What to do when the cherry tree in your back yard—the one that hasn’t had a good crop of cherries in years—suddenly has a bumper crop of the smallest, tartest cherries you’ve ever tasted? You can do what I did, and wait until the cherries are absolutely ripe, and then pick as many as you can. After pitting them (a cherry pitter is the only single-use gadget I allow in my kitchen!) they freeze well for later use. When you’re ready to use them, simply take the container out of the freezer and let them defrost overnight or all day in the refrigerator. The cherries will have macerated in their own juice. Once drained they’re perfect for this tart or any cherry pie—not too wet. But don’t throw out that precious juice! Use it to make a delicious cherry glaze that will make this tart sparkle.
The beauty of this recipe is that all of the components are prepared separately. Once combined, the layer of chocolate will prevent the pastry cream from making the crust soggy. It’s this contrast of flavors and textures of flaky crust, smooth sweet pastry cream and tart cherries that make this a winner.
This tart is based on several different recipes, combining the best attributes of all of them. For the crust, you can use any sweetened, enriched pie crust recipe (for heaven’s sake, please don’t use a store-bought crust). The vodka or gin (you can use any neutral grain spirit) is the secret for making the flakiest crust—it provides the moisture necessary for rolling out the dough, but it evaporates quickly in the oven, leaving no detectable alcohol or flavor. The recipe adapts well to any berry; try strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.
Download the printable recipe here, or continue reading for the online version.
- 1 recipe Rich Tart Crust
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs, or 3-4 yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 to 3 cups pitted fresh sour cherries (drained)
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, or other liqueur
- Cherry simple syrup for glazing
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
- Mix together the eggs or yolks and cream. Stir the cream-egg mixture into the sugar-cornstarch mixture over medium heat.
- Whisk occasionally at first to eliminate lumps, then stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 7 to 10 minutes. Continue to cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon; when you draw a finger through this coating, the resulting line will hold its shape.
- Stir in the butter, Grand Marnier and vanilla extract and set aside.
- Cool the pastry cream, and then top it directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming; refrigerate.
- Brush the melted chocolate in a thin layer all over the bottom of the pastry crust, and half-way up the sides. This will prevent the cream from making the crust soggy.
- Spoon the chilled pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip. Starting in the center, pipe a layer of cream in a spiral, completely covering the crust in a single layer.
- Drain the pitted cherries well, reserving the juice to make the glaze.
- Place the cherries in a single layer to completely cover the cream. Add additional cherries to fill any gaps.
- Pipe a perimeter of cream between the cherries and the crust.
- Make a simple syrup by adding an equal amount of sugar to cherry juice over a low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Continue reducing over low heat until the syrup is slightly thickened. Cool the syrup, and put it into a squeeze bottle, or other container with a spout. (You can make the syrup in advance and use it for all kinds of things, like sweeting lemonade or cherry pancakes.) Alternatively, warm a few tablespoons of cherry or apricot preserves or jam over a low heat. Drizzle the glaze over the cherries. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to a day.