I don’t usually enjoy running but lately, it has been such a good thing for me. I woke up this morning with a bit of a headache and almost didn’t go for a run but my dog was bugging me so I grabbed the leash and headed out just as the sun was rising. I love it when I make the right decision. The air was crisp and cool and the sun was bringing a beautiful orange glow to the morning. My headache went away immediately and the run cleared all the clutter in my head. It also made a bit of room for these delicious tartlets.
Packed with dried cherries and fresh pears, these make a great winter dessert. The crust is my favorite pie/tart/pastry crust ever. It is not as much the ingredients as it is the technique that makes this such a delicious flaky crust. It has a slightly higher proportion of butter than a standard pie crust but the real secret to achieving a flaky, all-butter crust that melts in your mouth is how you handle the dough. I use a pastry blender to blend the butter into the flour and I make sure to leave large lumps of butter, which will give the pastry pockets of tender flakiness.
The dough will seem dry and you will need to resist the urge to add more water. Just pour the dry, crumbly mixture out onto a counter that has been lined with plastic wrap and form it into a rough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll it out flat and don’t worry about the crumbly, messy edges. Next, you will use the plastic wrap to lift and fold the dough over then roll it flat again. You will continue to roll and fold and you will see the dough bind together with each step. Never kneed the dough or it will become tough. This is actually a much quicker process than it sounds and there is minimal mess if everything stays on the plastic wrap.
After rolling the dough and putting it in the tartlet pan, fitting it in nicely, run the rolling pin over the top to cut off the dough overhanging. I chose to finish these off with a pretty latticework.
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
For Flaky Butter Pastry Dough
- 2 ¼ cups (315 grams) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
- ½ cup ice cold water
For the Filling
- 4 to 5 pears
- 2 cups (10 ounces/284 grams) dried sour cherries
- ½ cup brandy
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Six 4 to 4 ½ inch tartlet pans
For Pastry Dough ** The secret to this flaky pastry dough is to create layers by folding, rolling and folding again. Do not kneed the dough or add more water, it will start to come together with each fold.
- In a large bowl combine the flour and salt then add the cold butter. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut the butter into the flour. Do not over blend; leave large chunks of butter (about ½ inch pieces). Add ½ cup ice water and toss with a fork. The mixture should start to hold together in places but still seem dry and under- mixed.
- Lay a large piece of plastic wrap out on the counter then pour the mixture onto the plastic wrap. Push the mixture into a rough rectangle, the edges will be dry and won’t cling to the dough, this is ok. Sprinkle some flour onto the dough and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a larger rectangle (edges will be dry and crumbly). Use the plastic wrap to fold each of the short ends of the rectangle toward the middle (it is ok if it cracks, it will eventually start to come together). Roll the dough out again then fold the opposite ends toward the middle and roll out into another rectangle. If there are still loose, crumbly edges then fold and roll one more time. The dough will be spotted with flecks of butter, which is what you want.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
For the Filling
- Place the cherries, brandy, water, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Heat over medium high heat, stirring frequently until thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Peel, halve and core the pears then cut them into ¼ to ½ inch chunks then add them to the cherry mixture and toss well. Set mixture-e aside while you prepare the tartlet pans.
Make the Tartlets
- Roll the dough out to about 1/6 to 1/8 inch thickness, if it is too firm from the cold refrigerator, let is sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes until it is easier to roll. Cut out 6 circles of dough about 6 inches in diameter and lay into the tartlet pans, push the dough down into the pans and cut the edges away.
- Fill each tartlet with a heaping ½ cup of filling.
- Slice the remaining dough into strips about ½ inch thick and lay the strips over the filling in a lattice pattern.
- Place the tartlets on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm up the pastry dough.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°.
- Place the tartlets in the center of the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the lattice tops are a light golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the tartlet pans.