NATIONAL FOOD DAYS
‘National Cherry Tart Day’
June 18th, 2012
June is the perfect month for ‘National Cherry Tart Day’. Cherries are ripe and ready for picking, at least in California! Cherries are delicious to eat out of hand and are also delicious in whatever dish you decide to incorporate them into. The three main varieties of Cherries available in Southern California are Bing (the sweetest), Mt. Rainer (also sweet) and Queen Anne (in recent years not so easy to find) which are a tart cherry that is perfect for making pies or jams and jellies.
To make a Cherry Tart you will need several components, namely a base for your tart, a custard filling and your cherries. Let’s start with the base. You can use a standard pie crust or a sweet tart crust which is perfect for tarts, large and small. The tart crust will consist of flour, sugar, salt butter, eggs and water and vanilla.
The next component would be the custard filling which consists of eggs, milk, sugar, butter and again vanilla or better yet, almond extract which will enhance the flavor of the cherries. Almonds, Cherries, Peaches and Nectarines all have similar enzymes which contribute to the flavor of the fruit. Adding Almond Extract to Cherry, Peach or Nectarine pastries will enhance the flavor of those fruits.
Lastly, you will need the Cherries. For my Cherry Tart, I used sweet Bing Cherries. First place the Cherries in a colander and rinse the under cold water. Shake out as much of the water as possible and then put them in a bowl that has been lined with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Set the Cherries aside while you prepare the other components.
The first component that you want to prepare would be the Tart Crust as it is easier to roll when it is chilled. For the complete recipe please see the recipe section of this blog. sweet-tart-and-pie-pastry/ Once your tart crust has been prepared, flatten it to disc about 1” thick, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the Custard for the filling.
For the Custard filling, please see the recipe section of this blog. pastry-cream/ When you have finished cooking the Custard, place it in a bowl; let stand until it stops steaming and then cover with plastic wrap, being sure to place the plastic wrap directly on top of the Custard. This will insure that a skin does not form on top of the Custard. Refrigerate the Custard until you are ready to prepare the tarts.
The next step would be to roll out and bake the Tart Shell. If you are making a large tart (8 or 9”) you can roll out the dough in one piece. Be sure and lightly dust your rolling surface with flour. Flatten the Dough into a round disc and roll out to approximately ¼”, using a stockinette covered rolling pin. You can rub flour into the stockinette which will prevent the rolling pin from sticking to the dough, without adding additional flour to your dough which would toughen it.
If you are going to make individual tarts, divide the dough into several sections, depending on the size of your tart pans. In the photo below, the pan I am using has 12 tiny tart indentations. The dough should have been divided into 12 pieces. In the case of the tiny tarts, you can just flatten the dough and then minimally roll it out to fit the pan. Once you have fitted the dough into the pan, take your rolling pin and run it around the rim of the pan to cut off the excess dough. Many tart pans come with removable bottoms which makes it easier to remove the tart from the pan, especially in the case of the larger tart. With the smaller tart, you can easily lift the baked crust right out of the pan.
To bake the crusts, first poke holes in the bottom with the tines of a fork and then place a piece of foil into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place some pie weights on top of the foil. Pie weights can be aluminum weights that you buy in your local culinary shop or dried beans that you keep just for this purpose. Once the beans are used for weights they can no longer be cooked.
Bake the Crust at 325 F. with the weights for about 15 minutes. Then remove the weights (you can easily lift out the foil as it doesn’t get too hot – and then just dump the weight back into their container.
Brush the Crusts with an Egg Yolk beaten with a little cream of milk and then return to the oven until they are a light golden brown – about 10 more minutes.
Remove the baked crusts from the oven and once they are cool enough to handle place them on a serving plate. This would be for the individual ones. If you are making a large tart, remove the sides of the pan but leave the crust on the bottom or if you can easily remove it without breaking it, place it on a serving plate.
While the crusts are baking, you can finish preparing the Cherries. You can use the Cherries uncooked, but cooking them slightly, brings out the flavor and add a natural syrup to them which coats them and preserves them. The first thing you have to do though is to remove the pits. There are several ways to do this. The easiest is to use a Cherry Pitter that will remove the pits from multiple Cherries for you. If you don’t have this type of Cherry Pitter, then you can use one that remove the pits, one Cherry at a time. Barring that, you can do what we used to do when I was small and that was to use a large tapestry needle to remove the pits individually from each Cherry. That was always my job after we had gone Cherry Picking and my Mother made Jams, Jellies and Pies. Today, though if you have the proper tools, it is much easier to do.
Heat a sauté pan and add about half cup of wine (I used Marsala but you can also use Madeira, Burgundy or even Kirsch, which is a Cherry Liquer. Bring the liquid to a simmer and then add the Cherries. Cook until the Cherries release their liquid and continue cooking until the liquid becomes syrupy. This will take from 5 – 10 minutes but no longer. Transfer the Cherries to a shallow bowl and allow to cool.
Place the Custard in the bottom of the Tart(s) and then add the Cherries to the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. In the case of small tarts, one per person (depending on the size) should be sufficient for each person. The Tiny Tarts pictured would be perfect for a Dessert Buffet which would allow each person to sample several desserts without becoming too overloaded with sugar.
Try this version of Cherry Tarts or try creating your own. Whichever you do, you should enjoy making them and your family and/or friends will enjoy eating them!
CHERRY COBBLER DAY
May 17th is Cherry Cobbler Day here in the United States. May is a great month for this tasty dish in that in Southern California the Cherries are just coming into season and what better than fresh cherries for this wonderful dessert?
