July 17, 2013
Sour cherry season is coming to an end, but I've still got some in my refrigerator. I want to make something spectacular with the final fruits, and it's going to be a tart.
Most sour cherry recipes are too sweet, which ruins the unique flavor of this elusive fruit. I've finally worked out a recipe that I think is pretty perfect. Another bonus: unlike so many pastries, this one is better when it’s had a little time to itself, and it tastes better on day two (provided it actually lasts that long).
Working with pastry dough is difficult in the heat of summer. And this one, because it's so soft, is extremely challenging. But unlike regular pie dough, this cookie-like pastry is very forgiving, refusing to get tough, no matter how much you handle it. When it gets too soft, simply put it back in the refrigerator for five minutes to let it cool off. It will become much more accommodating.
Mix a stick and a half of soft butter with a third cup of sugar in a stand mixer until fluffy.
Break an egg into a small dish; reserve a bit to wash the pastry later, and add the rest of the egg to the butter. Toss in a teaspoon of vanilla.
Grate the rind of one lemon into 2 and a quarter cups of flour. Add a pinch of salt and slowly add to the butter/egg mixture until it just comes together. Divide into two disks, wrap in wax paper, and put in the refrigerator to chill for half an hour.
Sour Cherry Filling
Meanwhile, make the cherry filling by removing the pits from 2 pints of fresh sour cherries; you should have 4 cups once the pits are removed. (You could also use 4 cups of frozen pitted sour cherries; do not defrost before using.)
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add the cherries, a half cup of sugar and the juice of half a lemon and stir gently, just until the liquids come to a boil. Don’t cook them too long or the cherries will start to fall apart.
Make a slurry of 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of cold water and stir it into the boiling cherries. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, just until the mixture becomes clear and thick. Allow to cool.
Putting it all Together
Preheat the oven to 375 and put a baking sheet on the middle shelf.
Remove the pastry disks from the refrigerator. Roll out the first one, between two sheets of plastic wrap, to a round about twelve inches in diameter. This is the tricky part: invert it into a 9 inch fluted tart pan, preferably one with high sides. It will probably tear; don’t worry, just patch it all up and put it back into the refrigerator.
Roll out the second disk in the same manner, put it onto a baking sheet (still on the plastic wrap), remove the top sheet of plastic and cut this into 8 or 10 strips, about an inch wide. Put the baking sheet into the refrigerator to chill for a few minutes.
Remove the tart shell and the strips from the refrigerator. Pour the cherry filling into the tart shell. Now make a lattice of the strips on the top, criss-crossing them diagonally. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect; no matter what you do, the tart’s going to look lovely when it emerges from the oven. Brush the strips with the remaining beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar and put into the oven on the baking sheet. (You need the sheet to keep cherry juices from spilling onto the oven floor.) Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden.
Cool for an hour, on a rack, before removing the side of the tart pan.
Eat gratefully, knowing that fresh sour cherries are a short-lived summer treat.
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