Cherry pie and tart filling is usually made with sour cherries. Sour cherries are only available for a short time in the early spring. Honestly, I seldom find sour cherries in our markets up here so I am making these tarts with regular cherries. If you do have sour cherries maybe adjust the amount of sugar you are using, you may need a little more. Otherwise I think things should work the same. Making individual tarts is a fun although somewhat labour intensive considering you have to make the tart dough and filling from scratch (I don’t like the store bought pie dough or filling). It’s not hard though, just takes a couple of steps. I make the tart dough in advance, it keeps in the fridge just fine, and I prefer to start cooking the cherry pie filling on top of the stove, so the tarts cook quickly when you place them in the oven. Because they are so small the pastry cooks fast, often before the filling is sufficiently thickened if you put it in uncooked. However, see what works for you, I have no objection to doing it either way if it works (just kidding about the “objection” comment). I was “in the mood” for baking tarts and made one sweet and one savoury dough, both chilling together in the fridge. I cut each in half so I can make just a few tarts at a time, either sweet or savoury. We’ll see over the next couple of days what transpires. Here are a couple of tips: I make the tart dough in a food processor but, I do not let it come to a ball while mixing. I add just enough water (less is better) so the dough begins to clump together and then empty it onto a board or the counter and bring it together by hand. I find that you get softer, more flaky pastry this way. Use unsalted butter, add the salt yourself. You can make both pastry and filling a day in advance and bake them when you need them. To bake either use plain muffin pan and line up the muffin cups with the pastry, or use individual fluted tart pans. Either one works. So that’s more or less it. Small little cherry tarts, fun to make and delicious to eat yourself or serve to your guests.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, very cold (or use vegetables shortening for a vegan version)
4 tablespoons ice water (about)
Place flour, salt and sugar in food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add cold butter and pulse a few times to break down the butter. Mix until butter is coated with the flour and the mixture is crumbly. Do not over mix.
Add the water, a tablespoon at a time and run the processor until mixture begins to clump together but does not form a ball quite yet (see image below).
Empty the dough onto a board or your clean counter and bring it together with your hands. You can sprinkle the work surface with a light dusting of flour to prevent the buttery dough from sticking. Work fairly quickly because you do not want your warm hands to melt the butter in the pastry. As soon as you have a ball of pastry smooth it to bring it together and then wrap in plastic and refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes or overnight.
When ready to proceed remove dough from the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for a while, only until it is pliable enough to roll. You will be working with a cold dough, don’t bring it to room temperature. You want a cold dough but the butter has to be pliable enough to roll smoothly. I usually beat the ball of dough a few times with the roller to soften the butter and flatten it into a disk, I think it warms up faster that way.
Have a mini muffin tray or individual small tart pans ready for the pastry.
On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter (for my small muffin pan 3″ circles work best), cut the dough into rounds just large enough to fit into the tart molds you are using with enough for the sides. When you finish placing the pastry in the muffin cups or tart molds place them in the fridge to chill again. This can be done a day in advance. Cover with plastic and keep in the fridge overnight, or let it chill for 30 minutes before baking. No need to bring back to room temperature before baking.
Cherry Tart Filling:
4 cups cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon or another small lemon
4 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Place cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Let cook a couple of minutes until their juice collect at the bottom of the pot.
Combine cornstarch and orange juice in a small bowl. Add to simmering cherries and mix with a wooden spoon.
Let cherry mixture cook until juices are thick. This happens rather quickly so watch it and be careful not to burn the cherry filling. When nice and thick remove from heat, transfer to another dish to cool and set aside.
Assembling and baking:
Remove chilled tart shells from the fridge. Spoon cooled cherry filling into each tart.
Bake at 400F degrees until pastry is cooked and filling is bubbly.
Let cool in the pan. Lift the tarts out gently (I use a table knife to gently lift them). Store, covered or serve right away slightly warm or at room temperature. Isn’t the pastry delicious?