Cobblers go back to the early English settlers that came to this country. Since they did not have the proper ovens to make their pies, cobblers were made in pots hung over a fire. The fillings could have been sweet fruit or savory items such as fowl. The part that makes it a cobbler is the Dough topping that was spooned on top of the filling. When the ingredients, including the dough were in the pot, it was covered and hung over the fire. The heat created steam in the filling and this in turn cause the dough to puff up and bake.
The name Cobbler may have been derived from ‘cobbled streets’ that were so often found in early towns or perhaps from the fact that a Cobbler was someone who patched shoes – the dough spooned on top of the filling could have resembled the patches that were put on shoes in those early days. Whatever the reason behind the name, the Cobbler is a delicious dish that again can be either savory or sweet. Since today is Cherry Cobbler Day, we will concentrate on the sweet aspects of Cobbler.
The best Cherry Cobbler will be made from Tart Cherries, but these seem to be hard to find these days. Tart (pie cherries) can be found as a canned product but unless you actually go to where the Cherries are grown, it may be hard to find them fresh. When I was a child and when my children were small, we used to go ‘Cherry Picking’ first in Cherry Valley in Beaumont, California which is east of Los Angeles and then in Leona Valley which is North of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, gone are the days when Cherries were reasonably priced. Today you can pay as much as $10 per pound for Cherries, but more commonly when in season between $4 & $6 per pound.
For Cobbler, the Cherries need to be pitted. There are several ways in which this can be done. The easiest is to have a Cherry Pitter that will pit multiple cherries at one time. Then there is the single Cherry Pitter that does one at a time. If you don’t have either of these, then the alternative is to take a tapestry needle and dig out the pits, one at a time from one cherry at a time. My preference is the multiple pitter. If you don’t want to bother pitting the cherries at all, you can purchase frozen cherries or canned ones. Either kind will be good for your cobbler. For a simple recipe for Cherry Cobbler please see the recipe section of this blog. deserts/cherry-cobbler/
In the Cherry Pitter at the left, the Cherries are fed into the basin at the top. The drop down one at a time into the single opening and then by pushing down the plunger the Pit is removed and goes nto the bucket. The Cherry comes out the spout in front. When using this pitter, it is best to have a container for the Cherries to fall into.
This particular pitter was made in West Germany. I have not seen any US manufactured ones, but that does not mean there are not any.
This pitter is best, because you can rapidly push dow the plunger to extract the pits – much faster than the single pitter.
In the Pitter at right, the individual Cherry goes
The amount of sweetener that is used with the Cherries will depend on the type of Cherry used. The very sweet Cherries such as Bing or Mt. Rainer will require very little sugar. The tart Cherries such as Queen Anne will require as much as a cup of sugar. Whichever Cherry you use, a small amount of Lemon Juice and Almond Extract will enhance the flavor of the Cherries and hence your Cobbler.
Cobblers are good for dessert or as we like it, for breakfast. Serve it either with fresh heavy cream, whipped cream or ice cream. Cobblers are best served warm, so if you can’t serve it right out of the oven, you can reheat it slightly before serving. This is one of the times, that microwave heating will not be detrimental as it is with most baked goods.
Today is Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day. Make one for your family! Or go buy one at the local bakery. That is if you like Pineapple Upside Down Cake. To make Pineapple Upside Down Cake you will of course need Pineapple. A 20 oz. Can of Pineapple Rings will do or you can buy a fresh Pineapple and cut your own rings. Fresh is always best, of course, but the canned variety will still give you a pretty good cake. Most recipes will call for Maraschino Cherries to be put in the middle of each piece of pineapple, but you can also use fresh (when in season) or canned Bing Cherries. Pecan halves can also be used in place of the Cherries or in addition to them. If you use canned pineapple and cherries, make sure they are blotted dry, otherwise your cake will be soggy. One nice way to make sure the pineapple has given up enough moisture is to grill the slices. I did this on my stove top grill, but first I sprinkled the Pineapple Slices with Demarara Sugar (coarse brown sugar, sometimes called raw, which of course is not really raw). The Sugar gives a nice caramelization to the Pineapple.
To make Pineapple Upside Down Cake, once your fruit has be prepared, you melt some butter in your baking pan, and then add brown sugar. Spread the Brown Sugar evenly over the pan and then add the pineapple. Unless you would like to have chopped pecans as a finish for the cake, then you would add the chopped pecans before you add the pineapple slices. Once the pineapple slices are in the pan, then you add the cherries or pecan halves. The Cherries or Pecans Halves would go in the center of each piece of Pineapple and in between the slices, where there is room.
Next you preheat your oven to 350 and then make the cake batter. The best recipes will tell you to separate the whites from the yolks. The whites will be beaten until stiff and then folded into the prepared cake batter. This helps to make a light cake.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake can be served warm with Whipped Cream or Ice Cream. It can also be served at room temperature or even cold from the refrigerator. Leftover Pineapple Upside Down Cake should be stored in the refrigerator as there is still quite a bit of moisture in the fruit and this can cause mold to form if left out.
When your Pineapple Upside Down Cake comes out of the oven, give it about ten minutes to set up before inverting it onto a serving plate. To invert the cake, place your serving plate over the pan (be sure to use potholders if the pan is stillt too warm to handle) and then invert. Give it a minute ot two, to allow the cak to drop down, before removing the pan. You should have a beautiful Pineapple Upside Down Cake which will be ready to serve immediately or later on. Whichever way you make your cake and however you serve it, enjoy! And don’t forget, Pineapple Upsidedown Cake, leftover from dessert last night will make a great breakfast this morning!
For two Pineapple Upside Cake Recipe, please see the recipe section of this blog. pineapple-upside-down-cake/