A couple of summers ago during a visit to the Basque country in the southwest of France, I tasted a rich, double-crusted butter tart that encased a delicious cherry filling. One bite of this confection and I was in heaven. Although I have thought about that tart every time cherries have come into season, only recently did I try to reproduce it. After several attempts I arrived at a close facsimile, and think it would make a glorious finale to a July 4th celebration!
Although I sampled an individual tart, the following recipe is prepared in a 9-inch tart pan so that it easily serves eight. The secret to its success lies in preparing an extra short, extra buttery crust (like a shortbread one). I even replaced some of the flour in the dough with ground almonds for added flavor. The bottom crust is broken into pieces and simply patted into the pan. Then a filling of fresh cherries and cherry preserves accented with Amaretto, is added. The top crust is rolled out between sheets of parchment and patted atop the filling.
I like the tart best served warm, but my husband is such a fan of this dessert that he has been spotted on more than one occasion cutting a slice for a midnight snack long after the tart’s departure from the oven. Happy July 4th to all of you!
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Basque Butter Tart with a Cherry Filling
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 cups flour plus extra flour for rolling out the dough
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 6 tbsp (14 tbsp total) unsalted butter softened and broken into small pieces
2 large egg yolks plus 1 large egg, beaten together lightly plus 1 large egg for brushing over the crust
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp Amaretto or cognac
1/2 cup cherry preserves (such as Bonne Maman)
1 3/4 cups (8 to10 oz) sweet cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling, optional
Equipment needed: a cherry pitter and a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
1. For crust, place almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt and pulse several times to blend well. Add butter, 2 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, and almond extract. Pulse several times until mixture starts to hold together. Remove and shape dough into a smooth ball; then flatten it into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. While dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a small bowl whisk Amaretto or cognac with cornstarch to make a paste. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cherry preserves until liquefied and warm. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Add the cherries and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, 3 minutes or longer. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. To assemble the tart, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
4. Cut off 2/3 of the chilled dough and cover and return remaining dough to the refrigerator. Break the dough into chunks and press evenly with your fingers over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan to form a thick shell. Spread the cooled cherry filling in the tart. Remove the remaining dough from the fridge, dust it well with flour, and place between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper. With a rolling pin, roll dough into a 9-inch round; carefully peel off one sheet of paper and place the round, with uncovered dough side down, over the filling. Gently peel off remaining paper. If the dough cracks or tears as you place it over the filling, don’t worry. Use our fingers to smooth out any cracks or tears. Then pinch the edges of the round to the sides of the tart shell.
5. Whisk remaining egg well to blend, and brush the top of the tart with it. You’ll have some egg left over. Bake the tart until crust is golden brown, 45 minutes or longer.
6. Remove and cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.(The tart is best baked and served on the same day.) If desired, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serves 8.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2017