Persnickety Sour Cherries

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Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart

Sour cherries can be persnickety. First, they’re hard to find. In Los Angeles they seem to be available in most of the Armenian markets near Glendale for about two and a half weeks in June. However, don’t look for them in the produce aisle, go straight to the checkout counter. If you don’t see them ask. Sometimes they hide them. I guess they don’t want you to mistake them for sweet cherries (though, frankly, that would be hard to do – they cost twice as much). They’re also smaller and more “fluorescent”. Their diminutive size can make them hard to pit too. It takes a pretty persnickety cook with a lot of patience to prep a pound of these little buggers.

Once you get them in hand I’m sorry to say that their fussy nature continues because they’re not really great eaten out of hand. Still, in the right cook’s hand, they’re a sweet and sour seasonal marvel, and I always seek them out.

To be good, sour cherries need to be grown in the right environment and they can’t travel too far to market. This difficult dichotomy is why they’re so precious. They should be grown at high altitudes where they can get cool nighttime temperatures and plenty of daytime sunshine. Fortunately, California’s Leona Valley has just the right microclimate for sour cherries. Also, fortunately, the Leona Valley is only an hour and a half drive from many of those small family-owned Armenian markets I mentioned.

Pasta Frolla Tart with Sour Cherries

After getting my hands on a pound of sour cherries, I came home with the intention of making an Italian-style crostata inspired by Domenica Marchetti’s Instagram feed. Italian crostatas at their most traditional are jam-filled, lattice-topped tarts made with a sweet pastry crust known as pasta frolla. I’ve made them plenty of times. But I was intrigued by Marchetti’s version because I’d never seen them made in a fluted tart pan before. However, I have used her pasta frolla recipe for years and it seemed to me that the jammy nature of cooked sour cherries (per Ruth Reichl’s recipe) would be lovely in a Italian crostada. Pasta frolla is richer, silkier, and of course sweeter than the all-butter slightly salty French pastry crust I make by rote. In other words, a perfect partner to persnickety sour cherries.

So I pulled out my fluted tart pan and set my sights on a traditionally jammy Sour Cherry Crostata. However (and I should have known this) a pound of cherries only makes about 2 cups of prepped fruit. That’s not quite enough for a 9-inch crostada, not nearly enough for a 9-inch tart, and you can forget about a 9-inch pie. I use 6 cups of fruit in my cherry pie.

I could have headed back to Glendale to pick up another pound (or five) of sour cherries. But at $10.99 a pound I winced at that option and tossed out the Reichl plan as I chopped up a pound of ripe apricots. I instantly decided to attempt a 9-inch Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart with a crostada-style lattice top.

However, sour cherries aren’t the only persnickety characters in the kitchen. Pasta frolla is so soft that it can be challenging in warm weather. In the summer heat I was having trouble getting the thin lattice strips transferred to the top of the crostata. Sure, I could have rechilled them before constructing the crostata. However, in my rush to the end I opted for these much easier to handle squares of pasta frolla. If you squint your eyes I think you can still call it a lattice top. GREG

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart sour cherries

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart made with Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • all-purpose flour (as needed for rolling)
  • 1 batch pasta frolla (see recipe)
  • 1 pound sour cherries (pitted)
  • 1 pound ripe apricots (pitted and chopped into 3/4-inch chunks)
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place a 9 or 10 x 1-inch tart pan with a removable bottom on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the larger of the pasta frolla discs into a 12-inch round, a generous 1/8-inch thick. Carefully fold dough in half, and slide it onto the rolling pin. Transfer to the tart pan and unfold the dough, easing it gently into pan. Do not stretch the dough and allow the excess to drape over the edge. Transfer the pastry-lined tart pan still on its baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

Line a cutting board that will fit on the shelf of your refrigerator with a piece of parchment. Lightly flour it. Using a lightly floured rolling pin roll the second pasta frolla disc to about an 11-inch round, a generous 1/8-inch thick. Use a straight edge and a paring knife to cut the dough into at least sixteen 2-inch squares. Move the entire cutting board to the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the pastry-lined tart pan and the pasta frolla squares from the refrigerator.

In a large bowl combine the pitted sour cherries, chopped apricot, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gently fold the mixture together until the sugar is distributed and the cornstarch is no longer white and clumpy. Scrape the mixture into the pastry-lined tart pan, pressing the fruit gently to fill the gaps, then place the pasta frolla squares over the fruit mixture in a random, patchwork pattern overhanging the edges as needed. Gently press the dough squares into place at the edge of the pan, then run your roller at an angle over the edge of the pan, trimming it flush with the top all the way around. Refrigerate uncovered for 20 minutes.

When ready to bake place the tart on its baking sheet to catch any juices that bubble over in the heated oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling; about 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.

Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield one 9-inch to 11-inch lattice-top crostataSource Domenica Marchetti via NPRPublished

If you make a 9-inch crostata, you will have some leftover dough, which you can rewrap and freeze for future use, or roll out, cut into shapes and make cookies. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart made with Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for the work surface)
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (finely grated)
  • zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into ½-inch cubes)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large eggs yolks

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon and orange zests in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into 2 discs (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with.

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