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Sour Cherry Season

Howard found sour cherries at the Charlton Orchards tent at the Lexington Farmers Market this week. Time for our annual summer cherry tart. Yum!

Cherries and almonds go so well together that I usually make my tart with a crumbly topping with almonds and almond paste. I was out of almond paste and didn’t want to run to the store. Instead, I took inspiration from this post on cherries from Dorie Greenspan. I made a variation of her crumble topping, using pistachios and cardamom, as the Pierre Hermé tart pictured in her post.

Howard and I shared the work of pitting the cherries. I make a tart instead of a pie, so a quart of cherries will fill the shell adequately. We have a cherry pitter, but it seems like the pits never fit through the hole, so working with a knife goes much faster. Between the two of us, the job went quickly and companionably.

The evening was a little hot for baking, but it was worth heating up the kitchen for a little while.

Sour Cherry Pie with Pistachio and Cardamom Topping

Pastry for a 9-inch pastry shell
Pistachio and Cardamom Crumble Topping (see below)
2 cups pitted sour cherries (1 quart unpitted)
1½ Tbsp sugar
½ Tbsp instant tapioca

Roll out the pastry and place in a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. I fold the overhang back into the pan and press to the sides to strengthen the shell. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Butter a piece of foil or parchment paper, and place, buttered side down, in the chilled shell. Fill the foil with beans or other pie weights. (I keep a large jar of dried white beans that I use as pie weights. Once they cool, I put them back in the jar and reuse them.)

Bake in a preheated 450F oven for 15 minutes. Remove the foil liner. Prick the bottom again if it has puffed up. Bake 10 more minutes without the foil, until lightly golden.

Reduce oven temperature to 375F.

Combine the cherries, sugar, tapioca, and ½ cup crumble topping. Fill the tart shell with the cherry mixture. Sprinkle the remaining crumble on top.

Bake for 30 minutes until topping is lightly brown and filling is bubbly.

Pistachio and Cardamom Crumble Topping
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

  • ½ c flour
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 7 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • ½ c pistachios

In the food processor, pulse together all the ingredients except the pistachios until coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the pistachios. You can make this a day or two ahead. Just put the topping in a covered container and store in the refrigerator.

Put all the ingredients, except the pistachios, in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms curds and clumps and holds together when pressed. Add the pistachios, pulse a couple of times and, if you’re not ready to make the crumble, turn the mixture out into a bowl, cover and chill until needed.

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I Cannot Tell a Lie

I love cherry pie. Usually, I make just one cherry pie (tart, actually) each year in July, when the sour cherries are in season. This past summer, Howard brought home cherries from the farmer’s market a second time. We pitted them and froze them and saved them for a winter treat. I think of cherry pie as something for George Washington’s birthday, though they now say he never did chop down that cherry tree.

I really enjoy making tarts. I prefer making tarts to pies. They aren’t all that different as far as the ingredients go. I think one of the reasons why is that a tart looks more elegant, standing without support it comes out of the pan (with removable bottom). I have one of those glass-domed cake dishes, like they have at a diner. A tart looks very special under the glass. Also, tarts take less filling than a pie. That means you can have the treat of a slice of the tart for dessert, but it’s a smaller piece, so less decadent, than a slice of pie.

I mastered any fear of making of making pastry crust years ago with the help of Julia Child and the food processor. I’ve recently changed the actual recipe from Julia’s because hers used a few tablespoons of Crisco to “tenderize American flour”. Now that I’ve banned transfats from my diet, I make an all-butter crust, which is working out just as well. I still use the technique I learned from Julia.

Sour Cherry Tart

Pastry for a 9-inch pastry shell
½ recipe for Marzipan Crumble Topping (see below)
2 cups pitted sour cherries (1 quart unpitted)
1½ Tbsp sugar
½ Tbsp instant tapioca

Marzipan Crumble Topping

  • ¾ c flour
  • ½ c packed almond paste (about 5 oz)
  • ½ c packed brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ c sliced almonds

Roll out the pastry and place in a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. I fold the overhang back into the pan and press to the sides to strengthen the shell. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Butter a piece of foil and place, buttered side down, in the chilled shell. Fill the foil with beans or other pie weights. (I keep a large jar of dried white beans that I use as pie weights. Once they cool, I put them back in the jar and reuse them.)

Bake in a preheated 450F oven for 15 minutes. Remove the foil liner. Prick the bottom again if it has puffed up. Bake 10 more minutes without the foil, until lightly golden.

Reduce oven temperature to 375F.

Combine the cherries, sugar, tapioca, and ½ cup crumble topping. Fill the tart shell with the cherry mixture. Sprinkle the remaining crumble on top (remember, you are only using half the crumble topping).

Bake for 30 minutes until topping is lightly brown and filling is bubbly.

This recipe only uses half of the Marzipan Crumble topping. Freeze the other half for another dessert. You can try a half batch of the apple crisp in my post for Accidental Apple Crisp.