sour cherry & pistachio tart
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
sour cherry & pistachio tart
Yields one 10-inch tart
Serves 8-10 guests
Contains flour, egg, dairy, nuts
Prep time : 1 hour 20 minutes
Cook time : 1 hour
FOR THE CHOCOLATE PATE A SUCRE CRUST
150g soft, unsalted butter
120g confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 whole egg + 1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
260g all purpose flour
60g dutch process cocoa powder
Salt to taste
FOR THE PISTACHIO FRANGIPANE
110g soft, unsalted butter
½ teaspoon rosewater
115g finely ground pistachio flour
½ teaspoon matcha powder, for color (optional)
100g confectioner's sugar, sifted
10g all purpose flour
Salt to taste
1 large egg
1 tablespoon Kruskovac or liqueur of choice
800g fresh or defrosted sour cherries
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
⅓ cup sugar
Begin with your pastry. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat your soft butter until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in your sifted confectioner's sugar until evenly incorporated, then add your eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together your flour, cocoa powder, and salt. When the eggs have incorporated into the butter mixture, scrape down your bowl and add half of your flour mixture. Mix just until combined, then add the remaining half. Mix just until the dough comes together.
Spoon the finished dough onto a sheet of cling film, then wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In the meantime, measure out the rest of your ingredients, and prepare a 10-inch tart pan (pans with removable bottoms are best here!) by lining the bottom of the pan with parchment. When the dough has chilled, roll it to a ⅛" thickness between two sheets of parchment paper (you may do this on a floured counter, but using parchment paper ensures that extra flour is not worked into the dough unnecessarily) and transfer to your tart pan. Fit the pastry into the pan, and trim any areas with excessive overhang, leaving at least ½" of pastry overhanging the edges. Set the pan into the freezer for 20 minutes to set up.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. When the pastry has chilled and is firm to the touch, remove it from the freezer and trim back all edges to the rim of the pan using a sharp paring knife. Place a sheet of parchment over the dough and fill with pastry weights or dry beans. Blind-bake your tart shell for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool.
While the shell blind-bakes, prepare your frangipane. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat your soft butter until fluffy, 4 minutes. Beat in your rosewater. Add your pistachio flour and matcha powder if using, and once combined, follow with your flour, confectioner's sugar, and salt. Beat in your egg and liqueur until just combined.
Transfer the frangipane batter to your cooled pie crust, and bake for 15 minutes. While the frangipane bakes, prepare your cherry mixture. Place your cherries in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the corn starch and sugar, then mix into the cherries. Add your lemon juice.
When the frangipane has par-baked for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven and spoon your cherry mixture over top to fill the tart shell, taking care to strain off any excess juice before adding. Bake for an additional 30-45 minutes, or until the cherries are bubbling and thick. Remove from the oven and cool before serving.
I've been inspired lately, as a post-pandemic-isolation meditation, to think about friendships as a valid form of love. Real love, no more or less real than the romantic variety, as platonic relationships are often the ones that stay with us the longest over the years, and enrich our lives in a dynamic, fluid way that changes as we grow, and hopefully as the friendship grows. Where Venus is commonly called in to rule romantic love in particular, it's important to remember that this sphere rules all the ties that bind- friendship, romance, sex, community, family, and all relationships that are healthy, wholesome, and beneficial. This bake is a manifestation of that meditation- an offering baked for an evening with a dear friend I haven't seen in so long, inspired by the power of platonic love and taken to the Venusian 10th degree.
Generally speaking, all desserts could be considered Venusian in nature. Sugars, fruits, and chocolates are all firmly under her designation, and the aesthetic flair taken with desserts over savory dishes falls under Venus' correspondence with visual decadence. For this dish, I've turned the Venus volume way up to riff on the flavors of one of my favorite recipes from Melissa Murphy (which I've been baking from her cookbook since I was 16). Her cherry pie with pistachio crumble was game changing for me as a young baker, and I would spend hours pitting cherries every few months just to try it again. It's a challenging bake- cherries are notoriously moisture-rich, and without enough binder (here, sugar and starch), the cherries will sog up the bottom of the crust, or worse, leak through. It's a recipe that highlights the importance of procedure and proper measurement- but listen to the voice of the baker, follow the directions, and you're destined for glory.
