Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Cheater's Pastry: Black Cherry Tarte Tatin


I really can't make this any easier for you.

The fact of the matter is that there's a certain minimal threshold of effort as far as cooking goes -- odds are, you're going to have to chop something, or mix something, or measure something. Do you have to do that with today's recipe? Sure. But you could probably get away with just winging it.

While we've had simple desserts in the past -- Three-Ingredient Cheesecake or Ginger-Caramel Icebox Cake, anyone? -- this week's entry proves that easy and gorgeous, patisserie-worthy pastry can, indeed, go hand-in-hand. Let's get to it.

Black Cherry Tarte Tatin
Serves 8

2 Pounds Black Cherries

2/3 Cup + 1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Water

1 Pre-Packaged Square, Puff Pastry

1 Cup Heavy Cream (optional)
1/4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar (optional)
[Editor's Note: This dessert is a bit sweeter than our usual offerings here. If you're lacking a sweet tooth, try making the recipe with sour cherries; it's equally fantastic.]

Start by taking your pre-packaged puff pastry sheet out of the freezer to warm up.

Next, it's time to make the caramel. Combine the 2/3s cup of sugar with the two tablespoons of vanilla extract and the 1/4s cup of water. Set over high heat until it begins to simmer, then reduce to low.

Pitting the cherries is very easy, and, since only one side of the cake will face upwards, you don't have to worry about it being too aesthetically attractive. Start by digging your thumb into the top, along the pit...

...and then use your index finger to pinch it, pulling the pit free from the cherry.

By the time you've finished pitting your cherries, the sugar should have darkened to a deep chestnut color. Tightly pack your cherries into the tart dish. Pour the caramel over them -- it should harden almost immediately.

Sprinkle the caramel-covered cherries with the additional 1/4 cup of sugar.

Take your softened square of puff pastry and lay it over the tart dish. It should hang over the edge in some areas.

Cut away the bits that are hanging over and use them to patch holes and other edges of the crust where there is insufficient dough. When you're done, it should look something like what you see below:

At this point, you can actually put this away into your fridge (or even the freezer) and save it for another day. If you know that you're not going to have a lot of time to cook the day that you want to serve this, do everything up to this point the day before. It's a major rule of thumb for any cook --prep as much as you can in advance. In other words, make it easy on yourself.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 and pop the pan into the oven. Monitor it closely, letting it cook until the crust is puffed and golden brown and the cherry juice bubbles slowly along the sides.

Depending on your cherries (some really ripe ones can have a lot of liquid inside them), you may have to drain a little juice off following the cooking process. Once you can handle the plate, tilt the tart slightly to the side over a sink, just enough to let any excess liquid run off.

Next, we'll want to flip the Tarte out from the pan, so that the cherries are on top. Place a large plate over the top of the pan...

...turn it over, give it a little shake, and hope that it comes out in one piece.

That's it! Dust it with a little confectioner's sugar and give it a sprig of mint, like I did, or whip up some unsweetened whipped cream and place a dollop over each slice you serve to your guests. A few pictures of the final product:

Although cranking your oven up to high temperatures isn't anyone's idea of August fun, this really is a delightful way to show off summer stone fruit at its peak. Sweet, juicy, flaky, caramelized -- what more do you want? Besides, you'll be hard-pressed to find a pastry dessert that's both this attractive and easy to make.

Finally, like many of the recipes you see here, this should be a jumping-off point for your own creations; keep an open mind as you walk through your local market, and you'll find that peaches, apricots, angelcots, and even tomatoes (yes, tomatoes!) can put their own fantastic and unique spin on this classic dish. I really do hope you'll try it; I bet anyone you invite over to your house to try it will be happy you did.

Next weekend, we're cranking up the grill for a remarkably quick and easy entree. Be sure to check it out.

Music: Eric Donaldson -- "Cherry Oh Baby"


  1. YUM! I seriously need to work on my food photography skills...the cherry crop has been INSANE in Washington this year...along with the peaches, raspberries and blueberries. It makes me sad that I am actually tiring of the summer fruits.

    BTW, I do NOT consider this recipe cheating in any way, shape, or form...

  2. Good lookin' tarte tatin, Neal! Vern's mom is sending us a cast iron skillet. As soon as it arrives, I'm making a tarte tatin!

  3. do yuo have nutritional analysis????


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