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Sour Cherry Almond Torte

Remember last week when I gushed about the beginning of sour cherry season? Well, the gushing continues. I’ve gone through 3 pounds of cherries so far, and while I know that’s not very much for folks making 12 jars of jam, the cherry pits are accumulating rapidly. Sour cherries have made their way into 5 or 6 different recipes, and I’m just getting started.

Yes, there was jam. Thick, gooey jam that, after just a quick stint in the fridge, got much firmer than I expected it to! And there are pickled sour cherries. Well — there will be pickled sour cherries. They need to sit for a couple days. But in the meantime, I’m feeding my sour cherry craving with slices of this sour cherry almond torte.

Last week, I told you all about how handpies are the perfect way to skirt the soggy-bottom-crust issue. This torte is an equally good alternative. Ok…it may be even better. The crust, made with part almond flour, is reminiscent of linzer torte. It’s rich and flavorful, but not too sweet. It’s a bit more crumbly than pie crust — and, admittedly, a bit harder to work with — but sweet and tangy cherries sandwiched between two layers of this crust is like a grown-up, more sophisticated thumbprint cookie.

I hope you didn’t bolt at my mention of a challenging crust. If you’re not up for fighting with dough, there’re a couple ways to make it more friendly. There’s no way around rolling out the first half, for the bottom crust, but a good hour or so in the fridge will make the dough less tacky, and with a generous sprinkling of flour on the workspace, it’ll roll out pretty easily. For the top crust, lots of options: you can make a normal top crust, or you can slice the dough into strips and make a lattice — though, like I said, this isn’t the easiest dough, so you may want to save lattice crusts for another time. Me? I just rolled out the second half of the dough on a floured workspace, and used a scalloped cookie cutter to create pretty shapes that I overlapped slightly on top of the cherry filling. Easier than lattice, but just as elegant.

Speaking of elegant, after sitting on my hands for 2 hours waiting for the torte to cool, I finally got up to remove it from its shell….and turned the whole darned thing over itself onto the table. My resulting torte was the work of a true klutz, but no less delicious all the same.

Sour Cherry Almond Torte
heavily adapted from an old Gourmet recipe

For the crust:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups flour
2/3 cup almond flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest

For the filling:
2 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice

In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, beat together butter and 1/3 cup sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat or mix egg into butter mixture, then add vanilla, beating well. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour, almond flour, salt, and zest until mixture just comes together to form a dough.

Halve dough and form each half into a disk. Wrap disks in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour, more if the weather is warm.

Meanwhile, make the filling: heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then add cherries with any juices and the sugar and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. (Cherries will exude juices.) Transfer a couple tablespoons of the cherry liquid into a small bowl, and add cornstarch, whisking to form a thick paste. Continue to simmer the cherry mixture until cherries are tender but not falling apart, about 8 minutes. Then stir cornstarch mixture into simmering filling and boil, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Transfer filling to a bowl and put in fridge.

Put a large baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

While cherries are cooling, remove one piece of dough from fridge and roll out between 2 sheets of floured wax paper into a 12-inch disk. Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into 9-inch tart pan. Trim overhanging dough so edge of crust lies flush with edge of tart pan. Bake shell about 15 minutes (no need to weigh it down; it will puff slightly, but when you add the filling it’ll shrink back into pan), then remove and set on counter. Spread cooled filling evenly in tart shell.

Roll out second half of dough on a floured workspace without wax paper, and use a cookie cutter to cut scalloped circles (or other fun shapes) out of the dough. Top the cherry filling with dough cut-outs in an overlapping pattern. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon sugar over top layer of dough.

Transfer torte in tart pan onto baking sheet in oven until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan on a rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, to allow juices to thicken. Serve warm or at room temperature. A scoop of vanilla ice cream would really put it over the edge.

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  • Nick (Macheesmo) June 23, 2010,

    Killer photos Rivka! I just got a nice tart pan and I’ve yet to use it… This is inspiring.

    • rivka June 23, 2010,

      Thanks Nick! This one’s a must-make.

  • Ciaochowlinda June 23, 2010,

    How wonderful to be blessed with that bounty of cherries. You managed to create one delicious looking pie.

  • Trinity June 23, 2010,

    Looks great. I still want to make the hand pies!

  • Patricia Scarpin June 24, 2010,

    Rivka, sometimes the most challenging – or full of troubles in the making – recipes are the ones with the most delicious results!
    What a beautiful tart – I made something similar a while ago using apricot jam, can’t wait to try this version of yours – I love cherries!

  • LaurenO June 24, 2010,

    Your post on sour cherry liqueur inspired me to head out to Larriland Farm and get some cherries myself – I ended up coming home with 30 pounds of them! They’ve already been in a slab pie (delicious), a streusel-topped pie, and I made four crocks of liqueur (one small one, no pits, so I can see what that’s like, two with the 1/8th pit-intact cherries [two different kinds of rum], and one with vodka).

    I’m so excited to try this incarnation of cherry delight!

    • rivka June 25, 2010,

      LaurenO, It sounds as though we’re suffering from the same sour cherry fever. Keep baking, and let me know what you make next — all of your recent cherry adventures sound delicious.

      • LaurenO June 25, 2010,

        After rereading the recipe, I realized that, without having a scale @ my disposal, I don’t know how to approximate the 2 lbs of cherries (beyond the water conversion rhyme of “A pint’s a pound, the world around”). About how many cups is 2 lbs?

  • dancing kitchen June 24, 2010,

    Ok…so what do you do with pickled sour cherries. When David Lebovitz suggested them…I tried em out and there they sit in the back of my fridge..staring at me. I don’t know what to do with them! Any help would be great!

    • rivka June 25, 2010,

      Um…eat them? 🙂 Seriously, I have jars of pickled everything — cherries, asparagus, cauliflower — that I nibble while I’m waiting for dinner to finish cooking. When I host dinner parties, I’ll often lay out a plate of assorted pickles as an impromptu appetizer before guests come to the table.

  • T June 27, 2010,

    Looks like linzer torte but with sour cherries, yum! I can’t get enough of sour cherries this time of year…