This cherry tart is my friend Ingrid’s creation. (you may have noticed that I have a lot of friends who are talented cooks.) Ingrid served this when I visited her at her home in Camden, Maine. The weekend was so special, but I struggled to find the right words to describe it. I’m way better at writing about food than vacations. The funny thing is that I realized that my tart description was a good metaphor for my weekend in Maine: bursting with natural beauty, a perfect balance of sweet and savory, festive, healthy, delicious, fresh, rustic, colorful, and even better than I thought it would be (and I thought it would be great!)
My sister-in-law Jen and I drove up to Camden on a Friday, so excited about a girl’s weekend away in beautiful Maine, with Ingrid. Camden is the idyllic little coastal quaint village of story books. A weekend as Ingrid’s houseguest is pretty special. Ingrid is an artist who was once a professional baker. (Both Jen and I have her paintings hanging on our walls). Her house is an antique with an artist’s touch. The yard is bursting with flowers and greenery. There are strawberries and chickens and dogs bounding around happily. Biking, boating, hiking and the farmer’s market are just minutes away….(my kind of heaven)
Anticipation of the tart started just after we arrived. It was late afternoon and Ingrid gave us a quick tour. In the kitchen I spotted a rustic-looking flat pastry crust sitting on a piece of parchment paper on the counter. I wondered what it was for but never got around to asking. Then we talked for a couple of hours on Ingrid’s porch, sipping wine. The sun was getting low and we went inside for dinner. Ingrid grilled some wild salmon and pulled together a salmon nicoise salad with lentils, asparagus, white and purple potatoes. The dinner was amazing. From time to time I thought about that crust and wondered what we were in store for.
I could have never imagined such a beautiful tart: ripe juicy cherries on top of creamy ricotta cheese, drizzled with spiced maple-vanilla syrup…all piled onto a flat, rustic, golden brown tart crust. Jen and I loved it so much that when we got back from Maine we each immediately made our own versions. Jen got creative and topped her crust with a mixture of ricotta and sour cream. Then she sprinkled on some dark brown sugar and lots of sliced fresh strawberries. This is a great tart to experiment with, using whatever is fresh and seasonal!
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup water
- 1 clove
- 1 star anise
- 2 inches of vanilla bean (whole or scraped)
- Macerated Cherries
- 2 pounds of fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved
- Spiced maple-vanilla syrup (see instructions below)
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup of ice cold water
- Egg wash
- 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon cream or half and half
- 2 tablespoons coarse Sugar
- Ricotta Topping
- 1½ cups whole milk ricotta cheese whisked with 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
- Optional Garnish
- Fresh mint, basil or tarragon leaves
- Make the Syrup Simmer maple syrup, water, clove, star anise and vanilla bean for about 10 minutes until it reduces by about half, into a thick syrup. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes. Spoon 3 tablespoons of syrup over the cherries. (reserve the rest for finishing the tart) Add the balsamic. Stir to coat. Allow cherries to macerate at room temperature for at least an hour and up to 3 hours.
- Make the Tart Crust Put the butter, flour, salt and sugar in the food processor. Pulse several times or until the mixture looks like a bunch of peas and flour. Transfer to a large wide bowl. Sprinkle about ⅓ cup of ice cold water on top, swirling and stirring with a fork as you add the water. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, if needed, just until the dough comes together in large clumps. Pile it all into a large plastic baggie and press it together into a ball. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling it out.
- Roll and Bake the Crust: Preheat oven to 400ºF. Remove dough from bag and roll it out between two sheets of parchment or wax paper (makes it easier to transfer to a large baking sheet). Transfer to a large baking sheet. Prick the dough several times with a fork. Brush egg/cream wash over dough and sprinkle with dough with coarse sugar. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until light golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- Assemble the Tart: Spread the ricotta evenly over the tart. Strain the cherries and mound them on top of the ricotta. Drizzle the reserved syrup over the cherries. Garnish with mint or basil, if you like. Slice, serve and enjoy!