Nothing beats a bowl of fresh-picked cherries all on their own, but I’ll put this tart solidly in second place. With its crisp, cookie-like almond crust and jammy fruit filling, it’s an unfussy dessert that tastes simply of sweet cherries and almonds, two flavors with a long-standing and storied romance. Happily, the almond tart dough is incredibly forgiving and won’t shrink in the oven (an all-too-common complaint), so if you’re averse to baking or new to pastry-making this recipe would be a wonderful one to try. It’s a keeper.
And if you’re the proud owner of a cherry pitter, congrats! Today’s the day you can justify that purchase. (See, honey? I told you we’d be pitting cherries!) A paring knife works okay for the task, slow-going but okay, though (you heard it here first) I may just patent my new cherry-pitting prototype: a champagne cork studded with a metal screw. (A shiny-new, un-rusty screw, natch.) Hold the cork on your counter top, impale the fruit on the screw and voila, a heaping pile of pitted Bing cherries. (It’s strangely violent, and you might entertain ponderous thoughts about the Inquisition and medieval torture devices, but I assure you the cherries don’t feel a thing.) You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with this ode-to-early-summer tart, thick with ruby-red sweet cherries.
Cherry Tart with Almond Crust
adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, 2005
- scant 1/2 C almond meal
- 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 1 C + 5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 8 Tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp ice-cold water
- 1/4 vanilla bean
- 1/3 C granulated sugar
- 1/4 C water
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 1/4 lb Bing cherries, pitted
- 1 Tbsp brandy, amaretto or grappa (optional)
In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Add the extracts to the butter and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the water and use a wooden spoon to combine, adding a little more water to bring the dough together, if needed. With your hands, press pieces of dough into a buttered 9″ fluted tart pan, starting on the sides and then pressing on the bottom to form an even crust. Chill at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork. Line with aluminum foil and weigh down with dry beans or rice. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil & beans and bake for 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, pit the cherries and prep the filling.
In a medium saucepan, mix the cherries, sugar and water and heat over medium-high. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the pot. Cook until the cherries soften and release their juices, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and smashing lightly with your spoon. In a small bowl, make a slurry by adding 1 Tbsp water to the cornstarch; mix together with a spoon and pour over the cherries, stirring to combine. Add the brandy or amaretto. Let cool slightly or refrigerate until needed.
When ready to bake, pour the slightly cooled cherry mixture into the pre-baked tart shell. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, until the cherries are bubbling and the tart shell nicely browned. Let cool 15 minutes before cutting or serve at room temperature.
Note: I simplified the filling portion of Goin’s recipe quite a lot. The crust is basically her proportions and technique, though she calls for grinding almonds into meal, which I skipped. If it seems fussy to cook the filling before you bake the tart, I can tell you (from experience, unfortunately) that cherries often burst in the oven, which is why cherry pies usually have a lattice or top crust.