Sour Cherry Crostata

July 8, 2017

Sour Cherry Crostata

Most sour cherry recipes are too sweet, which ruins the unique flavor of this elusive fruit.  This one, I think, is just about 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).

Crostata Crust

This can be a soft and difficult dough to work with in the heat of summer.  But unlike regular pie dough, it’s a cookie-like pastry that’s very forgiving, and refuses 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 one and a half sticks 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.

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. To pit the cherries, open a paper clip one fold, and use it to flip the pits out.  Works like a charm!  The pitted cherries freeze well; I try to freeze enough to last at least until Christmas.  Do not defrost before using.

Melt three tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.  Add the cherries, a half cup of sugar and the juice of one 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 two minutes, stirring, just until the mixture becomes clear and thick.  Allow to cool.

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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  • I made the blackberry turnovers from your article in Sunset magazine. I loved the article and the turnovers. This crostata looks great and I like sour cherries . I cannot find them here in California so I have to buy them frozen. My parents had several trees in Germany and my father used to make a Rumtopf with them and other seasonal fruit. He would layer the fruit in a ceramic pot and cover it with rum. That would be his winter treat.

  • James L. says:

    This is in the oven cooking and it looks and smells amazing. I love the conversational directions of the recipe. Usually, baking stresses me out a bit but I found this recipe extremely relaxing. Thank you, Ruth!

  • Laura says:

    Your instructions say “don’t defrost (cherries) before using them.”
    For THIS recipe, I have to use my frozen cherries. At what stage do I incorporate them? After the cornstarch thickens, or run the risk of diluting the sauce with the water caused by freezing the cherries first?

  • admin says:

    Laura, just use the frozen cherries exactly as you would fresh ones. Add them to the butter in the pan, along with the sugar and lemon juice, and wait until they defrost and come to a boil before adding the cornstarch. I do this all the time – I have a freezer filled with cherries from the summer – and it works perfectly.

  • Ellie says:

    After battling birds over the cherries in our yard for several years, we finally managed to get a good harvest this year. But I only had enough cherries for one pie, so I wanted to make sure it was the right recipe. After reading a dozen recipes, I’m so happy I chose to follow this one! (I had a hunch it would be up my alley as the filling called for much less sugar than others — I agree with the notes that cherry pie is often too sweet.) My house was filled with an intoxicating aroma as it was cooking, and the flavor is unbelievable. I think this crust would work with other fillings too — I will try it again when peach season rolls around.

  • Bruce Russell says:

    I made this recipe with gooseberries and a little cinnamon and it was… delicious. Thank you Ruth!