We spent last Sunday in the charming town of Hammana lured by their annual cherry festival. Hammana is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains covered with pines. Folks were warm and welcoming, inviting me to their garden and not seeming one bit bothered by picture snapping. One beautiful house was built on a cliff and a passer-by told me proudly that the French poet Lamartine used to live there.
We came home with over 20 pounds of cherries earmarked for different relatives.
Here is a dessert I created with these cherries to herald the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. It is made-up of three parts, a buttery and crumbly crust, a rich and smooth cherry curd and a light and airy cherry mousse (this one is optional). The tartlets can be converted into bars to save time.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Passive Time: 90 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour
1/2 cup almond flour can make it by grinding almonds in a coffee grinder
4 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt to taste
12 tbsp unsalted butter or 6 ounces or 1 1/2 sticks or 175 grams
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon rose water or vanilla or almond extract
1 cup cherry purée
1/2 cup granulated sugar to taste, more or less
1 sheet gelatin substitute one packet powder gelatin or 2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons lemon juice to taste or replace with another citrus
4 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 ounces or 125 grams or so)
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup cherry purée substitute cherry jam or mulberry syrup
1/2 teaspoon rose water optional
1 sheet gelatin substitute 1 packet powdered
1. Place the flours, salt in a mixer bowl; mix to combine. Add the butter cut into small dice and mix gently until the mixture looks mealy. Add the yolks and rose water and mix until the mixture takes shape. In a few seconds, gather firmly into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour or longer.
2. Grease and flour tartlet pans or a 9"X12" pan to make bars. Place a piece of wax or baking paper in the pan to make removing the crust easier. Press with the tip of your fingers a golf-ball size of dough on the tartlets to cover the entire bottom and sides. Prick with a fork and cover with a paper or foil covered with dry beans or small rocks. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 12 minutes, removing the paper and beans halfway through to make sure the crust is golden brown evenly and perfectly crisp. Cool and set aside.
3. Make the cherry purée; pit the cherries and sprinkle with sugar. Set aside until the sugar melts in the fridge for a couple of hours or place in a blender with the lemon juice and purée for a few minutes. Strain, pressing on the purée with a mallet, and make sure there is about 1 1/2 cups of purée. At this point, you can mix in extra sugar or honey or citrus juice or (in my case) mulberry syrup, or leave as is, to taste. Place one cup of purée in a saucepan to make the curd; add the butter (melted in the microwave), the eggs, and stir continuously over very low heat. Meanwhile, place the gelatin sheet in a bowl of cold water to soften for 5 to 10 minutes. Squeeze it to rid of excess water and add it to the curd. Keep stirring continuously and when the mixture starts steaming, stop the process and let it cool and thicken in the fridge, covered.
4. When the curd is thick and colder, fill the tartlets with it, cover and keep in the fridge till serving time. Make the mousse if desired. Place the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 30 minutes. Place the whipping cream, one tablespoon of sugar and rose water and whip till the cream is thick. Meanwhile, soften the gelatin in cold water for a few minutes. Add the cherry purée to the cream and add the gelatin sheet (squeezed first to rid of extra water). Combine all of these ingredients gently and place in the fridge covered to stiffen for one hour or longer. When ready to serve the tartlets or bars, add a dollop of mousse on top of the cherry curd and garnish with a fresh cherry if desired.
NOTE: To substitute powdered gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup of cold lemon juice or water till it blooms or stiffens. Then add it to the hot liquid until it dissolves.
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