When you’re the Dean of The Pie Academy and avowed champion of all things pastry, certain people aren’t shy about letting you know when your good graces are expected.
Take, for instance, this email I received the other day from one of my sisters, whom I’ll call Joanne since that’s her name:
It’s Joe’s birthday this week. It would be lovely if you could do something special. He likes almost anything with fruit. Just a suggestion…
There are a couple of things you should know here: Joe is our brother-in-law, and a few of us are meeting in Marco Island, Florida this week for a mini reunion.
And – despite her email’s accommodating tone – this was not a suggestion: it was a directive, encrypted with the sort of secret family code only a sibling could crack. Roughly translated: If you ever expect to use my beach house again or receive so much as a bag of pretzels next Christmas, you had better show up with something special.
She needn’t have worried; I planned to anyway. Indeed, I knew this week’s featured recipe – Cherry Almond Coffeecake Tart – would do quite nicely. For one, it travels well. For another, thanks to frozen fruit, it treats us to the flavor and promise of summer when fresh cherry season is still months away.
If you find the phrase coffeecake tart confusing, I take full responsibility. I made it up, but it was the best I could manage to describe this hybrid dessert. There’s crust and plenty of fruit – that’s the tart part – surrounded by what tastes like a very dense, almost marzipan-like almond coffeecake. Linguistically challenging, perhaps, but very easy on the taste buds and eyes.
Speaking of which, you’ll notice that I’ve made this in a tart pan, not a pie pan. I like the tart pan here because there is enough room to arrange the cherries in a single layer, making for a very attractive presentation after it bakes. It also keeps the almond layer to a uniform thickness throughout. However, if you don’t have a tart pan, by all means substitute a pie pan and turn this into a pie.
Or, buy one from my limited stock of Le Creuset tart pans, on special sale this week. (Send me an email if you’d like more details about ordering.)
As for those cherries, I think the quality of frozen fruit is generally much better than it gets credit for. It’s often preferable to fresh. Frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen so it retains its sweetness. Especially when you’re baking with it, it’s a good option. Be sure to blot them on paper towels, as I describe.
Have a great week, enjoy the tart, and keep those emails coming. It’s always great to hear from you.
PASTRY NOTE: While any favorite pie pastry recipe will do, I recommend my GOOOD BASIC PIE DOUGH.