What to do with two gallons of tart cherries, part three:
Plan to make a rustic tart,
fail miserably,
and end up with aptly-named
“Cherry Surprise”

July 1, 2010

“What’s the surprise?” you might wonder.

And my answer: That it was tasty.

Several years ago, in Georgia, I made a rustic cherry tart. I had driven into Atlanta, and made my customary stop at Trader Joe’s. While there, buying all sorts of things I couldn’t get so cheaply in Athens, I ran across big jars of tart Morello cherries. I knew I’d read something in Cook’s Illustrated about those being the best canned cherries to use in pies, etc., so I bought a few jars.

The tart idea was inspired by my early days in Athens, working the counter at (the original) Big City Bread. They made a variety of rustic tarts, and my favorite was cherry. It was bright and mildly sweet, with a buttery-flaky crust dotted with large crystals of sugar. I didn’t get the recipe before leaving, and the new owners weren’t as generous with sharing secrets. Left to my own devices, I remember piecing together recipes from various sources: a crust here, simple cherry filling there, and what resulted was beautiful and tasty. It even won over the heart of a friend’s husband who “didn’t do dessert.” I specifically remember, in the days following that tart, that I kept thinking, “I need to write down what I did.”

But of course, I didn’t.

Yesterday morning, I had high hopes of making the very same tart. It hadn’t seemed difficult, the first time, to find source/inspiration recipes. But yesterday my luck was dry and my time short. I scrambled, searching to unknown ends the Cook’s Illustrated website, not to mention a few wild stabs with google. In the end, I took solace in the fact that while the tart wouldn’t be the same, it would still, at least, be a cherry tart.

How wrong I was.

After a series of snafus involving room-temperature pie dough disintegrating under my french rolling pin, cherry filling left too hot to pour into the center of failed dough, and a clock that mercilessly ticked away before my eyes as I labored almost to the point of missing dinner altogether, I ended up with what can best be described as a tobbler (that’s a tart-cobbler). Or, a cobbler with a pie crust topping. Whichever you prefer.

And it cooled, and we scooped, and topped it with homemade vanilla ice cream. And it was good.

Really good, actually. Perfect, if you’re wondering what to do with sour cherries.

So, I wrote down what I did. I’m sure there are similar recipes out there that are simpler. But I’m keeping this one, as a matter of karma.

…………………………………..

Cherry Tobbler (sour cherry cobbler with pie crust topping)

for the crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 Tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp ice water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture looks like a coarse meal with no pieces larger than peas.

In a small bowl, mix together the water, sour cream, and lemon juice. Pour over the flour mixture, and using a spatula, gently fold and press the dough just until it comes together. If the dough is too crumbly, sprinkle on an extra tablespoon or two of water.

Gather the dough into a ball, then flatten into a 4″ disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (can be made a few days ahead). If refrigerated for more than one hour, let sit at room temperature for about 1/2 hour before attempting to roll.

for the filling:
(adapted from a cherry cobbler recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

  • 4 cups sour cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup dry wine (white or red)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3″)

Preheat the oven to 425º.

In a medium bowl, toss together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the cherries, and toss to combine. Pour the wine over the mixture and stir gently. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Drain the cherries, reserving the soaking liquid. In a small saucepan, bring the soaking liquid to a boil with the cinnamon stick. Let simmer, stirring constantly, for about 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the alcohol flavor cooks off.

Pour the drained cherries into a pie plate, or 8″x8″ glass baking dish. Remove the cinnamon stick from the simmered liquid, and pour over the cherries.

Roll out the crust to a size and shape that covers the top of your dish. Lay the crust over the cherries, pinching on the sides of the dish. Brush the beaten egg over the crust, and then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Let cool to just warm before serving with vanilla ice cream.

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