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.