An Irish Cherry Tart

13 Jul 2012

I made a cherry tart for the first time in my life today. Not just any ordinary cherry tart, a cheery cherry tart made with Irish grown cherries. Cheery because it’s been raining here for weeks and we needed a little cheering up.  So, for the record, I will confirm that a corner of cherry tart with a scoop of homemade buttermilk ice cream certainly brought a snippet of sunshine to our day.

Now, many of you might not think baking a cherry pie or tart is such an extraordinary accomplishment, but I can assure you that finding Irish cherries to make such a tart is no small feat. Sure, you can go to your supermarket and buy cherries from all corners of the earth at this time of year, but you’ll never see “COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: IRELAND” labeled on a package unless you are at farmer’s market, and even then, it is very rare. In fact, until the surprising opportunity arose in which to pick cherries in our area, I was ready to fill up the car with diesel and drive all the way to Temple Bar in Dublin very early on a Saturday morning to score a punnet or two from David Llewelyn. So, bearing that in mind, this is one damned special cherry tart.

I don’t know about you, but I have some fantastic food memories from my childhood that I just can’t shake. They have become seasonal expectations, and no matter where I am in the world, these remarkable bits of nostalgia creep into my consciousness, take me back to a footloose and fancy-free American youth, and then proceed to create criminal cravings.

Summer cherries happen to be one of those cravings. Every summer I’ll find myself longing for cherries, and not just the cherries, but the cherry picking. (others bits of nostalgia might be sugar snap pea pickin-n-nibblin chain gang style at the local pick-your-own veg farm, or Sunday country drives with my dad in search of secret wild asparagus). Despite having lived in Minneapolis, L.A. and NYC, I grew up on Lake Michigan within a stone’s throw from Door County, aka, Cherry Country. Each summer, everything from cherry pie to cherry wine, cherry jam, salsa or sausage was suddenly on offer in boutique stores to bait shops. On our visit last year, we made a special trip to Fish Creek to sample Good Morning America’s Best Breakfast in the USA, White Gull Inn’s Cherry Stuffed French Toast. It was perfection on a plate.

Last week, myself, and the two farmers graciously accepted an invitation to pick cherries and other fruits at the estate of a new friend and colleague who is passionate about the business of supporting the growing and sustaining of local food in Ireland. (Stay tuned to learn more about his special program, as I will be sharing more about this exciting initiative in the months to come.)

We arrived at Attyflin on a cool, wet evening and were warmly greeted by our lovely host, his two Irish Red Setters and a charming little terrier who guided us into an 18th century walled garden. Once through the gate, I took a moment to observe the impeccably organised two acres or so of space impressively filled with thriving vegetables, fruits and herbs. I had no idea what to expect outside of a few cherry trees when we arrived, and what was before my eyes was nothing short of breathtaking. I reckon that what lies between those walls must be on par with the Lissadel House gardens, which I never had a chance to visit before it was closed to the public.

As we walked around, we were introduced to fig trees, peaches, plums and apple trees, loganberry, blackberry, raspberry canes, black and red currants, blueberries, and last but not least, two different varieties of cherry trees which were covered in netting and growing on the wall. I suspect the protection from both weather and birds was instrumental in bearing such beautiful fruit.

We picked cherries and some other berries, went into the family home for a cup of tea and chat before heading back to the farm for the night. On the drive home, Geoffrey instantly fell asleep while we marveled in gratitude and awe over what we had just encountered. For the next two days, I pondered what to make with our cherry/berry bounty. It was a special evening to remember.

Irish Cherry-Rosemary Tart

(adapted from The Joy of Baking)

For the Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry)

2 1/2 cups(350g) all-purpose/cream flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon (30g) granulated or caster white sugar

1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 – 120ml) ice water

For the Cherry Filling

4 cups (960 ml) pitted, sweet or tart fresh cherries (can use 4 cups (960 ml) sweet or tart canned or bottled cherries, drained with 1/3 cup (80 ml) cherry juice reserved)

3/4 cup (150g) granulated white sugar, or as needed

2 1/2 tablespoons (30g) Cornstarch/Cornflour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2-3 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 tablespoons (25 grams) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

For the Glaze

2 tablespoons cream

Granulated white sugar

In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Divide the dough in half, flattening each half into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove one portion of the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 12inch (30cm) rectangle. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to the rectangular tart pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself, crimping as desired. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, while you roll out the remaining pastry and make the cherry filling.

Meanwhile, remove the second round of pastry and roll it into another rectangle. Using a crimped pastry cutter, cut strips of pastry for lattice top. Place the strips on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven.

Place the cherries in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, rosemary sprigs, and gently toss to combine. (If using canned cherries also add the 1/3 cup (80 ml) reserved cherry juice.) Let sit for about 10-15 minutes and then pour the mixture into the prepared tart case and dot with the 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of butter. Lightly brush the rim of the pastry case with the egg wash. Weave the pastry lattice tip and brush the entire surface with the cream. Sprinkle with a little granulated white sugar.

Place the tart on a larger baking pan, lined with parchment paper, to catch any spills. Bake the tart for about 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Continue to bake the tart for about 25 – 35 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown color and the cherry juices are starting to bubble. If the edges of the tart are browning too much during baking, cover with a foil ring.

Place the baked tart on a wire rack to cool for several hours.  Serve at room temperature with buttermilk ice cream in a jar like my friend Shaina would do! Store any leftovers for 2 – 3 days at room temperature.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

6 egg yolks

¾ cup (150g) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups (375ml) heavy(double)cream

1 vanilla bean

1 1/4 cups (325ml) buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Heavy pinch of salt

Whisk together the yolks, ½ cup (100g) sugar and vanilla extract until the mixture is pale and holds a ribbon.

In a saucepan, bring the cream and ¼ cup (50g) sugar to a simmer with vanilla bean; remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Split and scrape beans; return seeds to cream.

While whisking, slowly pour the hot cream into the yolk mixture, then return the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool briefly before whisking in the buttermilk, lemon zest and salt.

Chill completely and churn in an ice-cream maker. Makes 2 pints.

Slan Abhaile,


Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012

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