It was just too late in the year for me to find sour cherries and make a proper cherry pie. That's a thing I've never done, and obviously I've been missing something major. I'll just have to wait until next summer. In the meantime though, I had a bunch of very nice dark sweet cherries (normal round ones- it's the tart that's square), and was looking to make some kind of cherry pie. This tart is (pretty freely) adapted from the Cafe Boulud Cookbook. I liked idea of the milk chocolate, which Boulud said he used so that the "mild taste" of the cherries wouldn't be overwhelmed. I hadn't thought of cherries as "mild", but on reflection, he's right.
Anyway, I'm very fond of milk chocolate, though it is not so fashionable in the food world right now as the deep, dark, high percentage cacoa kind. I got some Lindt extra creamy milk chocolate for this, found it just a tad too milky-mild, and threw in a bit of the darker (also Lindt, "Excellence") for a bit of oomph. The original recipe calls for ruby port, but I went with the maraschino liquor syrup I already had, taken from my homemade maraschino cherries in Luxardo liquor. You can do the cherries in 2 cups of ruby port, and reduce the syrup later, to serve with your tart.
The pie crust recipe makes two 9" tart shells, but I had a hankering to use my new square tart pan, which is a bit bigger- about 10" square. If you are making two smaller round tarts instead- you will need half again as much filling- so adjust your ingredients accordingly. Be forewarned- though the cherries come through nicely, this is primarily a chocolate tart, like a fancy chocolate pudding, in a chocolate crust. Also, I'm not kidding when I say to dry the poached cherries carefully.I was not careful enough about this, hence the little round craters on the surface, not so cunningly disguised by the sifted cocoa.
In any event- this is a very tasty item, but I wish it was a bit prettier. The chocolate crust is particularly good, and was very easy to roll out and manoever. I'm mulling over using it with other fillings-I'm thinking something with hazelnuts, and a bit salty? We'll see. The syrup is delicious...and not excessively sweet. It would be good in plain soda, Italian style-or a person could make a very over the-top cherry coke.
This is how you do the crust, in a stand mixer.
First, mix one softened stick of butter and one cup of powdered sugar. Then add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/3 cup of powdered cocoa, and a large egg, beating on slow after each addition, until just mixed. As soon as the dough gathers together, remove it, wrap it, and chill it thoroughly. It can be frozen now if you like, and you can defrost it and proceed later. Otherwise, about 2 hours in the fridge will suffice. Roll the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper, which is easier to handle than plastic wrap. Fit it in a loose bottomed, 10" square tart pan, and blind bake it at 350F, with pie weights, for 15 minutes. Cool. Remove weights.
I made the syrup with half a scraped vanilla bean, the juice of an orange, and the maraschino syrup (maraschino liquor and sugar, saved from a pint jar of my homemade maraschino cherries (the cherries having been eaten up long ago.) I brought this to a boil, added 3/4 pound of sweet black cherries-halved and pitted, and returned to the boil. I turned the heat off at once, leaving the cherries to soak, while I made the chocolate custard.
In a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup, I put 1 1/2 cups of cream, and 7 oz. of good chocolate, broken up. I mictowaved it for a minute, whisked it until smooth with a baby whisk, and them whisked in 3 medium eggs, one at a time.
To put it all together for baking, I set the crust, in its pan, on a baking sheet, and preheated the oven to 320F. I strained the cherries, reserving the liquid, and dried them (insufficiently, it turned out) with paper towels. Then, I set the cherries in a single layer in the crust, poured the chocolate custard over them, and baked the lot for 40 minutes, until just set all over. Once it had cooled-I chilled it in the fridge, and it got quite candy-like.
To make the syrup, I boiled the liquid down until it was pleasantly gooey, being careful not to burn it. I thought thie tart was good cold, with syrup on the bottom, and sifted cocoa over all. It is very fudgy cold-if you want it more puddingy, room temperature would be better.
Milk chocolate and cherries do go well together-and I like that crust-tasty and tender. It's not particularly flaky, but I don't know a chocolate crust that is.