There is only one week left in July. We have now passed 2014’s halfway mark and no matter how much I recognize it, the second half will not go any slower. I still need to make the time to do some summer living like reading that book I bought in May and breaking in my floppy hat by the pool. At least I did find an afternoon to bake with the most gorgeous quart of fresh sour cherries.
I love how a bowl of bright red cherries holds court in the center of a table. How even real cherries seem to play the part of motif when arranged around a cheese plate or piled on a cake. When we got married, I wanted to work cherries into the floral arrangements, but in May it was still too early for the bright red sour cherries that I imagined and the larger, dark sweet cherries do not have the same appeal. Sour (aka pie) cherries have their brief stint in the heart of summer. While I am tempted to buy several quarts with stars in my eyes for all the things I could make, a simple cherry tart with plain vanilla ice cream is all I really need. The kind of simple and pure baking that suits summer and all its fleeting super-fresh fruit.
I wanted the freshness of the cherries to shine so I skipped anything akin to a cornstarch-slick pie filling. Instead I made a butter-rich biscuit crust, tossed the cherries in a touch of sugar, piled them on the crust and hoped for the best. And the best happened. An everyone-will-have-seconds kind of best. We even ate the leftovers the next day for breakfast. I want more of that kind of summer living before it’s gone.
Sour Cherry Tart with a Buttery Biscuit Crust
This tart crust is a cross between a biscuit and pie crust. Or a leavened pie crust, if you will. All of the rich butter in the dough makes it almost fool proof. If you can’t find sour cherries, sweet cherries will also work. To use self-rising flour, drop the baking powder and salt from the recipe.
2 cups pitted and halved sour cherries (about 3 cups whole cherries)
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
Vanilla ice cream for serving
To pit the cherries without a cherry pitter, halve and remove the pits. If using a cherry pitter, pit the cherries then halve them. Place the stick of butter in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and the 1 Tbsp. of sugar. Using a cheese grater, shred the butter into the flour mixture and toss together with your fingers until the butter is coated in the flour. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Mix together with a fork until combined. (Do not stir too much.) Turn the dough out on to a piece of parchment paper and roll the dough into an oval that is about 1/4-inch thick. Slide onto a sheet pan. Toss the cherries with the 1/4 cup of sugar then evenly spread over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2- to 2-inch border. Bake 35 minutes or until the edges are starting to brown and the bottom is golden. Serve warm with ice cream.