I am a frequent user of frozen fruit, I freeze bananas and buy bags of berries and mango pieces for baking and the occasional bowl of nice cream. When I went to the supermarket recently, I saw bags of frozen black cherries for the first time. Because the local cherry season is so short, any fresh cherries I come across are promptly devoured. I was compelled to buy a bag to try out all the baking recipes that I had only been dreaming about.
The first portion went into a cherry clafoutis, which was delicious but not exceptional or photogenic. Next, I improvised a free-form cherry and pastry cream tartlet with a rough puff pastry base, it was one of the tastiest things I had made in ages but the rustic design resulted in the loss of a lot of the precious cherry juices during baking.
|Second draft tartlets|
After these efforts, I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted to eat. Juicy, perfumed cherries, creamy custard and buttery pastry, held together with enough structure to give the impression of something quite elegant. I found a recipe that was reasonably close to what I wanted and improvised the rest. I used the pastry recipe (subbing 3Tb of cream for the yolk because I had used all the eggs to make pastry cream) and baking instructions found in the recipe but used my own pastry cream recipe and flavoured it with vanilla and a few drops of almond extract. Partly because I ran out of cherries and partly to add a bit of sharpness and interest, I used a mixture of cherries and raspberries, although either would make a delicious tart. I also didn't precook or add a thickening agent to the fruit, because I like to walk on the wild side sometimes.
The results were everything I ever wanted. The pastry was short and buttery, holding everything together but yielding easily to the fork. The pastry cream smooth, rich and comforting. And the fruit, soft and juicy but not cooked to the point of jamminiess, the two berries contrasting delightfully with each other and the almond in the pastry cream. To serve, I gilded the lily with a spoonful of homemade creme fraiche, which unbelievably made the tart even more delicious. Needless to say, the tart was gone in less than a day.
Cherry and raspberry custard tart
makes one 23cm round tart
pastry and baking method adapted from this recipe
110g softened butter
pinch of salt
Pastry cream (1/4 batch of this recipe with 1/2tsp almond extract added)
2c cherries and 3/4c raspberries (frozen fruit can be used without defrosting)
1. Butter a 23cm round removable-bottom fluted tart pan.
2. In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or fingertips to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. There shouldn't be any bits of butter bigger than a pea. Add the cream and mix with a fork to make a cohesive dough.
3. If it isn't too warm, the dough can be rolled out straight away, otherwise chill for 30min-1 hour before rolling. Use silicon mats or two pieces of baking paper to make things easier. Place the rolled out dough on the tart pan, pressing it down gently. Use a rolling pin to pinch off any overhanging edges. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Spread the pastry cream into the pastry, and sprinkle over berries, trying to get as close to a single layer as possible.
5. Bake for around 45 minutes, a knife inserted into the custard should come out clean with it is done.
6. Cool for at least 30min before cutting and serving.