Like today, I learned that when baking this tart, the almond filling puffed up and and engulfed the cherries, almost totally hiding them.  But I didn't panic, I just put some more cherries on top and finished baking the tart.  So I'm passing that knowledge on to you and writing the recipe so that the cherries are added when the filling is partially set, that way you can still see the pretty red lumps peeking out of the sweet almond filling.  See,  experimenting in the kitchen is fun!

Cherry Almond Tart
I used an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom

Use the crust of your choice, I like the Sweet Pastry Crust from the Joy of Baking website

1 7-ounce tube almond paste
4 Tb. unsalted butter, softened
3 Tb. flour
2 Tb.sugar
3 eggs
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups pitted cherries (approximate)

Place an empty sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees.  Roll out your crust of choice and press into the tart pan. Use a fork to prick holes all over the crust to keep it from bubbling up and shrinking.  Place the pan into the freezer for about 15 minutes, or until solid.  Remove the pan from the freezer and line with a piece of parchment paper or foil.  Fill the pan with beans or pie weights and bake on the hot pan for 20 minutes until the crust is partially set.  Remove the paper and beans and set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar, salt, flour, almond paste and butter.  Mix on medium speed until the mixture comes together and forms a ball.  Add the eggs and beat well until there are no big lumps.  Almond paste has a grainy texture, so it won't be perfectly smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top.  Place back on the pan and cook for 20 minutes, until the filling is lightly puffed and starting to set.  Remove the pan from the oven and gently press the cherries onto the filling.  You can scatter them around or make a pattern, your choice.  Use as many cherries as you like.  Put the pan back into the oven onto the top rack, and allow to cook for approximately 15 minutes more, until the filling is golden brown.  Place the tart on a rack and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before you dive in.  This tart slices best when it is completely cooled, but my friend Leslie and I couldn't wait long enough and attacked it while it was still warm.  It is also delicious cold or at room temperature.  Just eat it, trust me.

Line the pan with the crust, dock with a fork and freeze until firm.
Blind bake the crust for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Mix the almond paste, flour, sugar and butter.

Add the eggs and beat until it looks like this.
I added the cherries first, like this.
But the cherries disappeared!  Quick, throw some more on there!

All's well that ends well!
I love happy endings.  And this tart.

1 comment:

  1. Argh, if only I could get fresh cherries in AK I would make this! Looks delicous