Here, in the interest of dressing up the tart a bit and incorporating more flavors of Venus, the bake receives a tender chocolate pate-a-sucre crust (a traditional French tart dough for every occasion), and Melissa's pistachio crumble morphs into a decadent pistachio & rose frangipane, upon which sits a heap of jammy, baked cherries. As techniques go for this recipe, she's pretty straightforward. In the method, I mention that the dough ought to be rolled out thinly between two sheets of parchment, so as not to work extra flour into the dough. One should also take care to make sure they regularly scrape down the sides of their mixing bowls for the dough and the frangipane, to ensure an evenly mixed finished product. Before adding the cherries to the pie, wring out your cherries before adding as best you can without crushing the fruits, and you'll be on your way to tart success.
For this recipe, I used defrosted cherries which I hand-picked from the Montmorency cherry tree in the Catland courtyard this year. Montmorency cherries (Prunus cerasus x Montmorency) is a sour cherry tree, grown throughout Europe, Canada, and particularly the Great Lakes region of the US. Michigan is famous for its sour cherries, and the Montmorrency variety is chief among Michigan's exports. These are light, vibrant Amarelle-style sour cherries, unlike the darker Morello variety, and are commonly used for cherry pie filling, which in the US is made with Montmorency cherries more than any other varietal.
After years of waiting for the tree to mature, she now gives us a harvest of ten pounds of fruit or more per year- more than enough for a few pies, cherry tinctures, bitters, jams, and sundry bakes. This is the cherry tree's final year in the Catland garden, and she will be relocated in fall to a community space in Bushwick, where the annual harvest can be distributed, shared, and appreciated. It's sad to see my old friend go but, as she has outgrown our space completely, it is in the tree's best interest that she leave the nest. This pie is one of the final bakes I will be making with her fruit- a eulogy for a tender, adoring plant friendship that I will cherish forever.
Cherries feature strongly in Venusian folklore as well. In the Catholic canon, cherries are honored as a fruit of the Virgin Mary, who was offered some of the sweet fruit by a cherry tree itself, after St. Joseph refused to pick the cherries for her from a high branch. In Highland folklore, to encounter a singular cherry tree in her springtime bloom was considered auspicious and fateful, foretelling blessings for the coming year. In Switzerland, farmers who wanted to ensure a strong cherry harvest could do so by offering the first and best of their fruits to new mothers in their town. In Britian, cherries feature in love divinations similar in style to plucking flower petals, where the querent learns when they will marry by eating a plate of cherries and counting the remaining seeds, chanting "this year, next year, sometime, never" until they get to the final pit, which reveals their fortune. In the Japanese town of Kagami, a particularly old and stunning cherry tree inspired the building of a temple dedicated to the god of love, Musubi-no-kami. For spellwork, in Frances Barrett's 1801 The Magus, cherry extract is cited as a particularly powerful materia for love enchantments. Cat Yronwode echoes this sentiment in Hoodoo Root and Herb Magic, recommending cherry for love drawing mojo bags, candles, and oils. Harold Roth of Alchemy Works incorporates cherries into his Dark Beloved incense, aligned to Venus, recommended for works of "harmony, love spells, affection, immortality, and female fertilty charms."
However, in Germany, Denmark, and Russia, fruitless and old cherry trees are said to be inhabited by devils, suggestive of a dark Venus or Venus as Crone figure, similar in feel to the Elder Mother of the elder tree. In Lithuania, a 14th C treatise on idolatry by Jan Łasicki named this spirit as Kirnis, a local demon of old, fruitless cherry groves. In a curious piece of lore from Albania, cherry branches are burned for three nights at the New Year, and the ashes are used to fertilize the vineyards for the coming year, in the belief that this burns the evil spirits hiding within winter cherry trees. The idea of the cherry tree in her winter crone-state, bereft of fruit and flower, sentenced to death and used to fertilize the awakening earth, is suggestive of a continuation of this Venus theme, however inverted.
In the biology of the tree, we see an example of Venus' two-handed nature, echoed in one of the suggested roots for her name- venes, or poison. The bark, roots, and leaves of the cherry tree contain cyanogenic glycosides which, if eaten, react to form cyanide within the body, and can be sufficiently deadly. While it can't be said for certain if this botanical information informs the varied myths of this tree, both the life-giving Venusian fruits and the poisonous, lurking devils are both present within the cherry's anatomy.
For more information on the flavors of Venus, check out my planetary correspondence master list, which outlines a rubric for ingredient correspondence among the seven classical spheres, along with herbs, colors, cooking methods, and themes for each planet.
FURTHER READING :
Folkloric Uses of Wood Part V : Cherry, Blood & Spicebush
Plant Lore, Legends & Lyrics, Richard Folkard
The Magus, Frances Barrett