Cherries, cherries, and more cherries! It’s that time of year again here, cherry season that is. It’s a relatively short season so it really is a time to rejoice. I love that this is a fruit that actually has a season, and you can’t buy them all year round. No, in North America cherries only grow in the summer, and only for a short time. I think this makes me appreciate their juicy goodness that much more.
We decided to take a quick trip this past weekend to the Flathead Lake region of Montana and get in on some of those amazing berries. While we were there we also took in the Swan Lake Huckleberry Festival and the Whitefish Huckleberry Days Arts Festival. What is not to love about Montana?! The drive along the eastern side of Flathead Lake is just one cherry orchard after the next; a truly beautiful drive. We stopped the Cherry Hill Orchards (firstname.lastname@example.org), owned by the lovely Heidi and Jim. After a few fun-filled hours there we left with 12 pounds of cherries (plus the 5 lbs we already had in the car!) and headed back home.We are definitely going back next year and making that an annual summer jaunt.
Needless to say, I have been pitting cherries like a madwoman. So far I have a large bag in the freezer, made a clafouti (I’ll get to that another day), and oven dried a portion. Here is another amazing dessert using fresh cherries. At first glance it looks very complicated and time-consuming, but I promise you – it isn’t. In fact it is quite simple to make. Make the tart dough the day before if you want to spread it out. Bake this, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and I must tell you…. I made the tart shells in the morning, planning on baking them later in the day. Well… I forgot. I made the filling and poured it onto the rectangle shaped tart and then realized, “I forgot to bake the shell first!!!!”. Oh well, it was too late for that one, and into the oven it went anyway. I baked the other crust. Funny thing is, they both tasted great, and no one was any the wiser…. Bake on!
CHEERY CHERRY CHOCOLATE TART
Yield: One 9 1/2 inch tart, 8 to 12 servings
Chocolate Tart Pastry
1 egg white
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 C + 2 Tbls (5 ounces/140 g) all-purpose flour
3 Tbls unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder (I like to use black cocoa)
3 Tbls firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbls granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 ounces (3/4 stick/85 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and vanilla; set aside
In a food processor, combine the flour, cocoa, sugars, and salt. Pulse a few times to blend. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture kind of looks like cormeal. With the motor running, pour in the egg white mixture and process until it starts to come together and form a ball (this is one of those times that I appreciate having a food processor; it takes so little time and effort to make this). Transfer the dough to a work surface and press the dough together, using the heel of your hand to help you. Shape it into a disk. You are now ready to roll out your dough! You can always just press the dough into your pan with your fingertips, however it’s much faster to roll it our using a rolling pin. If you don’t want to use the dough right away, wrap it up in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to 3 days, or, wrap it in foil and freeze for up to three months. Just make sure that either way you dough is nice and pliable before rolling out.
Here is a great method (thank you Flo Braker!) to follow:
You will need 1 piece of parchment paper and 1 piece of plastic wrap. Put the plastic wrap down,place the dough down, cover with the parchment paper, and roll out to your desired shape. This will depend if you are using a round/square/rectangle shape pan. Center the rolling pin and push out from you in one stroke. Rotate the dough slightly and roll again. Keep rotating (in the same direction) and rolling until your tart dough is 1/8 thick. With a tart, you want a thin crust so you don’t end up with more crust than filling.
Peel off the parchment paper. Using the overhang of the plastic wrap as handles, invert the dough, pastry side down, over the center of you tart pan. Gently ease the dough into the pan, fitting it into all the nooks and crannies. Peel away the plastic wrap (how easy is that?). Trim away any excess. Now you place the dough into the fridge to get nice and cold (at least 1 hour).
You need to partially bake this tart shell (but remember my error…). Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork. This allows the steam to escape while it is baking. Place in the oven and check after 7-8 minutes to see if the shell is bubbling. If it is, just prick the center to deflate it. Continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until it is no longer shiny and looks dry. Take of the oven and let cool completely.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
2 ounces (1/2 stick/55 g) unsalted butter
1 C (3/12 oz/100 g) powdered sugar
2 Tbls whole almonds, finely ground to yield 6 Tbls (1 ounce/30 g)
1/3 C (1 1/2 oz/40 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 C (2 1/2 fl oz/75 ml)egg whites (3 large)
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
2 Tbls cocoa nibs, finely chopped (optional)
10 ounces (280 grams) fresh sweet cherries, stemmed, pitted, and left whole (about 25)
Preheat your oven to 350F
Follow the directions here to make brown butter. Pour the butter into a small bowl and set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, ground nuts and flour. In another medium bowl, whisk the egg whites just until foamy (this takes about 30 seconds by hand). Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Gradually add the browned butter to blend thoroughly. Stir in the extracts and cocoa nibs. Let the mixture rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to thicken slightly.
Spoon the filling into the tart shell and spread evenly. Press the cherries all around the perimeter of the tart, saving a few to place decoratively down the middle. The filling should reach about half way up the cherries.
2 ounces (60 g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tbls heavy cream
Place the cream in a small pan and bring to a boil (I admit that I always use the microwave for this; 1 minute). Pour the cream over the chocolate, let it sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth and creamy.Set aside at room temperature until the mixture cools a bit and starts to thicken.
Drizzle the chocolate over the tart in a zig zag pattern. this can be done using a disposable pastry bag, the corner of a small ziploc bag, or even just a spoon.
I also made a square version using a small cake pan that had a removable bottom. I just used my fingertips to get the sides.
Recipe source: Baking For all Occasions by great Flo Braker