There is no better way to celebrate cherry season than with these homemade cherry tarts! In this dessert, a whole grain crust is filled with sweet cherries that have been brightened with cardamom and vanilla bean.
Most often the recipes I develop are based on an ingredient or meal that has inspired me. But on some rare occasions, they come about because of a prop I want to use in the photo.
When my parents visited us earlier this year, my mom accompanied me on some prop shopping at the local vintage shops. I was thrilled to have her along because most of the time this is a solo outing for me. I just can’t seem to find anyone else who cheers over scoring a great deal on a tarnished vintage spoon or a distressed wood surface.
As is usually the case, she insisted on buying me something. That something were these gorgeous little dessert plates. I told her I’d definitely use them in a photo soon. Soon has become 3 months, but I figured Mother’s Day weekend was as good of a time as any, considering the source of the prop for my collection.
So my thinking was, what is pale green like the design in these plates? The jar of cardamom pods in the pantry immediately leapt to my mind. So it was settled, cardamom would spice whatever I was going to make.
I guess if I’m honest, the plates only inspired part of the recipe. As usual, seasonal ingredients played a significant role.
It was the first week we got the keys to our new house, in late March. We weren’t moved in yet, but I was touring the yard to see what I was going to have to work with in the garden. It was then that I noticed that the tree in the far corner had small green fruit forming. I used a tool online for leaf identification, then proceeded to share all over social media and via texts to friends and family that I thought we had a — CHERRY TREE!
An older cherry tree, too. One that was loaded with fruit. It turns out I was right and we’ve been pretty successful at fighting off the birds. As of yesterday, we are up to 4 lbs. picked!
So cherries had to be in the dessert because I’m at that point where I have to use them in something before they go bad on me. It’s a really great problem to have, by the way.
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, these little homemade cherry tarts will take you back to my days of baking when we had that big garden and kitchen in Kentucky. (I’ll add that you are probably going to be seeing a lot more of that again now that we are getting settled and growing food at the new house.) The tarts use raw sugar and whole wheat flour. If you don’t have vanilla bean, no worries. Just add a few drops of pure vanilla to the crust and cherry filling.
I like cardamom a lot, but I don’t LOVE cardamom. Meaning, I find that it can easily overpower desserts. To be honest, I’m not sure my mom likes it. (So mom, if you are reading this, you can just leave it out.) If you really like cardamom, feel free to add more. The amount in the recipe just barely gives a spiced flavor to the tart. Also, my cherries are sweet and small, about the size of a penny. If you have larger cherries you might want to halve or chop them so they fit more easily into the small tart crust.
We only have about a week left of cherry season in our backyard, but if you aren’t in California, I expect your season will be hitting the farm stands or the supermarket shelves soon. Take full advantage and bake up a few of these homemade cherry tarts while you can!
Homemade Cherry Tarts with Cardamom and Vanilla Bean
Makes: 6 tarts
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla bean*
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons ice cold water
2 cups fresh, pitted sweet cherries
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground vanilla bean
Pinch of ground cardamom
Pinch of fine ground sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Whipped cream for serving, optional
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
For the crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter cubes. Using a pastry blender or two knives, work the butter into the dough until it is in pea-size pieces.
Add the vinegar, vanilla bean and cardamom. Slowly work the water into the dough 1 tablespoon at a time and form the dough into a ball. The atmosphere and season can affect pie dough so you may need more or less water. It should come together into a smooth ball that isn’t too sticky, but also not dry or crumbly. Cut the pie dough into 6 equal pieces and form each piece into a slightly flattened disk. Place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
For the filling, place the cherries in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla bean, cardamom and salt. Stir well.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place each disk in a slot of a jumbo muffin tin. (Each slot in my tin measures about 3.5 inches in diameter at the top.) Press the dough with clean hands and work the edges about half way up the slot for each tart. Make sure the dough is evenly spread for the same thickness at the bottom and on the sides.
Divide the cherries between each tart. Sprinkle any remaining sugar over the cherries. Add a piece of the cut 1 tablespoon of butter to the top of each tart.
Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet, just in case anything bubbles over. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until the edges of the crust are browned and the filling is bubbling and thickened.
Cool for 15 minutes. Use a butter knife to carefully remove each tart from the tin. Serve warm or at room temp. Top with whipped cream before serving.
*I use ground vanilla bean for this recipe. You an also use the paste scraped from the inside of a vanilla bean.