Saturday, June 21, 2014

A New Cherry Tart & Other Things

Yesterday was a really super busy day. I made baguettes and focaccia. I made spaghetti for supper. I was on my feet all day in the kitchen. I had gone grocery shopping the day before and got some fresh cherries on sale. To date, I have done nothing at all with fresh cherries other than eat them. I love sweet cherries. When they taste that good, why do anything to mess with perfection?

When I was growing up in Ohio, at age 4 we moved to a house/property where we lived for the next 13 years. The house was a good size and the property on which it was situated was also nicely large, and on two distinct levels. The house sat facing Route 30, or East Tuscarawas Street (later E. Lincoln Street), which was a pretty busy street, and the garage was detached. Behind the garage, the land sloped downwards fairly steeply to a long, flat back yard. My Dad was particularly pleased with this property because, as he grew up on a farm, this lot had plenty of space for a nice sized garden, but that was not even the half of it! This yard already came decked out like the Garden of Eden.

One Early Richmond sour cherry lower left next to Bings
There were 3 different apple trees, 2 pear trees, a sour cherry tree and a sweet cherry tree, a peach tree, a plum tree, an elderberry tree, a quince tree. There was a grape arbor with mainly huge Concord grapes and a few green grapes. There was a huge patch of red raspberry bushes and a smaller black raspberry bush. Way in back were a few blackberry brambles. There was a large, established stand of rhubarb. Adding to all this bounty, Dad planted a garden every year and he grew a great wide swath of strawberries at the front end and then he tried all sorts of vegetables. Always corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, scallions. Green beans, beets, carrots and lots of other veggies. Cantaloupes and watermelons. And the list was always changing and being added to. And all this is not counting all the many varieties of flowers and bushes all around the yard, and about 8 or so huge maple trees.

Where I am heading with all this rapturous musing is that I grew up around cherries. The sweet cherries, the Rainier variety - well it was a fight to get any at all before the birds had their feast. I knew the flavor and loved them, but there were never enough left on the tree to actually do more than snack on. The sour cherries, however, grew abundantly and prolifically and Mom made sour cherry pies many, many times. I spent a fair share of my childhood summers pitting sour cherries for pies. When the cherries are so tiny, it takes quite a while to get a large enough amount pitted for a pie.

So this leads to my never associating making anything with sweet cherries. It was something that never happened in all my childhood. Just one of those things that carried with me through all my adulthood. And now, at age 64 I finally wondered why I had never baked something with sweet cherries? A carryover, I guess.

Cherry Frangipane Tart
I'd been thinking, conceptually, about making a tart. Cherries ended up working great, but my original intent was blueberries. I will likely get to the blueberry tart before summer's end. Meanwhile, my goal was to use a cookie dough for the tart crust, a frangipane filling and fresh berries or cherries on top. Yesterday was the day. It all worked well and tasted most wonderful. A success on many levels. Any simple roll sugar cookie type dough would work for the crust, as well as any regular pie pastry. I first thought about using a pate sucree; a pastry dough that is enriched with egg and sugar. I will get to that next time, but if you have a recipe for a favorite pate sucree, that would also be great.

Frangipane filling is made with almonds or almond flour, and almond extract would enhance the flavor. I also happen to have cherry extract in my cabinet, so I added a few drops of both of these flavors to the cookie crust in an effort to coordinate the flavors of the whole tart. I used Kirsch, a cherry liqueur, in the frangipane filling along with another tiny bit of cherry extract, though almond would be perfect also. If not using the 2 tablespoons of kirsch, add in a little water to make the frangipane spreadable if needed.

Another reason for the tart concept is that I have some nice, metal tart pans with removable bottoms stored in my cupboards and never used. I have other glass and ceramic tart pans that have been used many times, but I had never gotten around to using the metal ones. Yesterday was the day. A removable bottom tart pan is not necessary for this tart, though it will allow you to completely remove the pan and set the tart, in all its glory, onto a serving plate.

Cherry Frangipane Tart

Makes enough for two 8 or 9-inch tarts

Cherry Frangipane Tart
1 stick butter / 8 tablespoons
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon cherry extract (or use 1/2 teaspoon almond)

3/4 cup blanched, peeled almonds, OR
1 cup almond meal
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 yolk
2 tablespoons Kirsch or other liquid
1/2 teaspoon almond or cherry extract

1 - 1 1/2 lbs sweet cherries, pitted, halved

CRUST: Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Add in the extracts. Separately, sift or whisk together the flour and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well until combined. Do not over mix or the dough will be tough. Divide the dough into two portions. Wrap in plastic wrap or a zip-to- bag and chill for at least 30 minutes. If making only one tart, freeze the remaining portion. It can be thawed and used for another tart later, or for roll cookies. 

Roll the chilled dough to about 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit the crust to the tart pan, fitting gently into all the little scalloped edges. Use the rolling pin over the top edge of the pan to cleanly cut off overhanging dough. Set the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Once chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the crust with foil and pie weights and partially bake the cookie crust for 15 minutes. It should be set, but not browned. Cool the crust.
          Unbaked shell              Baked shell with frangipane             Cherries set on top               Baked Cherry Frangipane Tart

Delicious to the end
FRANGIPANE: If using whole peeled almonds, place them in a food processor with the sugar and process until fine. If using almond meal, combine the meal with the sugar in a bowl. This is easily mixed by hand, but if using the processor in the first step, continue with the processor. Whisk together the egg and yolk with the Kirsch, flavoring and melted butter. Add this mixture to the processor and process until well combined. By hand, whisk until the mixture is completely combined. Spread this mixture into the bottom of the cooled crust. Set the halved cherries, rounded side up onto the frangipane. Bake the tart in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the crust is golden.

NOTE: I believe the only thing I would change is to leave the pitted cherries whole. Though this was great, more cherry in the mix would be even better.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.