Friday, June 15, 2007

Easier Than Pie (but not exactly smooth sailing)

I decided to try to make a tart today. Completely on a whim. So on a whim that I was at the grocery store without even knowing I was going to make a tart. Then I saw the cherries and remembered the recipe I photocopied out of this month's Everyday Food on Wednesday and just knew that I had to make it.

So I started dashing around the store and between check-out aisles looking for the magazine since I knew I'd need cream cheese in addition to the cherries, but wasn't sure if it called for cream and anything else I might be missing. I did forget to buy the raspberry jam and realized that halfway home. But when I got home, I found that we had boysenberry jam, so there was nothing to deter me from my tart.

I even have a tart pan that I bought in December to make a peppermint-whipped cream tart that I bought all the ingredients for but never made. (I'm glad I just looked at that recipe. That explains the mysterious unopened corn syrup I keep seeing but don't remember buying.)
But back to the cherry tart. I had everything I needed. So as soon as I finished making the shells for pea salad cups I started on my tart. Then I read the last sentence of the recipe. "Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day."
I was going to surprise Dad with the tart on Father's Day. I guess Father's Day will be a day early now.

And despite having never made a tart before (though this is more of a cheesecake in the shape of a tart), the tart came out looking okay. Though not without some mishaps.
First, the tart pan was 10", but I didn't want to open another bag of graham crackers, and it looked like enough crust anyways.

But what I didn't think of was the filling, until after I'd poured it all in. I could have easily made a little bit more, but then I noticed I was having trouble using my brand-new offset spatula to spread the tart because it was too low in the pan. The pan! I had completely forgotten to remove the tart from the pan! I'm not sure if I was supposed to, but it was getting heavy, and with a graham cracker crust I was worried it would collapse. And the crust was way higher on the sides than the filling. So while removing the crust from the pan, I cracked it in a million places (but I'm not sure where, other than the circumference appeared to get larger - the filling sort of hid the damage, except for along the edges). I tried to get the edges off, but some fell on top of the filling instead of onto the plate. But then my spatula could do its job and spread the filling. I felt better. And once the cherries were put on place and the glaze dabbed on, nobody could be the wiser.

Except that I have a big mouth and just blabbed all about it. But that's okay. I've never been good at keeping my mouth shut about things people wouldn't want to know. Like when I grated my finger along with the zest making cranberry relish for Thanksgiving last year.

Fresh Cherry Tart
makes one 9" or shallow 10" tart
from Everyday Food June 2007, with some changes in preparation (to keep from using a stove)

9 graham crackers (2.5" by 5")
2 tablespoons + 1/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 ounces neufchâtel cheese or cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved*
1 tablespoon seedless red jam

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 tablespoons of sugar until finely crushed. Add melted butter and process until mixed. Press graham cracker crust into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan and up sides with a measuring cup. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden browned. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. (I'm still not sure if you leave it in the pan or not...)

Meanwhile, in a medium or large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and vanilla on medium speed until creamy. Slowly beat in heavy cream until soft peaks form. Pour into cooled crust and smooth top. Scatter cherries on top.

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together red seedless jam of choice and 1 teaspoon of water. Microwave on low for 20 second-bursts, stirring between, until liquefied. Dab over cherries with a pastry brush.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

*The magazine suggests halving and pitting the cherries by running a paring knife around the cherry starting at the stem and then twisting the cherry apart and using the knife to remove the pit. I sort of did that - only I used my pointer finger to pull out the pit.

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