I’ve gone a little tart crazy this past weekend. It’s late August, the peaches have been rolling in, the plums, there’s figs at the market. So much choice a girl could lose her head just a bit. Somehow, I’m not sure exactly why, but I ended up with a bag of the last of the cherries in my grocery cart. I bought a little tired and worse for the ride cherries from the grocery store. Hmmmm, and huh? Okay then. I thought they should have a wonderful final ride, and I had a party to cook for, so I started looking for a suitable finale for them. There were traditional cherry pie recipes, individual cherry tarts, cherry macaroon bars (maybe) and cherry macaroon tarts. They weren’t exactly what I was looking for but they inspired me to try my own version. More of a traditional macaroon filling, moist and sweet, with whole fresh cherries. I have a tart dough that I love working with that’s so adaptable, I thought I just might have a hit. I was right. I even think that this might be great with frozen bing cherries, that you defrost and then soak with some amaretto for a bit before using. If you see some of these last cherries anywhere, I’d try this tart. It would be a fitting last hurrah for them.
I loved the end result of this tart. The buttery shortbread crust, the moist center of the macaroon filling, the burst of the cherry and the crunch of the top layer of toasted coconut. It has everything going for it. The guests eating it were scraping their plates, asking for recipes, and best of all, my Prince Charming kissed my cheek and whispered “To die for” in my ear. That is why I love to cook.
Your first step is to pit the cherries and mix with a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of kirsch and let sit for at least 4 hours in the fridge or overnight. (Gently shake them around when you go into the fridge, keep them happy and drunk!) Then you can get to the making the tart part.
This shortbread crust recipe is a dream to work with. I first used it with the Lime Coconut Bars. You can trade the type of nuts for so many different flavors. I haven’t tried pistachio yet, but it is high on the list. You can make this several days ahead and refrigerate it, or you can freeze it for up to a month. If you’re getting to the end of the month’s time and tarts aren’t on your mind, thaw it, press it out, refrigerate for 20 minutes and cut it out into cookies. It’s that good. You can make it in the food processor, it takes about 2 minutes.
Basic Shortbread Crust with Nuts
1 cup of nuts of your choice (I used blanched almonds here)
1/4 cup of sugar
1-1/4 cup of AP flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
13 tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter (yikes, I know. It’s 1-1/2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon)
Blend the nuts and sugar together in the food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse a couple of times until it’s mixed. Add the butter and process until the mixture starts to form a dough ball and pull away from the sides of the food processor. You’ll see it and hear the change in the processor. Turn it out and press together with your hands, and then line the tart pan with it. I use pieces and do the sides first and then the bottom, making sure that there is no gaps, thin spots or seams. Chill in fridge or freezer for 20 minutes and then bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let it cool. Completely cool is best, but at least 25 minutes out of the oven or it will be too soft to put anything into it.
2-1/2 cups of flaked coconut, sweetened or not, your preference
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1 large egg yolk
Beat the egg yolk and then add the condensed milk and combine. Add in the coconut and extracts and mix well.
Using clean hands, drop pieces of the macaroon over the bottom of the crust, using a little more than half the mixture and press lightly into the bottom edge. There can be small gaps and uneven mounds, all part of the charm. Drain those cherries good, and drop them randomly over the macaroon mixture. You don’t have to line them up or measure the distance between them. Just get a good amount in there.
With the remaining mixture, sprinkle it over the top. Let it lie loosely, it can cover some cherries and leave others bare.
Put your tart pan on a baking sheet (macaroons have been known to weep a little) and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Start checking at 20 minutes. If the top seems to be getting a bit to toasty looking for you, pull it out of the oven and loosely cover with foil and start baking again. Check every 10 minutes, mainly looking to see if the center seem set. As soon as it looks that way to you, pull it out.
Be patient and let it cool, there’s hot sugar in there. And the time will help it settle and firm, making it easier to slice. An over the top party addition that might be another nice contrast would be very lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream, to puddle next to or dollop across. Enjoy, my friends. Please let me know how you like it.
Inspired by all the coconut cherry bar recipes out there, but the one that gave me the direction I wanted to take was 101 Cookbooks Macaroon Cherry Tart.