Fresh Cherry Tart

by brittany on July 3, 2012

Everybody loses their wedding ring sometime in their lives, right?  Other people frantically trot upstairs to check the bathroom drawer, downstairs to peer into the dishwasher, and back upstairs to see if they absentmindedly laid it next to their book.  They retrace their steps, imagine wearing the ring at dinner and convince themselves they must’ve had it then, and consider having their dog X-rayed to see if she accidentally ate it.

love my wedding ring.  It is the only jewelry I wear.  Yes, I nervously felt up each of Gretta’s slimy stuffed animals because, well, we had been playing fetch with them just before I noticed my ring was missing, hadn’t we?

As I retraced my steps, I checked the closet floor because I’d tossed my clogs in there.  On a whim, I grabbed the shoes and heard such a welcome dull rattling from inside the left one; I tipped it back and out fell my ring.  I am so lucky.

I’d be even luckier if some of this tart was lurking in the refrigerator, leftover from last night’s dinner party.  Finding my ring and eating Fresh Cherry Tart?  That would be heaven.

This is just about the easiest thing in the world.  It definitely falls into the “easy fancy” category, as do many tarts.  The graham cracker crust is foolproof, the filling takes less than five minutes, and the cherries look best scattered haphazardly over the top.  Pitting the cherries is probably the most time-consuming component of the dessert, and that doesn’t take too long.

We brought this to my jazzerpal’s house for a back deck dinner, and I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate recipe.  The cherries are so sweet and flavorful that the rest of the ingredients don’t need much sweetening.  The tangy/creamy filling and toasty graham cracker crust provide the perfect backdrop so the fruit can shine.

Fresh Cherry Tart  (adapted lightly from Martha Stewart)

A note about graham crackers:  as much as I want to be cheap, I couldn’t bring myself to buy the old standby Honey Maid graham crackers.  They contain a couple of things I try to avoid but sometimes tolerate (enriched flour and artificial flavor)  and a couple of items I cannot put in my cart (partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup).  I sprang for the Annie’s Bunny Grahams (hah, bunnies… sprang… ) and I’m glad I did, though I do wish that company would make sheet-style crackers.

Yield:  8 servings

Ingredients:

9 graham crackers (or use almost all of a 7.5 oz box of Annie’s Bunny Grahams–just remove about 2/3 cup of bunnies and use the rest)

2 Tablespoons + 1/4 cup sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

6 oz Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature (you could use cream cheese, but we didn’t miss the fat)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 lb fresh cherries (get the sweetest ones you can and only make this in season), pitted and halved

1 Tablespoon seedless fruit jam (Martha uses raspberry, but I used apricot because it was what I had on hand)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Pulse the graham crackers, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the butter and pulse until well-combined, scraping down the sides as needed.  Dump the mixture in a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom and use your hands to press it firmly and evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly brown and toasty smelling.  Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack.

Beat the Neufchâtel cheese, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Add the cream and start beating on low speed until incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture holds soft peaks.  Spread the mixture in the cooled crust.

Arrange the cherries over the top of the tart.

Put the jam and 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl and microwave until liquefied, about 20 seconds (depending on microwave power).  Use a pastry brush to coat the cherries with the jam mixture.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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