Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sour Cherry & Vanilla Bean Frangipane Tarts

In winter it is easy to be less excited about taking in your 5 servings of fruit per day. Apples and oranges get old real fast.

It's about this time of the year that I really start to miss summer fruits (and daylight and polished toe nails). I dream of blueberry pies and juicy strawberry tarts. If there was cream then there were raspberries, and watermelon salads became an everyday thing. I can actually feel the juice of a peach dripping down my chin. Remember those days?

That's why they invented dried fruit. Frozen berries are great to have on hand but let's face it - not the same. Luckily cherries dry very well and dried sour cherries are almost better than the fresh ones.

A few things I like to put dried cherries into:
1. Cookie dough (with chunks of chocolate too please!)
2. Brownies
3. Brandy

Today I make them shine in a frangipane tart, or tarts (plural) since I made five of them! Almonds and cherries have similar flavour profiles which is why they complement each other so well. If you don't have dried cherries, prunes would actually work nicely but I love the tartness that the cherries bring.

I made these tarts personal-sized because I want one all to myself. They are too good to share and sharing is sometimes overrated anyway. Isn't it stressful? It makes me eat really fast so that I can be the first to dig into all the best parts and pieces. You know the ones - the crispy edges, the fudgier bit, the part with the most chocolate... Successful sharing is a skill. You need to be quick, nimble and decisive. Am I completely selfish or totally insane? (Don't answer that).

Plump sour cherries poached with cinnamon and a splash of brandy sitting nice and cozy over a moist buttery, caramely almond filling... This is my idea of warm during these frigid winter nights. Sometimes I wonder how a dessert without chocolate can be that good. But it can. This is. (But go ahead and put chocolate on it anyway).

Sour Cherry & Vanilla Bean Frangipane Tart
Makes about 5 tarts

For the tart cherry filling:
150g whole pitted dried sour cherries
1 cup (237ml) water
2 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp Brandy
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp water

For the almond cream:
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (75g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
¾ cup (75g) ground almonds
2 tsp all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

Make this pastry and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Roll the pastry out to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into 5 to 6-inch rounds. Fit each round into a 4 inch mini tart pan and transfer these tart pans to a baking tray for baking. Chill, prick with a fork and bake at 400°F/200°C for 12 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool.

To make the cherry filling, combine cherries, water, sugar, brandy and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Place pan over medium-low heat, cover and cook while stirring occasionally until cherries become soft and plump. Whisk corn starch with water and add to cherry mixture off the heat. Return to heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Once boiled and thickened, remove from heat and let cool. Discard cinnamon stick.

To make the filling, cream the butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the egg and vanilla bean paste vigorously until smooth. Stir in ground almonds, flour and salt until combined. The mixture will have a dropping consistency.

Spread the filling evenly into the pre-baked tart shells. Spoon cherry mixture over the filling and bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until filling is puffed and evenly browned.
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