Who can resist freshly picked seasonal fruit in a flaky crust, especially cherries? Here in Northern California the cherry season has started and this year the crop is especially delicious. Cherry Tart or Crostata di Ciliegie is the ultimate expression of this delicious fruit with a whisper of almond essence.
Pastry crust is one of the simplest elements to prepare when baking, yet I find so many are intimidated by it, don’t be. If you can read you can prepare a delicate, flaky and flavorful pastry crust. The secrets are few, but one must start with a high quality unsalted butter – my preference being the European butters which are now readily available. The butter needs to be cold and cubed, and a small container of iced water as well as the remaining ingredients should be assembled before you start.
Begin with adding the flour, salt and sugar to the work bowl of a food processor or mixing bowl, combine well. Introduce the cold cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. The butter can be added by hand to the mixing bowl using two knives to cut the butter or your fingertips. Add the ice water a few tablespoons at a time to dampen the mixture, adding too much water will result in a dough that will shrink when baked. Gather, chill, rest, roll on a lightly floured surface, chill and proceed….that’s it! Resist the temptation to overthink and over handle the dough and as with anything in life, practice makes perfect.
Italian sweets featuring cherries often use almonds, almond paste or almond flavoring as well; a pairing that brings together elements that grow together. Cherry Tart or Crostata di Ciliegie, is an Italian spin on the classic American favorite, Cherry Pie.
With Father’s Day and the Fourth of July just around the corner this is the dessert you have been waiting for. Start you pastry dough today and let it rest in the freezer until the day before you plan to roll it out. At this time of year I often prepare a few batches of the almond mixture to have on hand in the freezer to line fruit tarts and pies, not only does it add a bit of flavor but it keeps the bottom crust crisp by absorbing some of the fruit liquids.
It’s time to kick the summer baking season into gear, your family and friends will be glad that you did.
Subscribe to La Bella Sorella below:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 16 Tbs. chilled butter, cut into half inch pieces
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ½ tsp. pure almond extract
- ½ cup of cold water
- 1½ pound of fresh cherries, washed and pitted
- ¼ to ½ cup of sugar - amount to be used will be determined based on the sweetess of the cherries
- ¼ tsp pure almond extract
- Pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup of ground almonds
- ⅓ cup all purpose flour
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- Butter to grease the springform pan
- Either the day before or early on the morning that you intend to bake the tart prepare the pastry. Mound the 2 cups of all purpose flour, on your counter or in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and pinch of salt and combine. Add the prepared butter to the flour and either using two knives or your fingertips work the butter until the mixture resembles small peas. If using the food process this can be done using the pulse function but be careful not to over process.
- Add the ½ teaspoon of almond extract to two tablespoons of the cold water and sprinkle the water over the flour, follow with another 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cold water. Bring the contents together to form a ball and gently gather to form a uniform mass; if the mixture seems too dry, add another tablespoon of the water. Divide the dough into two balls, one being slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
- Remove the chilled pastry from the refrigerator and butter a 9 inch springform pan.
- Lightly flour the counter and begin by rolling the slightly larger disc of pastry dough from the center out, moving it regularity to make sure it does not stick. Dust the top and bottom lightly with flour as needed. Once you have rolled out the pastry to a diameter of about 14 inches, large enough to cover the bottom and come up the sides of the springform pan, gently fold it in quarters and place the wedge gently with the point in the center of the pan and carefully unfold. Line the bottom and the sides with the pastry, place the pastry lined springform pan on a baking tray and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Roll out the second piece of pastry to a diameter of about 10 to 11 inches and chill on a baking sheet.
- Preheat the oven to 375º.
- Combine the pitted cherries, ¼ to ½ cup of granulated sugar, pinch of salt and ¼ teaspoon of almond extract in a large bowl.
- Combine the ground almonds, flour and sugar - mix well with a fork.
- Remove the springform pan and pastry top from the refrigerator. Cover the bottom of the pastry shell with the ground almond mixture followed by the prepared cherries.
- With a small round cutter, make a hole in the center of the pastry top. Carefully place the top over the filled shell. Gently press down the pastry and cinch together the edges. Trim the excess pastry leaving enough to make a simple edging to be crimped with your fingers.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350º and place the tart in the center. Resist the temptation to open the oven door until 30 minutes has passed. At this point rotate the tart to insure even browning.
- Continue baking until the crust is evenly browned and the cherries filling is bubbling, about 15 to 30 additional minutes depending on your oven.
- Remove to a wire rack and cool for 1 hour before removing the sides of the springform pan.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, perhaps with a scoop of high quality vanilla ice cream,.