I have long heard that cherries and almonds have a natural affinity. One of the reasons the French leave the pits in their cherries when they make clafoutis is because the cherry pits give the dish an almond-like taste. As much as I like clafoutis, that pancake like batter, that surrounds fresh cherries, I like this cherry-almond tart even better. The recipe came from Patricia Well’s book At Home in Provence.
The pastry is easy to prepare. It has a cookie dough consistency and is just patted into the pan; no rolling required. One of the ingredients used in this tart is finely ground blanched almonds. I had a bag of almond flour in my freezer, which is basically the same thing. You can find almond flour at most speciality stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and some supermarkets. The ground almonds are used in the pastry and in the filling. The only change I made to the recipe was in the filling. The filling calls for 1/2 teaspoon almond extract along with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. I find that almond extract is too strong, so I used 1 teaspoon vanilla and then instead of the 1 Tablespoon of kirsch (cherry liqueur), I used Disaronno; a bitter almond liqueur.
Oh my, this is now my new favorite dessert. It is well worth the time it takes to pit the cherries. The combination of the sweet cherries and the almond infused filling and crust is perfection. Cherries and almonds are natural partners indeed. I can hardly wait to make this again. It is already gone.
CHERRY-ALMOND TART ( Adapted from Patricia Wells )
One 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for preparing the tart pan
1/2 cup sugar
A pinch of fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely ground blanched almonds (almond flour)
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon finely ground blanched almonds (almond flour)
1 tablespoon Disaronno, Amaretto or Kirsch
4 tablespoons finely ground blanched almonds (almond flour)
1 pound fresh cherries, pitted
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Set aside
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the butter, sugar, salt, almond and vanilla extracts, and almond flour. Stir with a spoon to blend. Gradually incorporate enough flour to form a smooth soft dough. ( The dough should resemble soft cookie dough.) Place the dough in the center of the buttered pan. With the tips of your fingers, press the pastry evenly on the bottom and sides of the pan. The dough will be quite thin. You do not need to weight or prick the shell.
Place the lined tart pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is just slightly puffy and turns a very pale brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Do not turn off the oven.
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small bowl, combine the cream, egg, and vanilla extract and whisk to blend. Stir in the sugar, flour, ground almonds, and the Disaronno.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of ground almonds on top of the prebaked pastry shell. (They will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)
Arrange the cherries in a single layer in the pastry shell. Pour the filling over the cherries. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of ground almonds. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. 8 servings.