When Cooking French is Actually Easier: Cherry Tart
If there were ever a good argument for classic Americana foods being fussier, more difficult to make than their French counterparts, it would involve a showdown between the Yankee's pie and the Gaul's tart. Both involve a baked crust, full of butter or maybe even lard, filled with some sort of sweetened fruit filling or a pastry cream or custard; or both. But these basics are where the similarities end, because making each is wholly different. Pie, with its rolled dough, complicated top crust, sometimes weaved into a lattice, is goddamn difficult to make-- nevermind the The Awl's claim as to how fucking easy it is. French-style tarts, however, with a much easier crust than their reputation belies, require no rolling pin, no lattice weaving of crumbly dough for a top crust. They're really downright simple to make.
With cherries now widely available from localfarmers' markets
, cherry tart is a perfect desert to end any summertime meal with. Pitting the fruit does take a bit of time, but likeshelling fava beans
, it's a enjoyable task that reaps delicious rewards. A chopstick pushed through the stem-end of a cherry will push the pit right through the other side, or pulling up on the stem while squeezing the fruit will pull the pit up and out.
This recipe, a cooked cherry tart, involves macerating the pitted fruit in a quantity of sugar, letting it pull out the juices, the fruit supplying its own cooking liquid. Cherries are low in pectin, so your goal is not to cook the fruit into a jam, per se, but to simmer the fruit long enough to reduce the liquid down to almost nothing, so the fruit is coated in a sweetened cherry syrup. The fruit isn't really so much of an issue in the cooking--the texture will be much the same regardless of how long they're cooked, unless you keep it on the heat for, say, upwards of an hour--but if the fruit is left too wet, the syrup will seep into the crust, ruining its texture.
After the crust is baked and cooled, after the cherries are cooked a cool, its only a matter of pouring the fruit into the crust, pushing it around a bit with the back of a spoon or a spatula so it fills the shell evenly.
Crust recipes are many, but only slightly varied. The gist is you cut butter into flour and add a bit of ice water until it all pulls together into a ball. And then there's this recipe, from pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz, which involves hot water and melted butter. Sounds insane, but it makes a perfect crust and is screamingly easy. I'd suggest giving it a shot.
1 pounds fresh cherries, pitted
¾ cup sugar
1) After the cherries are pitted, put them in a large bowl and toss with the sugar. Let sit for at least an hour.
2) Pour the cherries and their juices into a saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring continuously, until the juices have reduced into a thickened syrup and coat the fruit, about twenty minutes.
3) Let the cherries cool, then fill the cooled tart crust with the fruit, reserving any leftovers, because this stuff tastes too damn good to let it go to waste.
4) You really should consider serving the tart with vanilla ice cream.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.