When I first started blogging, I did not have a clue on how this blog would shape up. All I knew was that I loved baking and I wanted to have my little corner where I could share my experiences, as I experimented and expanded my baking repertoire. I wondered, at first, on how I would decide which recipe to tackle and worried that I would overload on chocolate-centric recipes. After all, I came into this blog with one chocolate cake, one chocolate brownie and one chocolate-chip cookie recipe in my baking kitty!
And what a revelation it has been .... apart from the baking experience, I just did not anticipate how much I would enjoy weaving these little stories around my baking, whether it be with my writing or with the photographs that would accompany them. I've amazed myself as I've found inspiration for my posts from food memories, places, books and the seasons.
I found myself repeatedly turning to the fruit in season for inspiration and searching for recipes that incorporated them. I suspect that has much to do with the changes that I have brought about in my own diet over the past few years, to increase my intake of fresh and seasonal produce, which brings me to today's post.
We are right now in the middle of stone fruit season which occupies a tiny space in India's fruit calendar. Much of India lies in the tropics, except for a few northern states that have the climate to grow these fruits. So when the plums, peaches and cherries make their annual appearance in the fruit market, you have to move fast or the season will just pass you by!!
The cherries from Kashmir, our northernmost state, have arrived and I knew I had to make something with them. I zeroed in on these tarts. Time and again, I have come across various frangipane tarts that have fruits in them and these juicy, deep red cherries called out to me!!
These tarts start off with a short crust base with a frangipane filling, which is essentially a mix of almond meal, vanilla, eggs and sugar. They are then topped of with pitted cherries which get immersed in the filling as these tarts bake!!
Before I go on to tell you how these tarts tasted, can I just to tell you that these tarts looked beautiful and dainty. They had me captivated the moment I pulled them out of the oven, with the dark cherries peeking out of the puffed-up golden brown filling, .
And they did not disappoint on the taste front either. The pastry was the same one I used for these galettes, a tried and tested one, that produces these lovely, flaky tarts. The frangipane filling with a slightly nutty taste and a delicate, vanilla flavour is a winner.
The juicy cherries, in my opinion, provide a balance of freshness as well as they lighten up a filling that could otherwise risk being a bit too rich, owing to the almond meal. And the best part, these tarts are not cloyingly sweet and the jam glaze on top finishes them off perfectly!!
What I would change the next time I make them and I ask you to keep in mind is to add more cherries. These are, after all, cherry tarts and you would want to encounter this juicy, beautiful fruit with every mouthful that you take. So, my suggestion, don't go stingy on the fruit!!
For someone who is increasingly enjoying baking with fruit, I can't stop praising these beautiful tarts that would make a perfect tea time treat. Pair them with cream or custard and they'd make a delightful dessert for a summer meal. Cherries are in season across much of the world right now, so try these before the season ends!!
makes 4 x 4-inch individual tarts or one 9-inch pie
Short-crust pastry (Pate brisee)
- 1 1/4 cup plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/8 - 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 cup pitted cherries (approx 8-10 cherries per tart)**
** If you don't have a cherry pitter, you will have to make a slit on one side of the cherry from the stem to the bottom of the cherry and pry out the pit as gently as you can without damaging the cherry too much. Warning : Pitting cherries without a cherry pitter can be done but is a tedious task!!! Ask me!!!
For the short-crust pastry (pate brisee):
- In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt until well combined.
- It is important to remember that the butter and water should both be cold.
- Add the pieces of chilled, cut butter to the flour mixture and with your fingertips, rub the butter with the flour mixture until it resembles bread crumbs.
- Slowly,add the cold water in small intervals to help bring the mixture together. Don't make the dough too wet and do not knead the dough, simply bring it together.
- Take the mixture and wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate the dough for 30-60 mins. This is a very important step and should not be omitted.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C
- Remove the refrigerated dough and divide into 4 equal parts.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into circle and an inch bigger than the bottom of these tarts and then gently lay and press the pastry to the bottom and side of the tart moulds. At no point pull at the pastry to cover the tart moulds, or else the pastry will shrink during baking.
- Refrigerate these tarts for 20 minutes to firm up so as to let the gluten relax.
- Prick the tarts with a fork all over. Then line them with an aluminium foil and fill them up completely with old beans/rice/lentils and bake blind them for 20-25 minutes or until the crusts are dry and lightly brown. You fill them up with old beans so that they don't puff up while baking!!
- Remove the tarts from the oven and cool on a wire rack, remove the weights and carry on to make the frangipane filling.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180 deg C.
For the frangipane filling:
- With a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until creamy.
- Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
- Add the almond meal and flour and beat until you get a smooth paste.
Assembling and Baking the tarts:
- If your individual tart moulds have a removable bottom disk, remove only this bottom disk and bake the tarts only in the side casing for the second baking. If this is not done the bottom does not cook completely. If your tart moulds do not have a removable, bottom disk but are whole, complete tart moulds, ignore this step!! This is a tip from a Julia Child book.
- Divide the frangipane cream equally between the four tarts and spread it across the bottom of the pastry crust.
- Place 8-10 pitted cherries evenly over the frangipane. During the baking, the filling will rise and the fruit will sink slightly into the filling.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the frangipane filling is puffed up and lightly brown.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Heat 1/4 cup of jam (apricot, plum, red currant or mixed fruit) in a saucepan until it is of spreading consistency. With a pastry brush, lightly brush each cherry and the top of the filling with this jam glaze.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. It can also be stored in the refrigerator and when you want to eat it, simply microwave it for a minute and it will be as fresh as ever!!