High Altitude Backing: Sweet cherry tart (recipe)
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Got the tired-of-winter blues? This pretty dessert might help chase them away. It’s a thin tart with a sweet cherry filling swaddled in a rich shortbread crust that’ll add a little cheer to almost any day.
No fresh fruit is required, just high-quality cherry preserves and dried cherries. The preserves provide most of the tart’s taste, so use one you find pleasing and make sure it’s thick or the filling could be runny when the tart is sliced. Chop the dried cherries into small pieces, a quarter-of-an-inch or less in size so you get several in every bite. To increase their flavor and soften the dried fruit, soak them in berry or cherry liqueur or juice (try crème de cassis).
The decorative dough cutouts are made with a cookie cutter and can be almost any size and shape. To use a 9-inch tart pan, increase the filling ingredients to 1½ times what’s listed below (i.e., ¾ cup Bing cherries, etc.).
Sweet cherry tart
(Make in an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.)
1¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
¼ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 ½ to 3 tablespoons ice water
½ cup chopped dried Bing cherries
1 to 2 tablespoons berry or cherry liqueur, cherry juice or water
¾ cup thick cherry preserves
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios or flaked almonds
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cream
1 to 2 tablespoons large-grain granulated sugar
Make the crust: Grease the bottom (not the sides) of your tart pan, and set it aside. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to blend well. Cut butter into 28 pieces, add, and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Whisk the yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and 2½ tablespoons ice water in a cup measure until combined, and add to mixture. Pulse until dough forms large, moist curds; if needed, add a little more ice water.
Dump out onto a sheet of waxed paper, and gently knead until smooth. Form a 6-inch disc with three-fourths of the dough and a 3-inch disc with the remaining dough. Cover both discs, and refrigerate or freeze them until firm and easy to roll. Roll the larger disc into a 10-inch circle and use it to line the tart pan. Put pan, covered, in the freezer until dough is very firm.
Roll the remaining disc to a 1/8-inch thickness, and use a cookie cutter (dip in flour to prevent sticking) to create cutouts for the tart top. Refrigerate the cutouts, re-roll the dough scraps, make and refrigerate more cutouts. If, at any time in the process, the dough gets soft and hard to work with, return it to the refrigerator or freezer to chill until firm.
Place a heavy cookie sheet on a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.
Make the filling: Combine the chopped dried cherries and liqueur in a small bowl, toss so all cherries are coated with liquid, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave at high temperature for about 15 to 20 seconds, until the fruit softens and absorbs some of the liquid but doesn’t cook. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine cherries with preserves, lemon peel and almond extract, and stir vigorously with a silicone spatula to loosen the preserves and combine the ingredients.
Spread the filling evenly in the cold crust, and sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top. Place the dough cutouts decoratively on top, leaving some of the filling exposed.
Make the glaze: Blend the yolk and cream, brush over the dough cutouts, and sprinkle sugar on top.
Place the tart on the heated cookie sheet in the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until the filling bubbles thickly and the crust and cutouts are golden, this takes from 35 to 45 minutes. Cool completely on a rack, and serve, or refrigerate, loosely covered. The tart cuts most easily when chilled but should be served at room temperature. Store leftovers for up to three days in the fridge.
This is a variation of a recipe published in Bon Appetit Desserts. Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and author of the high-altitude cookbooks “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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